Discovery Could Solve 79-year-old Mystery

A recent discovery may have solved a mystery that started in 1937. In that year, something happened that launched one of the longest running mysteries in recent history. Since that day thousands of amateur detectives have poured through tens of thousands of pages of historical documents, photographs, tide tables, and metallurgical reports trying to find out what happened to legendary aviator Amelia Earhart. Ms. Earhart was attempting to become the first female pilot to fly around the world when her plane disappeared without a trace over the Pacific Ocean.

Recently, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) proposed a controversial theory that she landed her plane safely on a remote island and died as a castaway. Now, a discovery has been made that scientists say may throw new light on the disappearance. The skeletal remains of a castaway that was discovered displays striking similar characteristics to those of the missing pilot. The castaway’s remains were originally found on an island in the country of Kiribati in 1940.


After re-analyzing some of the photos and data concerning the disappearance, TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie said, in August, Earhart made more than 100 radio transmissions calling for help between July 2 and July 6 of 1937. According to Gillespie, that would rule out the possibility of a crash landing, because she had plenty of time to locate somewhere to land the aircraft. According to records, those calls were picked up as far away as Texas, Florida, and even Melbourne.

“She’s out there calling for help,” Mr. Gillespie said, adding that she must have landed safely, because the radio wouldn’t have worked without the engine running. This assumption seems to be backed up by the remains that were found later on Nikumaroro Island, also known as Gardner Island.

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Those bones were uncovered in 1940 just three years after her disappearance. The island is located about 400 miles south of Howland Island, which was her intended destination. At the time of their discovery, the remains were analyzed, but a doctor said they were male, ruling out the possibility they belonged to Earhart.

However, when TIGHAR discovered the files in 1998, scientists said modern techniques proved the bones were “consistent with a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin”. More recently, anthropologist Richard Jantz was preparing an updated evaluation when he noticed a strange detail: the skeleton’s forearms were considerably larger than average. But without knowing the dimensions of Earhart’s body, Dr. Jantz had no way of comparing if her forearms were similarly longer than normal.


That is when TIGHAR turned to forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman for help. Glickman, used a photo that showed both of Earhart’s bare arms to calculate the ratio between the bones in her lower and upper arms. “Because there is tissue over the skeleton in living people … the location of each bone end must be estimated,” he wrote in a report published last week.

Glickman said her clothing also added a layer of difficulty, however, he used the point of her shoulder, the crease of her elbow, and the indent of her wrist as landmarks. “Given the evidence and my experience in the field of photogrammetry and photo interpretation, I estimate that the radius-to-humerus ratio of Amelia Earhart is 0.76,” he wrote.

In other words, the difference between her lower and upper arm was virtually identical to the partial skeleton, unearthed in the South Pacific. The discovery doesn’t conclusively prove the castaway was Amelia Earhart, but it’s certainly another step in that direction.

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 contributed to this report.

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About the Author


Richard is a freelance Journalist, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. After his discharge he worked in Law Enforcement and Corrections for several years and was a member of SWAT before earning a degree in Computer Science. He was a consultant to government agencies including DEA, FBI, NRC, DOD and NASA. In the 90’s he received a Business Management Degree and became a Consulting Analyst to several Fortune 100 companies. Later he taught G.E.D at Florida State Prison. He is married and has several grandchildren and great grandchildren. You can follow Richard on