It’s funny how solving one mystery often unlocks another. In this case, resolving one twenty-year mystery can be the key to another internationally known, decades-long mystery. At the center of it all? One piece of aluminum — more specifically, a piece of aluminum recovered in a remote island nearly two decades ago. From The International Group For Historic Aircraft Recovery:

Increasing confidence that a piece of aluminum aircraft debris found on a remote, uninhabited South Pacific atoll came from Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra has bolstered speculation that a sonar anomaly detected at a depth of 600 feet off the west end of the island is the lost aircraft.

In June 2015, TIGHAR will return to Nikumaroro to investigate the anomaly with Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology supported by Nai’a, the 120-foot Fiji-based vessel that has served five previous TIGHAR explorations. During the twenty-four day expedition, divers will search for other wreckage at shallower depths and an onshore search team will seek to identify objects detected in historical photographs that may be relics of an initial survival camp.

During Amelia Earhart’s stay in Miami at the beginning of her second world flight attempt, a custom-made, special window on her Lockheed Electra aircraft was removed and replaced with an aluminum patch. The patch was an expedient field modification. Its dimensions, proportions, and pattern of rivets were dictated by the hole to be covered and the structure of the aircraft. The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual. Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects. For a detailed study of this important new development see The Window, The Patch, and The Artifact, Research Bulletin #73 on the TIGHAR website.

The strong possibility that Artifact 2-2-V-1 is the “Miami Patch” means that the many fractures, tears, dents and gouges evident on the metal may be important clues to the fate – and resting place – of the aircraft itself. Deciphering those clues will be the next phase in TIGHAR’s analysis of this complex and fascinating artifact.

To learn more about this potentially historic find, visit the official TIGHAR website for the complete press release.