In a world of constant research where information can travel from place to place in milliseconds, there are few mysteries of the world without a definitive explanation.
But one of the most puzzling occurrences of the 20th century involved a famed pilot who took off on a historic flight and never came back. Amelia Earhart has been a name constantly associated with mysteries, uncertainties, and even conspiracies.
On May 20, 1932, Earhart set out to make history. At only 34-years-old, she became the first woman ever to attempt a trans-Atlantic flight. Taking off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, she set her sights on Paris – aiming to get her single-engine Longheed Vega 5B there in a single trip. She made it to Ireland, succeeding in crossing the Atlantic and becoming an icon in the process.
After her landmark achievement, Earhart set a new goal for herself – to fly 29,000 miles around the world.
However, trouble struck about four-months in, as Earhart attempted to land on an island while low on fuel. But instead of making her intended destination of Howland Island, just southwest of Honolulu, she chose Gardner Island (also known as Nikumaroro Island) due to it being closer.
Shortly after that, the plane vanished off radar and many transmissions were reportedly heard from Earhart, including calls that heard her speak in a weakened state, reporting minor injuries to herself and more severe ones to her co-navigator, Fred Noonan.
The running radio led officials to believe the plane had fuel, but that it could’ve sustained damage during the improvised landing. But the complete disappearance of such an iconic and popular figure led to plenty of theories on what actually happened.
One theory suggests that Earhart became a permanent castaway on the island, staying there until she died. Just three years after she disappeared, 13 bones were found on the island. But in 1941, Dr. David Hoodless studied these findings and claimed the bones belonged to a European who was likely muscular, stocky, and short.
Earhart was slender, and her pilot’s license listed her height at 5’8”. Dr. Hoodless’s findings also suggest the bones belonged to a male. But these results were gathered when the science of forensics was young. New developments in the analyzation techniques used to study the bones reveal that Hoodless’s original conclusions may have been inaccurate.
The University of Tennessee’s Richard Jantz, who serves as a professor of emeritus anthropology, compared the data to that of over 2,700 other people and even analyzed the angle and ratio of the bones found in relation to those they’re normally attached to.
After his research, he came to a very definitive conclusion. “This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample. That strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belong to Amelia Earhart.”
Other prevailing theories about her disappearance include her being captured by a foreign government or even that she was an undercover spy – however, neither of these is backed by the type of evidence Jantz presented.