The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR in the common tongue, may have salvaged its relentless $2.2 million search for Amelia Earhart's lost airplane. Then again, maybe not — the group doesn't want to get our hopes up or anything.

TIGHAR announced on Friday that underwater video taken just off of Nikumaroro reef, where Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were believed to have crash-landed in 1937, revealed a field of man-made debris that maybe, just maybe could be airplane parts. TIGHAR director Ray Gillespie explained that the harsh conditions around the reef (what the crew from Kon Tiki might have called a "witch's cauldron") pretty much guaranteed that Earhart's plane, if it is down there, wouldn't have remained intact. He's also not totally convinced that the debris are Earhart's plane because, according to Reuters, they really don't look like anything on the video. Said Gillespie,

We don't want to oversell this. It's more evidence. It is where it should be, and that is encouraging. If it does appear to be airplane wreckage, it becomes figuring out how to go back and look at it.


Gillespie couldn't tell reporters the size of the debris found because there aren't any other reference points in the video. TIGHAR's announcement comes an eyebrow-raising two days before a scheduled Discovery channel special on the search for Earhart's plane, and the organization would look pretty silly if, this late in the game, it was still a few shrugs removed from figuring out where Earhart's plane was finally seduced by the tireless lothario we call gravity. According to Gillespie, TIGHAR has been rushing to review the entire video, though the team has only gone through about thirty percent of the footage.

Earhart expedition team says video possibly shows plane debris [Reuters]