The disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the first female who flew across the Atlantic Ocean on her own, have baffled millions of people since 1937. Back then, hers was a name that was widely recognized due to her achievements in air travel. Consequent to the incident, she has come to be the subject of many public discussions – and the name Amelia Earhart has become even more prominent since. 2nd July 1937 was the day that she vanished into thin air, along with Fred Noonan, her navigator at the time. It happened over the course of her journey to Howland Island – in the Pacific – from Papua New Guinea. It was part of her expedition to fly around the world.
This mystery has lasted over eight decades and is fast approaching one whole century. In conjunction to this matter, many have come up with their own theories to explain the incident. The most unsettling question continues to be the same. Where are her remains?
With the advancement in forensic science, recent discoveries have revealed, or rather, overturned previous findings. Three years after her disappearance, back in 1940, about thirteen human bones were discovered on Gardner Island. Gardner Island, also referred to as Nikumaroro, was a secluded land amidst the Pacific that lies 1,200 miles away from the Marshall Islands. This led to a theory that suggests that Earhart did not die in a plane crash. In fact, Gardner Island is presumed to be the island where she had landed her plane on after some mishaps. This theory believes that she was stranded on the remote island and was never rescued until she eventually passed away. This theory has been brought up due to the statement made by Richard Jantz, a former anthropology Professor at the University of Tennessee, who allegedly claims that the bones belonged to Earhart.
The forensic analysis done in 1941 had eliminated this possibility because of the result that suggests it was the remains of a man, as opposed to Earhart. This examination was carried out by Dr. David Hoodless, the principal of the Central Medical School in Fiji, an island in the South Pacific Ocean. Three aspects were taken into consideration in his analysis. According to the New York Post, they are:
- the ratio of the femur’s circumference to length
- the angle of the femur and pelvis
- the subpubic angle (the angle formed between two pelvis bones)
The gender can be determined by evaluating the subpubic angle. A notably narrower subpubic angle points to a male structure and vice versa.
The examination concludes that the bones were likely to have belonged to, says Jantz and quote, “short, stocky muscular European”. The height of said male is estimated to be around 5 feet and 5.5 inches. This, aside from the presumed gender, negates any hints of it being Earhart. Her flying license and driving license indicate that her height is around 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 7 inches respectively, which is in compliance with the estimation from her pictures. Both of these numbers far exceed the estimated height of whom the bones had belonged to. Noonan the navigator was eliminated from the possibilities because he was towering at the height of 6 feet and a quarter inch.
Nonetheless, Professor Jantz has pointed out the inaccuracy of the 19th century forensic science methods. The outdated approach may have, by a high percentage in the margin of error, miscalculated the actual height. This means that the height, in actuality, matches that of Amelia Earhart’s. With the utilization of up-to-date methods of analysis, Professor Jantz has reached a different conclusion in terms of sexual characteristics.
“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,” quoting an official statement made by Richard Jantz in a paper that has been published in the Forensic Anthropology journal.
The only criteria that Jantz have shown approval of – in Dr. Hoodless’ report – is the measure of the subpubic angle. Even so, he has made a remark saying that it should be open “to considerable variation, much of which was little understood in 1941.”
Through research of his own, Jantz has allegedly proved his theory. He collected statistical figures from a sum of 2,776 individuals and made a juxtaposition of it with the numbers from Dr. Hoodless’ investigation from 1941. In addition, Jantz made approximations through the observation and close study of Earhart’s pictures and the sizing of her apparels.
“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,” concludes Professor Jantz.
All in all, this remains to be yet another theory. While Professor Jantz’s analysis and justification were implemented on the grounds of the new and improved analysis methods, other scholars of our generation have expressed their support and are still in agreement with Dr. David Hoodless’ findings that took place 77 years ago. There are also those who believe that her life ended in the Marshall Islands instead of Gardner Island.
Like any other controversial issue, the debates do not seem to be settling down anytime soon. In fact, another “alleged” evidence in this case was brought up just last year. That is most definitely not the first and will not be the last of it.
Featured Image via Flickr/IMLS Digital Collections and Content