Bones Discovered On Uninhabited Island Belong To Missing Pilot Amelia Earhart

Mar | 37 sharesEmma Guinness

The disappearance of American aviator Amelia Earhart has fascinated generations. Famed for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, she went on to set a number of other aviation records and even penned books about her experiences as an early female pilot.

Then, at the age of 39, she disappeared during an attempt to become the first woman to make a circumnavigational flight of the world in 1937.

The video below provides more information about this remarkable story:

Now, the day after International Women's Day, following the announcement by Barbie maker Mattel that Earhart is one of the inspirational women who has been made into the iconic children's toys, news has broken that her disappearance could have finally been solved.

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Earhart did not disappear over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island alone in 1937. She was with 44-year-old navigator Fred Noonan.

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Because of Earhart's fame, a number of conspiracy theories emerged when her disappearance became known. The reality, however, simply suggests that she met her fate on the uninhabited island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific Ocean.

The news came after bones which were initially thought not to be Earhart's were analyzed using modern forensic science.

The bones were first discovered on the island in 1940. As the island was uninhabited, their existence raised more than a few eyebrows. However, when analyzed with the technology available at the time, they were said to belong to a man, ruling out Earhart in 1941.

As the disappearance has never been solved, it has continued to be a source of fascination.

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In the most recent attempt to crack the case, pictures of Earhart were used to estimate what her height may have been. With this information, Richard L. Jantz, a professor at the University of Tennessee, found an almost identical match.

"The only documented person to whom they may belong is Amelia Earhart," he said.

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At the time of Earhart's disappearance, she was making her way to Hawaii before flying onto California.

Until now, the most commonly accepted explanation for her disappearance was that her plane crashed close to Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean because of a combination of poor visibility and low fuel levels.

One of the conspiracy theories surrounding Earhart's demise was that he was captured by the Japanese. The photograph below was believed to be evidence. The capture supposedly took place after she crash-landed in the Marshall Islands.

alt Credit: US National Archive

When the bones were found in 1940 by a British expedition, the rest of the island was thoroughly checked. More bones were then found and a woman's shoe, which suggested that Earhart and Noonan ultimately died as castaways.

More tellingly, a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant box was found, manufactured around 1918, and a bottle of a herbal liqueur known as Benedictine.

In her last known communication with the wider world, Earhart revealed that she and Noonan were struggling to find Howland Island, which is close to Nikumaroro, and that their Lockheed Electra L-10E was running out of fuel.

When the pair failed to reach their destination, the area was searched by the US Navy for four weeks, but their plane was never recovered.

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Earhart and Noonan were legally declared dead in 1939.

The bones were first examined by the principal of the Central Medical School, Fiji of the Dr. D. W. Hoodless. He said they belonged to a "stocky male" who was around 5ft 5ins.

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Since then, the bones have been lost so tracing them back to Earhart with DNA and/or remeasuring them was not possible.

In addition to pictures, Jantz obtained more information about Earhart's body from her driver's and pilot's license records, which served to further confirm his conclusion that the bones belonged to her.

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"If the skeleton were available, it would presumably be a relatively straightforward task to make a positive identification or a definitive exclusion," Jantz said. "Unfortunately, all we have are the meager data in Hoodless's report and a premortem record gleaned from photographs and clothing."

"From the information available, we can at least provide an assessment of how well the bones fit what we can reconstruct of Amelia Earhart."