New research from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) suggests that the partial skeleton of a castaway found on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1941 may have been the remains of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Live Science reports.
Nikumaroro is a coral atoll in the Pacific island republic of Kiribati.
Though the bones have since been lost, TIGHAR has found records of the bones’ measurements that were taken by a British doctor soon after their discovery.
“Those measurements match up with Earhart’s build,” according to Live Science, which cited Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR.
The person who originally discovered the bones believed they were Earhart’s, but a British doctor determined they belonged to a male at the time, ruling out the possibility that they were the remains of Earhart.
“The bones were subsequently lost and the entire incident forgotten,” until TIGHAR rediscovered the doctor’s files in 1998. Those files included the bone measurements the doctor took, according a statement on TIGHAR’s website.
A skeleton matching Amelia Earhart has been found on the remote island of Nikumaroro. https://t.co/5HRFVOC6Bx
— Seeker (@Seeker) November 1, 2016
“An evaluation of those measurements by forensic anthropologists Karen Burns, PhD, and Richard Jantz, PhD, led to the conclusion that ‘the morphology of the recovered bones, insofar as we can tell by applying contemporary forensic methods to measurements taken at the time, appears consistent with a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin,'” reads the TIGHAR statement.
Jantz focused on the ratio of the measurements of a humerus bone, from the upper arm, and a radius bone, from the lower arm, which were among the discovered bones. He noticed a “peculiarity” in the measurements.
“The radius was 24.5 centimeters – a ratio of 0.756 to the length of the humerus,” the TIGHAR statement explains. “Statistically, women born in the late 19th century (Earhart was born in 1897) had an average radius to humerus ratio of 0.73. In other words, if the castaway was a middle-aged, ethnically European woman, she had forearms considerably longer than average.”
Jantz teamed up with forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman. After studying photos in which Earhart’s bare arms were clearly visible, Glickman determined that “Earhart’s humerus to radius ratio was 0.76 — virtually identical to the castaway’s.”
TIGHAR acknowledges that while the new evidence supports the theory that Earhart died as a castaway on the island of Nikumaroro, it is by no means conclusive.
“The match does not, of course, prove that the castaway was Amelia Earhart but it is a significant new data point that tips the scales further in that direction,” reads the statement on TIGHAR’s website.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) November 1, 2016
Earhart was the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Her plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean as she was continuing her trip to circumnavigate the globe. The details of her death remain shrouded in mystery, and for decades many believed she died in the crash, as a CNN report explains.
However, in recent years, there has been growing speculation that Amelia Earhart survived the crash and spent her final days as a “heroic castaway” on Nikumaroro or perhaps another nearby Pacific island.
“Until we started investigating the skeleton, we found what history knew was that Amelia Earhart died in July 2nd, 1937, in a plane crash. But there is an entire final chapter of Earhart’s life that people don’t know about. She spent days — maybe months — heroically struggling to survive as a castaway,” Gillespie told CNN on Tuesday.
Previous theories have included the possibility that Earhart, and perhaps navigator Fred Noonan, survived for some time on Nikumaroro before dying and being posthumously devoured by coconut crabs, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
In 2007, TIGHAR conducted an experiment in which they used a small pig carcass to see how easily coconut crabs could break and remove bones.
“The bones were removed very quickly and scattered,” according to Smithsonian, lending credence to the possibility that if Amelia Earhart did end up as a castaway on Nikumaroro, then many of her bones could have been dragged away and dispersed by coconut crabs.
[Featured Image by Getty Images]