Scientist ‘99 percent sure’ Amelia Earhart’s bones have been found

March 11, 2018

Scientist ‘99 percent sure’ Amelia Earhart’s bones have been found Image Source: Screenshot

For decades, the world has wondered what happened to Amelia Earhart — and how exactly she disappeared. Now, one scientist believes he has the answer.

Richard Jantz, an emeritus anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee, is “99 percent” certain that bones found on a small island near where Earhart is believed to have crashed actually belonged to the legendary pilot. 

Puzzling disappearance

After getting a taste of flight in World War I, Amelia Mary Earhart earned her pilot’s license in 1921, and went on to set numerous aviation records, including in 1932, when she became the first woman — and only the second person — to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

But great risk is often accompanied by great danger, and Earhart is equally well known for her accomplishments as for her mysterious disappearance.

On June 1, 1937, Earhart attempted to be the first pilot to circumnavigate the globe. Accompanied by navigator Fred Noonan, she took off from Oakland, California, and headed eastward. With only 7,000 miles to go, after having flown 22,000 miles, the duo disappeared on July 2, 1937, during a flight from Papua, New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific.

After unsuccessful search efforts, the pair was declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937.

Newest theory

Over the years, many theories have tried to explain Earhart’s puzzling disappearance. Chief among them is that she managed to land her plane on a small island called Nikumaroro, where she died a castaway. The supporting evidence was 13 human bones, which were found on the island three years after her disappearance.

But this theory was thought to be discredited by a 1941 analysis of the bones, which seemed to indicate that they belong to a man. Dr. David Hoodless, who conducted the analysis, described the bones as possibly belonging to a “short, stocky muscular European.”

But these findings are now being called into question. According to Jantz, the methods used in the 1941 analysis could not reliably determine sex.

Jantz explained:

When Hoodless conducted his analysis, forensic osteology was not yet a well-developed discipline. Evaluating his methods with reference to modern data and methods suggests that they were inadequate to his task; this is particularly the case with his sexing method. Therefore his sex assessment of the Nikumaroro bones cannot be assumed to be correct.

Mystery solved?

Jantz also pointed out that the bones Hoodless examined would fit Earhart based on height. According to her pilot license, Earhart was 5’8″, and her driver’s license listed her as 5’7″.

While Hoodless suggested that the bones belonged to someone slightly shorter than this, according to Jantz, the methods used by Hoodless had a tendency to underestimate height.

Jantz compared Hoodless’ measurements to other data, including photos of Earhart and her clothing measurements. Jantz finally concluded:

This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample. This strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.

While the professor did poke holes in the 1941 analysis, suggesting that Hoodless may have been wrong after all, modern scientists are not yet convinced by Jantz’s argument.

Jantz’s methodology merely demonstrates that there is a possibility that the bones belonged to someone of a similar body structure to the legendary pilot.

Still, it is exciting to think that a longstanding mystery may have been solved. What do you believe?

Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers is a writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University and a JD from the University of Connecticut.