Amelia Earhart May Have Died as a Castaway on a Remote Island

November 2, 2016 9:16 am Last Updated: November 2, 2016 10:26 am

New evidence from research into the disappearance of famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who went missing in July 1937, suggests that she may have died as a castaway on an uninhabited island—going against the long-held narrative that she died in a plane crash.

Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Her plane is believed to have crashed in the Pacific Ocean as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), however, said that a skeleton of a castaway found on the island of Nikumaroro, Kiribati, in 1940 might have belonged to her.

“Until we started investigating the skeleton, we found what history knew was that Amelia Earhart died on 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,” Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR’s executive director, told CNN this week.

The remains were originally thought to belong to a male. But after reevaluating the remains in 1998, TIGHAR noted, “The morphology of the recovered bones … appears consistent with a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin.”

However, they noticed a peculiarity with the skeleton’s radius-to-humerus ratio. 

“In other words, if the castaway was a middle-aged, ethnically European woman, she had forearms considerably longer than the average.” TIGHAR researchers evaluated a historical photo of Earhart, finding that her radius-to-humerus ratio was 0.76—”virtually identical to the castaway’s” skeleton, reported Mashable.

On July 2, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan took off from Lae Airfield from Papua New Guinea in their Electra plane. Their last known position was near the Nukumanu Islands, which are around 800 miles from where they departed.