The aviator disappeared while attempting to fly solo around the world in 1937
The enduring mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart still reverberates around the world, capturing the imagination of anyone who wonders what happened to the world’s most famous aviatrix. Earhart, who mysteriously vanished at the age of 40 in 1937, has long been believed to have lost her life when her plane crashed into the Pacific while she was attempting to circumnavigate the Earth.
But now a group of historians, stumbling upon a long-lost file, believe that the boundary-pushing pilot may have died while marooned on a desert island. While unconfirmed, the group believes Earhart came to her untimely end on Kiribati’s Nikumaroro Island, a coral atoll that was settled by 32 British men and women and 26 children in 1939, but has since been abandoned.
According to the member of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), the partial skeletal remains of a human being found on the island in 1940 may well be those of Earhart. The bones were discovered on Nikumaroro, previously known as Garden Island, in 1940 by a British settler named Gerald Gallagher, who immediately suspected them as Earhart’s, the global mystery of her disappearance still fresh in the pop cultural memory.
The bones were examined by a doctor who ultimately determined that they were male, ruling out the possibility that Earhart had made it to the tiny 6km x 2km island. In the intervening years, the bones were lost and their discovery all but forgotten.
TIGHAR members rediscovered the doctor’s files in 1998, complete with the doctor’s measurements of the skeleton. Two forensic anthropologists, Karen Burns and Richard Jantz, both analysed the files, determining that the shape and size “appears consistent with a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin.”
But now new findings have added more evidence to the case that the pilot died on Nikumaroro; Richard Jantz, in the process of carrying out another evaluation of the film, claims he has just noticed a “peculiarity” in the notes – that the arm bone measurements are slightly longer that what was typical of the average Caucasian woman of the late 19th century.
According to the 1940 file, the doctor noted that the bones, the radius and humerus arm bones, had a ratio of 0.756, compared to the average ratio of 0.73.
“In other words, if the castaway was a middle-aged, ethnically European woman, she had forearms considerably longer than the average,” a TIGHAR statement said. The group contacted Jeff Glickman, a forensic imaging specialist, who sifted through images of Earhart until he found one in which her arms were bare and completely visible. Having examined the image, TIGHAR now estimates that Earhart’s ratio was 0.76, “virtually identical to the castaway’s.”
Without the actual bones to examine, it is nigh-on impossible to carry out the kind of detailed scientific research to prove once and for all if Amelia Earhart made it to the island, “But it is a significant new data point that tips the scales further in that direction,” TIGHAR says.