"The anomaly gives the impression of being an object that struck the slope at the base of the second cliff at a depth of 613 feet, then skidded in a southerly direction for about 131 feet before coming to rest," Gillespie said.
In its underwater search, TIGHAR missed the place where the anomaly appears by only a few hundred feet.
"If only we had continued just that little bit further," Wolfgang Burnside, president of Submersible Systems Inc and the inventor and pilot of ROV used to conduct the underwater search, said.
He found the target "very promising, definitely not a rock, and it's in the correct location on the reef."
"It also shows what I interpret as 'drag' markings on the reef above and to the north behind the target, as it obviously hasn't quite settled into its final resting place yet," Burnside said.
Gillespie offers another explanation. “The apparent ground scar behind the object may also be a trail of internal components that spilled from the ripped-open fuselage.“
The anomaly appears to be the right size and shape to match the Electra wreckage and lines up nicely with the Bevington Object and Jeff Glickman's debris field.
According to Gillespie, the evidence found so far suggests a reasonable sequence of events:
• Earhart makes a safe landing on the dry reef and sends radio distress calls for at least five days.
• Before the seventh day, when Navy search planes arrive, rising tides and surf knock the Electra off its landing gear and push it over the reef edge into the ocean, leaving a landing gear assembly (the Bevington Object) behind, jammed in the reef. Earhart and Noonan become castaways on the uninhabited, waterless atoll.
• The landing gear assembly stays jammed in the reef at least until October, when Bevington took the photo, but at some point it breaks free and sinks, ending up in the catchment area at 200 feet, where Glickman spotted pieces of it in the video.
• After going over the edge, the airplane is battered by the surf and sinks within a few minutes in the shallow water just past the reef edge. Subsequent storms cause pieces of wreckage to wash ashore, where they are found and used by the island's later residents.
• Eventually, the fuselage goes over the cliff, hits the slope at the bottom of the cliff at 600 feet and skids for a ways before coming to rest more or less on its side, with the starboard-side wing stub sticking up.
The only way to be absolutely sure that the anomaly is indeed Amelia's plane is by sending another expedition to the island, but that will depend upon the ability of TIGHAR, a nonprofit institute that relies on sponsorships and contributions from the public, to raise the needed funding.
"We currently project that it will take nearly $3,000,000 to put together an expedition that can do what needs to be done. It's a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay for finding Amelia," Gillespie said.