73 years ago, legendary pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific while trying to fly around the world equator. For decades, the whereabouts of the famed female pilot have been the subject of speculation. But recent discoveries on the remote South Pacific island are leading some to believe that Amelia may not may have survive for weeks-even months-as a castaway.
Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…
"There is evidence on the island suggesting that a castaway was there for weeks and possibly months," Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), told Discovery News.
The island that Ric is discussing is the island of Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. Ric and his team believe that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan may have landed on the island when their plane began to run out of fuel on that fateful flight in 1937.
"We noticed that the forest can be an excellent source of water for a castaway in an island where there is no fresh water. After heavy rain, you can easily collect water from the bowl-shaped hollows in the buka trees. We also found a campsite and nine fire features containing thousands of fish, turtle and bird bones. This might suggest that many meals took place there," Gillespie said.
TIGHAR's expedition to Nikumaroro was the tenth since 1989. During the previous campaigns, the team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.
Only evidence found were two buttons, parts of a pocket knife that was beaten apart to detach the blades for some reason, a cloth that appears to have been shaped as a bow, and cosmetic fragments of rouge from a woman's compact.
It was at this same campsite in 1940 that skeletal remains were discovered there. The remains were described by British Colonial Service Officer Gerald Gallagher (who also discovered them) to be "more likely female than male," "more likely white than Polynesian or other Pacific Islander," "most likely between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 9 inches in height." Sadly the bones have been lost over the years.
These recent discoveries at the campsite, combined with the 70-year-old skeletal discovery, suggest that Earhart’s end may have been more agonizing than originally thought. Abandoned for weeks on a desert island where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees, even in the shade, Earhart may have succumbed to any number of causes, including injury and infection, food poisoning from toxic fish, or simply dehydration.
Sadly though even in light of these recent discoveries, the last days of the Amelia Earhart will remain a mystery.