Deep Sea Vision, a company based in Charleston, South Carolina, has obtained sonar images from almost 17,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean that might show the Lockheed Electra that Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared in 1937.

Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (as a passenger in 1928 and solo in 1932). Those flights and others she made would have ensured her place in the history books, but much of the enduring interest in Earhart results from her disappearance. She and navigator Fred Noonan vanished over the Pacific during an attempted flight around the world in a Lockheed Electra 10-E, and people still speculate about what happened.

On January 27, 2024, Deep Sea Vision’s founder and chief executive officer, Tony Romeo, announced that he may have found the airplane. Romeo’s team had been using a $9 million Norwegian Hugin 6000, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), to search for the twin-engine airplane in the fall of 2023. When examining some data later, they noted an image taken some 100 miles from Howland Island on the sea floor 16,500 feet deep that could show the Electra. “I’m not saying we definitely found her,” Romeo told the Charleston Post and Courier , but the image was encouraging and appears to show an airplane. He plans to return to the area later this year with underwater cameras in an attempt to verify the object’s identity.

Earhart was photographed in the cockpit of her Electra in 1937.

There have been many theories about Earhart’s disappearance over the years. Romeo’s discovery, if substantiated, would indicate that Earhart and Noonan, unable to find their intended target of Howland Island (about 2,000 miles from Honolulu), were forced to ditch in the ocean and drowned. An organization called TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) speculates that they landed and perished on tiny Gardner (now Nikumaroro) Island. Others have theorized that they were captured by the Japanese and executed. In 2017 a History Channel documentary claimed to have uncovered a photo that showed Earhart and Noonan as prisoners on a dock in the Marshall Islands, but investigators quickly discovered that the photo was taken two years before they disappeared. A book from 1970 asserted that Earhart was still alive and living under an assumed name in New Jersey. (The woman in question sued the book’s author, and won.)

Time will tell if Romeo has truly solved the mystery or just added another intriguing chapter to it.