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Amelia Earhart mystery deepens with study of castaway bones

A forensic study of an old photograph compared with measurements of a mysterious set of recovered bones may offer clues to Amelia Earhart's disappearance.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart in her airplane in a photo dated to 1936.
Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

A fresh look at bones that may be connected to missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart adds to a theory suggesting she may have ended her days on the remote uninhabited Pacific island Nikumaroro.

Earhart and her navigator disappeared in 1937 while flying over the Pacific Ocean, and a pilot discovered a skeleton on Nikumaroro in 1940. The skeleton was originally assumed to have come from a male based on measurements taken at the time. The bones disappeared decades ago in Fiji, so today's researchers only have historic documents to work with.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) evaluated the original medical files in 1998 and found the measurements could actually be consistent with "a female of Earhart's height and ethnic origin." In October, Tighar released an update on the bones that focuses on the measurements of the humerus and radius arm bones, which indicate unusually long forearms. Tighar brought in forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman to evaluate a historic photograph of Earhart.

"Jeff found that Earhart's humerus to radius ratio was 0.76 - virtually identical to the castaway's," Tighar notes. Proponents of the Nikumaroro theory will take this information as further support for the concept that Earhart died as a castaway on the island.

"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," Tighar says.

Other theories suggest Earhart's plane may have run out of fuel and disappeared into the sea or that she was captured by Japanese forces. Her disappearance is still a series of questions without solid answers.