It Appears Amelia Earhart’s Body Has Finally Been Found

FILE - In a March 10, 1937 file photo American aviatrix Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937. Earhart is flying to Oakland, Ca., where she and her crew will begin their round-the-world flight to Howland Island on March 18. (AP Photo, file) Earhart AP1937 NY111 Searching for Earhart AP STF

One of aviation’s greatest mysteries may have just solved. Amelia Earhart, the famed pilot who mysteriously disappeared on her trip around the world, may have been found on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Her disappearance sparked an 80-year obsession that produced conspiracy theories over the mystery that surrounded her.

Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price. Amelia Earhart
The year was 1937 and Amelia Earhart was preparing herself for yet another record-breaking flight. She had already accomplished the daring feat of being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 (she also made this same trip in 1928 but did not actually fly the plane herself) that awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross from the United States Congress, as well as other awards from different countries.
Amelia Earhart’s plane Electra. Image source: This Day in Aviation
Earhart made her first attempt at flying across the world in March of 1937 when she flew out of Oakland, California, but only made it to Honolulu, Hawaii. Her plane, Electra, ran into engine trouble bad enough that they had to stick it on a ship and sent it to the Lockheed facility back in California to repair it. The second attempt started in May when she flew a “secret flight” from Oakland out to Miami. After reaching Miami Earhart made her announcement that she was doing another attempt at a world trip. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Miami on June 1, 1937, and were able to make it across the Atlantic Ocean, across Africa, Asia, and finally to Lae, New Guinea.
After arriving at Lae on June 29, the remaining route was over the Pacific Ocean and they “only” had about 22,000 miles left in their journey. On July 2, Earhart and Noonan departed Lae Airfield loaded with plenty of fuel to make it to a tiny island named Howland Island that was about 2,200 miles away from Lae. The last known location of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan that we know of is off the coast of Nukumanu Island, about 800 miles away from Lae.
Since Howland Island is essentially large enough to land a small plane on, the USCGC Itasca stationed itself on the island to guide Earhart to land. Itasca was able to make radio contact with Earhart and Noonan, meaning they were at least in the vicinity to make radio contact. Unfortunately, Itasca was not able to communicate to Electra due to some sort of problem with the plane’s 2-way radio. The Itasca was able to receive very clear radio transmissions from Electra but when Itasca radioed back Earhart and Noonan could not hear them.
The Itasca received a few radio calls from Earhart and Noonan. The first was this at around 7:30 am:

Earhart ON nw sez running out of gas only 1/2 hour left cant hr us at all / we hr her and are sending on 3105 es 500 same time constantly

The next log was at 7:42 am:

KHAQQ CLNG Itasca we must be on you but cannot see u but gas is running low been unable to reach you by radio we are flying at a 1000 feet

Of course, Itasca was unable to respond to Earhart so they were not able to communicate back with the Electra. At 7:58 am Electra reported to Itasca that they could not hear their transmissions, so the Itasca crew began sending morse code messages which Electra received, but Earhart was unable to get their location based on morse code. The last two transmissions received by Earhart were:

  • Transmission 1 at 8:43 am: “We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait” and “We are running on line north and south”

At that point, Itasca sent a smoke signal up since they believed that Electra was close by. However, the skies were cloudy that morning and it is extremely probable that Earhart and Noonan could not see the smoke signal because of the overcast skies. Other stations in the vicinity also tried to reach the Electra with no success. There were signals received, but it was hard to distinguish if they were legitimate or not (including one from Nikumaroro).

Search for the Electra

After the Itasca received the last transmission from Earhart they immediately began searching for any wreckage or sign of the plane, but their efforts were in vain. Soon others joined the search, including the United States Navy, but they found no evidence of the plane. A week after her disappearance the Navy flew over the small island chain called Gardner Island (what we now call Nikumaroro) where they were able to see that there was some evidence that someone had lived there, but after multiple fly-overs, they found no signs of life there. It was said that it was possible that Earhart and Noonan made a landing there and then took off again, but there was no legitimate proof. The search efforts lasted until July 19 and were called off after no proof was found of a crash.

Nikumaroro Island Discovery

Earhart’s flight path. Image source: Betchart Expeditions

In 1940 bones were discovered on Gardner Island that was speculated that they belonged to Earhart, but there was no way to prove this idea. In 1941 the bones were sent to the principal of a medical school in Fiji where he determined they belonged to a man, as opposed to a woman. After he determined that the bones were somehow lost and are still missing.  Even though we do not have the bones anymore, many studies have been done judging by the size of the bones and scientists now believe the bones actually belonged to a woman; more than likely Earhart.

Is there any way to actually prove this once and for all? No, especially since the bones are long gone. However, forensic science has gotten significantly better since 1941 (as has the technology), and scientists are pretty darn sure that those bones belong to our long lost favorite missing aviator.  This discovery is monumental because of our obsession with what happened to Amelia Earhart, people, in general, want conclusions and this might just provide the answers we need. Of course there will still be people who don’t believe those bones actually belonged to her, but for now, this is the most widely accepted explanation: Earhart’s plane went down somewhere in the ocean where she ended up marooned on Nikumaroro and died more than likely from starvation or dehydration.

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