Amelia Earhart’s Final Resting Place

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 7, 2018 3:36 pm
Amelia Earhart, photographed in 1936, the year before her disappearance. (Credit: Everett Historical)

Amelia Earhart, photographed in 1936, the year before her disappearance. (Credit: Everett Historical)

Where in the world is Amelia Earhart? It’s a question that has captivated the public ever since the famed aviator went missing in 1937 over the Pacific Ocean.

Theories and conspiracies abound, but most of the detective work has focused on a collection of bones unearthed on Nikumaroro, one of a spray of remote atolls scattered like freckles in the Pacific between Hawaii and Australia.

Mystery Bones

In 1940, a skull and several other bones, bearing signs of having been nibbled by coconut crabs, were found beneath a palm tree by workers constructing a settlement, along with a sextant box, and, later, the heel of woman’s shoe and debris believed to be from an airplane.

Measurements of the bones initially indicated that they belonged to a man about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, though later work would call that data into question. Unfortunately, the bones disappeared after being sent to Fiji for analysis, and there’s no way to update the measurements with more modern techniques.

Debate about the bones has gone back and forth over the years. A 1998 review of the evidence concluded that the bones most likely belonged to a tall female of European ancestry, which fit Earhart’s profile, while a 2015 study concluded that the bones were probably male.

The pendulum swings back in favor of the bones being female in a study published this week in the journal Forensic Anthropology. It’s authored by Richard Jantz, a professor emeritus in the department of anthropology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and he returns to the original measurements of the bones to argue that they did once belong to a woman. In the light of the circumstantial evidence, he argues that the bones being Earheart’s is the only explanation that fits.

Evidence Stacks Up

While the initial measurements may have pegged the bones as male, Jantz argues that the forensic practices of the time weren’t sufficiently advanced to provide a definitive conclusion. In addition, the initial measurements were compared to historical figures taken when people were shorter on average than in Earhart’s time. The dimensions of the tibia, humerus and radius are consistent with a taller female, he concludes. Estimates of Earhart’s height obtained from a photo of her standing beside her airplane and measurements of her clothing align with the bones as well, he says.

There’s an accumulation of circumstantial evidence that argues in favor of the bones being Earhart’s, as well. Nikumaroro lies roughly along Earhart’s flight path, and the only other people likely to have perished there were crewmembers of the SS Norwich City, a freighter that ran aground on the island’s reef killing all 11 men. The bones didn’t look like those of a Pacific Islander, and were far too short to belong to Earhart’s navigator, the six-foot-tall Fred Noonan. The sextant box and shoe heel are also unlikely to have come from any of the shipwreck survivors.

Based on the available evidence, and comparing the bones’ measurements to a reference collection of other individuals, Jantz says there’s less than a one percent chance the bones don’t belong to Earhart.

Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers,” he writes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: anthropology
  • OWilson

    The flawed presumtion is she crashed on land, therefore her remains are waiting to be discovered.

    What are the statistical chances that if you went down in the vast Pacific Ocean, you would actually land on an island?

    We can use Jantz own “less than a one percent chance”, as the families of Missing Flight MH370 will attest!

    Chalk this up to another Noah’s Ark “finding”.

    His highly unscientific assertion that, ““Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers,” belongs in the UFO. Sasquach and Loch Ness files! :)

    • LongJohn46

      If I were lost over the Pacific and low on fuel, I would certainly head for any speck of land I see and bring it down there. So that significantly improves the statistical chances. She would not have set it down in a random spot.

      • OWilson

        Good point.

        If she had a choice!

      • Small_Businessman

        LongJohn46 is correct. As a pilot myself, one of the things we are trained for is emergency landings. When fuel starts to get low, we look for places to land. Over the Pacific, she would be concerned about fuel burn long before she ran out. Spotting land (which is possible over a wide area from cruise altitude), she would have headed for any land she could have found.

        • OWilson

          Given that kind of expert training and foresight, we can therefore discount pilot and navigator error?

          What is left is catastrophic mechanical failure, or weather anomaly.

          My point, nobody knows!

          • Small_Businessman

            Not at all. Navigational aids in those times were limited and not as accurate as they are today, especially over the ocean. Weather forecasting even worse. A greater than expected headwind could have caused them to run short of fuel while a greater than expected crosswind could have thrown them off course just enough to miss their destination but not enough to be noticed on their navigational gear.
            Much of the flying at the time was by “dead reckoning”, AKA “seat of the pants” and relied on ground references (ever wonder why so many water towers had the town’s name painted on them? Now you know). But there are few landmarks in the middle of the ocean.

          • OWilson

            Few landmarks was MY point. :)

            But what about your “Spotting land (which is possible over a wide area from cruise altitude)”

            Which is it? :)

            Anyway, I’m done here!

            I’ll leave you with that memorable statement on the rigorous scientific method from our erstwhile anthropologist:

            “Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers”.

            Good enough for most, I guess! :)

          • Small_Businessman

            You can see a long ways from cruise altitude, especially over the ocean. And land stands out quite well in nice weather, even a small island can be spotted many miles away. Yes, there are FEW islands. But that does not mean there are NO islands. The South Pacific is dotted with all kinds of islands, and it’s very possible an experienced aviator would have landed on one – or at least close enough to swim to shore if there was no suitable landing spot.

          • nik

            What do you regard as ‘cruise altitude’ modern times, or those of the time of Amelia? Aircraft flew a lot lower then than now.

          • Small_Businessman

            Even back then airplanes cruised at > 20,000 ft. Maybe not the 37,000 feet of today, but still sufficiently high to have a wide view. There are major reasons for this – mainly drag is lower the higher you go (thrust is lower also, but not as much), the result being greater distances on a tank of fuel. And that was as important on long flights then as it is today.

          • nik

            I find that hard to believe, as they were not pressurised, and at that height, would have needed oxygen, not likely for a long trip like Amelia’s. Flights in un-pressurised aircraft like the Dakota, first flown in 1935, were usually limited to 10-12,000 feet for those very reasons.
            The first pressurised aircraft, the ‘Comet’ didn’t fly till 1949, and then only as a test aircraft.

          • Small_Businessman

            Whether you believe it or not is immaterial. It wasn’t just military planes which carried oxygen on board.
            You have to remember that this was not your average run-of-the-mill flight that barnstormers of the time flew. This was a high-profile flight by a famous aviatrix who had lots of backing. She had access to pretty much everything available.

          • nik

            That begs the question, as to why she didnt have better survival equipment, in the event of a crash or forced landing. In addition, military trips with oxygen were usually limited to hours, not days, so she would have had to replenish the oxygen frequently. How that would be possible given her route is questionable, + given the need to keep weight to a minimum. [She even dumped some of her radio equipment to save weight.]
            I suppose the only answer would be to look at her equipment list.
            (I’ve just checked Wiki which lists her altitude at 10,000 ft max, and later 7000 feet due to low cloud. So, no oxygen required.)
            However, there is one. [more] theory, that they landed off course, in Japanese held territory, and were taken captive, and died in captivity, but not given much credence.

          • Small_Businessman

            Who says they didn’t have survival equipment? But no survival equipment will last forever, and may be worthless if they had to land in water due to the lack of a viable place on land.
            And don’t believe everything Wikipedia says. There is the truth and there is Wikipedia. Sometimes they agree.
            And the “evidence” that she landed in Japanese territory and was captured has been disproven multiple times. The supposed pictures of her and her navigator in Japanese hands do not agree with historical accounts – even the physical description of her and her navigator do not agree with other pictures.

          • nik

            As they were flying over an ocean, a rubber dingy would have been the minimum requirement.
            As to the Japanese theory, as I said, not much credence, as the Marshal islands were too far away.
            The wiki report, gives a table of a flight plan, and part of a radio message to a ship, thats on record.
            I guess, no matter what, unless their remains are found, and identified conclusively, then it will continue to be a mystery indefinitely.

          • Small_Businessman

            And how long do you think someone can last in a rubber dingy (sic)?

          • nik

            People have managed to survive months in a small boat, when lost at sea. So a week or so when they were being searched for may have allowed them to survive long enough to be found.

          • Small_Businessman

            Yes, they have survived months – when they have shade, a means of getting fresh water water and the ability to catch food. An open rubber dinghy in the South Pacific has none of these and typical survival time is only 2-3 days; less if the water is rough (even two foot swells can overwash the raft). They would not have lasted a week.
            Plus if they did get in a rubber raft, why wasn’t at least the raft found?
            This is also assuming they were on course when they went down. As I noted earlier, navigational aids at the time were not nearly as advanced as they are today. There is no guarantee they were on course, and if not, the searchers would have been looking in the wrong location.

          • nik

            Read their itinerary, they had ships on route to communicate with, but they dumped the very radio gear that would have given them clear contact with those ships. They were in contact with those ships by voice radio, shortly before they were due to land.
            There is no evidence that they had even a rubber raft, it was my suggestion that one should be the minimum survival gear should the have to ditch at sea.
            Obviously the did not have one, or were unable to use it.
            There are so many conflicting theories, it will doubtlessl continue to be a mystery indefinitely.

          • OWilson

            Where I live now, the locals use the “no lo se” a lot.

            A mark of intelligence!

            Some folks just can’t bring themselves to admit that, no matter how convoluted their rube goldberg theories become!

            Ask one for directions! Lol

          • nik


          • Small_Businessman

            Yes, I know. Radio gear at the time was heavy. It also required considerable power, which meant even more weight. And weight management on such a long trip was critical. Even today commercial airliners don’t carry more fuel than necessary to make the flight with a safe reserve – filling the tanks completely means more weight and more fuel usage.
            Sure, they were in contact with ships. But contact on high frequency radios can be made for hundreds of miles. That does not mean she was on course – she could easily have been way off course and still had contact with ships.
            As to the rubber raft – as I indicated above, the chances of surviving more than a couple of days in a rubber raft in the South Pacific are not good. They would have had a much better chance saving the weight and landing on or very near one of the many small islands, even if the islands are uninhabited.
            No, we may never know for sure what happened to her. But who knows – someone may find the proof. Never is a long time.

          • nik

            The radio gear was supposed to allow their position to be triangulated by the ships, so their location could be ascertained if they were off course. However, that was with the radio they dumped. The ships didnt have that facility for the voice contact version that Amelia kept.

            I worked with RAF radio equipment in the 60’s so I know how bulky it was then, even more so before the war, and the batteries to supply/store the power would have been equally cumbersome.

            I guess that their intention was to do as you’ve said, to look for a piece of land in the event of an emergency, but they probably ran out of fuel, and luck, while looking for it.

            Even a couple of days in a rubber raft, would have given them a better chance, than a couple of hours in the sea.

            Their last minutes must have been really unpleasant, assuming they were conscious.

          • Small_Businessman

            That’s a good idea, but still wildly inaccurate. First of all, ships at the time still navigated mainly by the stars. Naval radionavigation aids didn’t do much until WWII forced advances for the military. And small errors in shooting the stars could mean differences of many miles.

          • Small_Businessman

            I don’t know what happened to my post from yesterday, but some comments.
            At one time I had a BC-610. This was a 400 watt transmitter that weighed 390 lbs – and was designed for MOBILE use. Earlier transmitters were even heavier, so it’s no wonder they ditched the radio for such a long flight; it’s weight would have significantly added to the fuel burn rate – and that’s not including the receiver.
            Now you might claim that 400 watts is overkill – and it would be today. But today we have more efficient communications modes and more sensitive receivers than back then. Additionally, there was still a major lack of understanding of ionospheric propagation and users often did not know what would be the best frequency to use for a specified distance at a specified time of day.

            Add to the fact that radio navigation was still in its infancy at the time; many ships still located their position by shooting the stars. This is accurate to a point – but can be off by several miles. And radio direction finding was still only accurate to a few degrees. The final result would be that they would have to be significantly off course before they exceeded the error margin of the readings.
            Please don’t equate today’s technology with that of pre-WWII. Much of the technology we use today is based at least in part on technology developed during WWII.

          • nik

            I am fully aware of the bulkiness of old radio equipment, and its failings. As above, I worked on RAF radio equipment for NINE years, from 1962. Some of it was already 10-20 years old. Local airfield transmitters had a range of about 100 miles, and probably weighed 2-300 lbs, so its easy to extrapolate back. Weight goes up, power goes down, in reverse proportion.
            The equipment they dumped was for Morse communication, which the ships could use to locate the direction of transmission. three ships will give a triangulated position, and a small area of error, to look for the source. They couldnt do that with the voice transmissions, because few ships used it.
            I understand their reasons for dumping it, but it was a poor survival choice.
            My guess is that they had to ditch in the sea, when fuel expired, and they may or may not have reaches a shore, but with no fresh water, they would survive a few days at most. The aircraft would have gone to the bottom of the ocean, which is very deep once you are away from the islands, as they are virtually undersea mountain peaks.
            Given the inability to find the relatively huge Malay passenger aircraft that disappeared a few years back, the chances of finding the relatively tiny aircraft of Amelia, after the time it has been in the ocean, [salt water destroys aluminium] is probably zero.

          • Small_Businessman

            Actually, voice communication at the time was AM, and could easily be used for direction finding. In fact, during WWII, the U.S. Navy used high power commercial AM radio stations near the coast as fixed points for their RDF. WPTF in Raleigh, NC was one of those stations. And an AM signal with no modulation is exactly the same as a Morse Code signal with the key held down.
            The only possible reason why ships could not triangulate on them is if they operated on different frequencies.
            And yes, nowadays three ships triangulating will give a small area of error. But back in those days the relative direction as well as the exact location of the ships were not as accurate as they are today.

            I’m not going to guess as to whether they had to ditch at sea or not. There are plenty of small, uninhabited islands in the South Pacific they could have landed on or just off the coast of. And if I were in their position, that’s what I would head for when it became obvious I wasn’t going to make my destination.

          • nik

            You’re trying to teach your ”grandmother to suck eggs!”
            The ships df gear was not on the planes voice frequency, hence they couldnt triangulate.

          • Small_Businessman

            As I said – the only reason the ships could not triangulate would be because they weren’t on the same frequency. It had nothing at all to do with the difference between voice and Morse Code transmissions.

          • okiejoe

            The B-29 bomber of WW2 was pressurized and there were a few others.

          • nik

            Amelia’s plane wasn’t, and nor were any passenger planes, until the Comet.

          • okiejoe

            Boeing 307 airliner in commercial service in 1938 followed by Lockheed Constellation in 1943 and Douglas DC-6 in 1947.

          • nik

            Still not pressurised.
            The Comet was the first pressurised passenger aircraft ever.

          • okiejoe

            They were fully pressurized, they were not jets, perhaps that’s what has you hung up. Google “Pressurized aircraft” and you will find a list of (mostly) experimental aircraft back to 1921.

          • nik

            I stand corrected!
            From Wiki:
            The Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner was the first commercial transport aircraft to enter service with a pressurized cabin. This feature allowed the aircraft to cruise at an altitude of 20,000 ft (6,000 m), well above many weather disturbances. The pressure differential was 2.5 psi (17 kPa), so at 14,700 ft (4,480 m) the cabin air pressure was equivalent to an altitude of 8,000 ft (2,440 m). The Model 307 had capacity for a crew of six and 33 passengers. The cabin was nearly 12 ft (3.6 m) across. It was the first land-based aircraft to include a flight engineer as a crew member (several flying boats had included a flight engineer position earlier).[1] In addition to its civilian service it was also flown as the Boeing C-75 Stratoliner by the United States Army Air Forces, who used it as a long-range cargolift aircraft.

            This was in my mind:
            The world’s first commercial JET (my emphasis) airliner was the British de Havilland Comet (1949) designed with a service ceiling of 36,000 ft (11,000 …etc.

            My apologies to you.

          • Michael Pierson

            It is very clear due to physical evidence and witness testimony from 2 different indigenous peoples, that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan tragically set down in the Marshall Islands. They were captured by the Japanese in short order. Fred Noonan was beheaded, Miss Earhart was held prisoner on a Japanese naval base until her untimely death and was buried nearby. Allied governments knew of her capture and imprisonment, but we’re unwilling in the climate of the times to acknowledge this or attempt to rescue the unfortunate aviators

          • Small_Businessman

            Nope. The pictures have been proven to be not that of Amelia and her navigator – by multiple historic accounts. Not even the physical descriptions match.

          • Patrick `

            Did you no that even in 2018 NO FLIGHTS ARE TRACKED OVER SOUTHERN HEMPISHPERE OCEANS!!! Go to any flight tracking site you want, the airliners are not tracked when over the oceans of the southern hemisphere. This is because earth is not a spinning ball and distances in the southern oceans are far longer then they would be if earther were actually a spinning ball 24,908 miles in circumference.

          • Small_Businessman

            The fact that flights are not tracked over the southern hemisphere is solely a function of the lack of locations to place radar sites.
            But my comments had nothing to do with tracking flights. They were solely related to navigation. Radio navigation at the time was still very primitive. It was much better in the 1970’s when I got my pilot’s license. And with GPS on board now, it is exact to within six feet or so, in all three dimensions.
            Plus planes are tracked when over the oceans of the southern hemisphere. Just because you don’t see them on the tracking sites means nothing – not all countries make their tracking data publicly available. And even when the planes are out of radar range, commercial airliners report their position along with operational data back to the manufacturer once an hour.
            Also, all commercial airliners will eventually be required to install GPS tracking so they can be tracked even when not within radar range. This is a direct result of the loss of Malaysia Air flight 370.

          • Patrick `

            The reason flights are not tracked over southern hemisphere oceans is because the EARTH IS FLAT. Google 200 Proofs the Earth Is Not a Spinning Ball. Tracking the flights over southern “hemisphere” oceans would make this hilariously obvious given that most flight routes do not make sense on a ball. That is why the flights arent tracked. Check out flight paths over an azimuthal equidistant projection (flat earth map). The horizon never falls as altitude is gained. How is this possible if airPlanes are flying over a ball beneth themselves? Earths supposed curvature rate is 8”/mile squared. Meaning in the first mile 8” of drop but by 100 miles, we are now looking for over 1 mile of drop that doesnt exist in reality. The surface of standing water (ie oceans) is flat, no curve. Research it and enjoy your awakening. 😉

          • Small_Businessman

            Ah, another idiot from the flat earth society. Good luck with that.

          • Patrick `

            Your the one that thinks earth is spinning at 1,000 mph but you dont feel it. 20,000+ Satellites are whizzing around above your head but you have never seen one and that earth is ball shaped but you have never seen the curve. Who is the idiot? Btw, the flat earth society is for unskepital idiots who believe what they are told but dont investigate further. Good luck with your spinning ball religion. I’ll be just fine over here with trusting my own eyesight.

          • Rip Vanden Broecke

            Apparently you have never been on an airplane or atop a very large tower (or skied on a tall mountain for that matter). Because if you have and you missed the curvature, then you better get your eyes checked. There is a VERY obvious curvature to the Earth at even 1000 feet high and from an airplane at 35,000 feet the curvature is all to clear. But because you and your cooky flat earth friends haven’t ever seen the space station racing by about 3 times an hour every clear night, doesn’t mean it and all the other satellites buzzing around our spherical planet constantly aren’t there. It just proves that you are all very short sited.

            Besides that, every other planet in the observable Universe is a sphere and has been more than completed verified by the Moon, Mars and Venus missions. So why would the Earth be the only exception?

            Not to mention the fact that NO ONE has ever found that flat edge, or fallen off of it either.

            Your responses to Small_Businessman are ludicrously ridiculous!

          • Patrick `

            Sorry Mr. Rip Vanden… I have been to 17 countries, skydiving, scuba diving, cliff jumping, mountain climbing, been acknoledged in Nature, and in my younger years even attended West Point (albeit only for basic and a semester). Point being, I am accomplished in all the necessary areas to assert that no curve is ever visable at any height you have ever been too. If the curve were real, it would be visible from 6” off of the water when the horison starts curving away from you at less than 1 mile… the point is, using even a childs telescope on a clear day proves that boats dont disappear behind a curve of water… they disappear bottom up at varying distances based on visibility conditions. Moisture and particulate obsuring the bottom of boats that are miles away is not the same as water uniformly curving at a rate of 8”/mile squared. Please research it.

          • Small_Businessman

            So you got kicked out of West Point. It figures. They want people with brains.
            The only thing you are “accomplished” at is being an idiot.

          • Robert Meier

            A child’s telescope inverts the image, so the bottom up disappearance of the boat is actually a product of optics, not the flat earth.

          • Kathy Ashcroft

            Thousands of years ago the creator of earth described it as “a sphere, hanging upon nothing”

          • Patrick `

            Btw, it has been possible for short wave radio operators here in Texas to talk to locations in south korea since around 1940… do you really believe the fights arent tracked bc of the range of the gps system?

          • Small_Businessman

            I hate to tell you, but hams have been talking around the world much longer than before 1940. And I said nothing about the range of the GPS system. However, you have once again proven you can’t even read plain English. I agree with Rip Vanden Broecke – your responses are ludicrously ridiculous!

  • dbuck12

    One would think that a blog subtitled “Science for the Curious” would do a better job than simply regurgitate horse hockey.

    An analysis of not the bones themselves but photographs of bones results in a 99% probability that they belong to Amelia Earhart? Next, Joan of Arc’s skateboard found in Salt Lake City garage, says forensic expert.

  • Lorie Franceschi

    We might be able to better determine if the bones are hers. If the US Government would ever admit if she was or was not spying on the Japanese during her flight in that part of the world. No we were not in a shooting war yet, but the Japanese had been in China for a while. This has been postulated for many years. If she was spying, then we might better know what her flight path might have been.

    As for the one who said he attended West Point for basic and a semester, I am glad that you did not make it(if you really did attend) as you would have gotten a lot of good men and women killed.

  • Thomas Wright

    Everyone seems to think there was a mistake somewhere in flight. What if a mistake was made before they took off? Everyone thinks 157-337 refers to celestial navigation. The true heading from Lae to Howland is 78.3 degrees which is a compass heading of 68.7 degrees at Howland. This is calculated by using 2556 (miles), what if a mistake like using 2221 (Nmls) forgetting to convert to miles which is equal to 2556 miles. This would make the true heading 76.5 degrees or a compass heading of 67 degrees at Howland?

    If they flew 2556 miles on a true heading of 76.5 degrees they would end up about 85 miles north of Howland, turn right 90 degrees (157-337) travel 75 miles they would be about 10 miles from Howland.

    I like the show Mayday, over 90 percent of accidents to this day are caused by human error.


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