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Bones Found on Pacific Island Likely Belong to Aviator Amelia Earhart

Bones Found on Pacific Island Likely Belong to Aviator Amelia Earhart

Aviator Amelia Earhart is pictured in front of her biplane called Friendship in Newfoundland, Canada, on June 14, 1928. Earhart disappeared without a trace over the Pacific Ocean in her attempt to fly around the world in 1937. Photo by: Getty Images

Source: Newsela

Article Date: March 13, 2018

News Type: World


Amelia Earhart was a heroine. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone. She might have been the first PERSON to fly around the whole entire world, if only her plane hadn’t vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. After decades of mystery about Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, her story might come to a close, at the Pacific islands of Nikumaroro.


A recent scientific study claims that that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro belong to Amelia Earhart. The new discovery disputes a forensic study of the remains conducted in 1941 that claims that the bones belong to a man. The bones which were later thrown away, have been revisited in the new study: “ Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones.” University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz led the study.


The bones were first uncovered by a British expedition exploring the island for settlement when they came upon a human skull. The expedition’s officer ordered a more thorough search of the island. The British team had found several other bones and part of what appeared to be a woman’s shoe. Another interesting object they found was a box meant to hold a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant, a tool for navigation. It had been manufactured around 1918. “There was suspicion at the time that the bones could be the remains of Amelia Earhart,” Jantz wrote in the study.


The 13 bones found were shipped to Fiji and studied by Dr. D.W Hoodless of the Central Medical School. Jantz argues that the forensic study of these bones was still in its early stages, which affected the assessment of the gender of the remains.  Jantz, in attempting to compare the lost bones with Earhart’s bones, has co-developed a computer program. It estimates gender and ancestry using skeletal measurements. The program is used by scientists all over the globe. Jantz compared the lengths of the bones to Earhart’s measurements. He used her height, weight, body build, and limb lengths, based on photographs and information found on her pilot’s and driver’s licenses. His findings revealed that Earhart’s bones were “more similar to the Nikumaroro bones” than 99 percent of people in a large sample.”In the case of the Nikumaroro bones, the only documented person to whom they may belong is Amelia Earhart,” Jantz wrote in the study.


Earhart’s disappearance has interested the public for a while, and theories involving her landing on Nikumaroro have turned up in the recent years. Retired journalist Mike Campbell, who wrote “Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last,” has argued with others that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured in the Marshall Islands by the Japanese, who thought they were American spies. He believes they were tortured and died there. Ric Gillespie, director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, (TIGHAR), spoke to the Washington Post in 2016. He believes the bones found on Nikumaroro belong to Earhart.

In 1998, TIGHAR took Dr.Hoodless’ measurements of the Nikumaroro bones and analyzed them through a database. They determined the bones belonged to a taller than average woman of European origin. It could be Earhart, who at 5 ft 7 in to 5 ft 8 in, was several inches taller than the average woman.

In 2016, the group brought the measurements to Jeff Glickman, a scientific examiner. He located a photo of Earhart that showed her with her arms exposed. It appeared, based on educated guesses, that Earhart’s upper arm bone matched with one of the Nikumaroro bones. Glickman, who is now a member of TIGHAR, told the Washington Post that at the time he understands some might question his findings, as they were based on 76-year-old medical notes. However, he said, the research made clear,that Earhart had died on Nikumaroro. Gillespie and Glickman could not be immediately reached by The Post for comment on Jantz’s findings.

In 2017, the History Channel presents a photo suggesting Earhart died in Japan. Based on a photograph from the National Archives, researchers said Earhart might have been captured by the Japanese. The photo seemed to show Earhart and Noonan in Jaluit Harbor in the Marshall Islands after their disappearance. In the photo, according to the Washington Post’s reporter Amy B Wang, “a figure with Earhart’s haircut and approximate body type sits on the dock, facing away.” Noonan was also believed to be in the photo. “On the far right of the photo is a barge with an airplane on it, supposedly Earhart’s.” Later, after the History Channel program aired, a Japanese military history blogger matched the photo to one first published in 1935. It was two years before Earhart and Noonan disappeared. “HISTORY has a team of investigators exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart,” the  History Channel said. Gillespie said in 2017 that he stood by his theory despite the photograph. He still thinks the evidence points to Nikumaroro.

For decades Earhart’s fate has remained a mystery. Some people have believed that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed. But now with the new study: “ Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones” growing more and more intense, these bones might change how the next generation thinks about the history of Amelia Earhart.


Personal Response: I chose this article because I love to learn about history and science, and this article was sort of a mix of both. I was especially interested on this history and science article because I‘ve heard many people talk about the fate of Amelia Earhart, and to think that we humans have developed new and advanced technology to solve these types of mysteries is, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” as Neil Armstrong quoted.


Tweet: Aviator Amelia Earhart’s bones found on a Pacific Island, with the help of the new study “ Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones”!

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