Amelia Earhart seemingly vanished into thin air, her disappearance becoming one of the greatest mysteries of the 21st century.
In yet another attempt to pin down where Earhart spent her last days, one scientist thinks he may have solved the mystery by proving she died a castaway on a remote Pacific island.
Richard Jantz, an emeritus anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee, worked in collaboration with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery ( TIGHAR). The organization has long bought into the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan landed on the remote Nikumaroro Island 560 kilometers (350 miles) southeast of her Howland Island destination. They’ve even put together a tourism cruise to the island.
In the past, TIGHAR collected artifacts from the island, which seemed to back up the idea that the pair lived as castaways before succumbing to starvation or dehydration. Without the remains of the pilot or her aircraft as proof, skeptics have long challenged the notion.
Earhart went missing on July 2, 1937. In a failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe, the famed American pilot’s Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane went missing somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean. Earhart and Noonan were the only people on board.
Three years later, bones believed to be Earhart’s were found on Nikumaroro Island along with a number of items that may have belonged to her, including a woman’s shoe, a box designed to hold a Sextant, and a Benedictine bottle, which she was known to carry with her. After analyzing and measuring the bones in 1940, physician D. W. Hoodless determined they belonged to a man and nixed the idea.
To add another layer of mystery to the affair, the bones disappeared shortly after. Some speculate they were left on the island, others suggest they somehow wound up at a post office in nearby Kiribati.
So without the bones, Jantz used photographs that had a scalable object and clothing measurements of Earhart’s to estimate the lengths of her humerus, radius, and tibia. Using modern quantitative techniques, which include a computer program called Fordisc, Jantz was able to estimate the sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements.
The remains found on the remote South Pacific Island more closely matched Earhart’s than 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample.