New Clues About the Fate of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart. Photo: Underwood & Underwood

Every few months, someone comes forward with what they claim is definitive proof(!) about the fate of lost aviator Amelia Earhart. Last year, the History Channel told us they found a blurry picture of Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, that suggested the pair had been captured by the Japanese military and then died on the island of Saipan (this theory was quickly discredited.) Now, a new study in the journal Forensic Anthropology suggests that the bones found on the South Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940 were in fact Amelia Earhart’s.

The paper, by University of Tennessee professor emeritus of anthropology Richard Jantz reexamines seven bone measurements taken by Dr. D.W. Hoodless in 1941, who concluded that the remains found on Nikumaroro could not belong to Earhart, because they belonged to “a middle-aged stocky male about 5’5.5” in height.”

Although the bones have disappeared (this sounds suspicious to me, but Jantz sounds very casual about it, so I guess bones go missing from labs all the time?) Jantz and his team compared Hoodless’s measurements of the bones to the measurements of Earhart’s bones. How did they determine the size of Earhart’s bones? Experts referenced her clothing measurements, and examined photos of her next to scalable objects.

After comparing the data, Jantz concluded that the bones are more likely to belong to Earhart than 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample, and “Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”

So, it would seem that after she disappeared in July of 1937, Earhart died a castaway in the South Pacific. This is the least exciting of all the many conspiracy theories surrounding her death, but it certainly sounds more probable than Earhart being dismembered and buried by giant crabs.

New Clues About the Fate of Amelia Earhart