Could DNA testing solve the Amelia Earhart mystery?

Could DNA testing solve the Amelia Earhart mystery?

Researchers are hoping that DNA testing may finally prove whether bones found on a remote island are Amelia Earhart’s. Forensic anthropologist, Dr Erin Kimmerle from the University of South Florida, has been asked to examine the bones that were discovered at a museum on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro.

Amelia Earhart is famous for being the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She is also the first woman to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 1937, whilst attempting to become the first woman to circle the globe, she mysteriously disappeared. 

In June 1937, she took off from Lae, Papua New Guinea, with her navigator Fred Noonan, intending to land on Howland Island, located between Hawaii and Australia. On 2nd July, when approaching Howland Island, the pair radioed the US Coast Guard cutter, the Itasca, that they were low on fuel and having difficulty finding the island. The Itasca was anchored off Howland’s coast and they asked it to guide them onto land with radio signals.

The last message delivered from Earhart to the Itasca, said: “We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1000 feet.” When the Itasca realized it had lost contact with Earhart’s plane, they began searching immediately, but no sign was found of Earhart or her crew. 

It was assumed that Earhart ran out of fuel and her plane crashed in the ocean. The US Navy and Coast Guards searched for the missing pilot and her navigator for weeks, but could never find ruins of the crash or the pair. Earhart was legally declared dead in January 1939.

DNA testing bones

The bones were found on Nikumaroro, a remote island in the western Pacific Ocean, in 1940. But it wasn’t until a 2018 study that people began to suspect they could belong to Earhart. Researcher Richard Jantz examined the bones’ measurements and found they closely matched those of the missing pilot. Dr Kimmerle will now DNA test them and compare the DNA profile against the DNA of Earhart’s one living niece.

If the bones prove to be a match, then the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart may finally be solved. However, the question then will be whether she survived the crash and lived as a castaway in the Pacific.

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