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Author Topic: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%  (Read 8409 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« on: May 05, 2018, 09:55:49 AM »

Earlier this week, TIGHAR board chairman Lee Paynter, TIGHAR cameraman extraordinaire Mark Smith, and I had the privilege of spending two days with forensic anthropologist Dr. Richard Jantz at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Lee flew us down in a Cirrus.  It was great opportunity to do some real flying for a change.  The Cirrus is a to-die-for little airplane.  160 knots in a fixed-gear, glass-cockpit single with its own parachute.

Using the university's extensive collection of human skeletons Dr. Jantz explained how he reached his conclusion that the bones found on Nikumaroro in 1940 are 99.28% likely to be Amelia Earhart's. Mark filmed our discussions. We'll post excerpts in the near future. The third photo below shows the bones of the same type that Gallagher found. Very interesting to see them laid out like this.

We also discussed how further research might increase (or decrease) the confidence level that the castaway was Earhart - and here's where we need the Forum's help.  Anything we can find that gives us measurable information about Earhart's physique will tell us more about how similar she was to the castaway.  We already know about the leather flying helmet in the Purdue collection and we'll probably do something with that. 
Dr. Jantz would especially like to know if there is a surviving wrist watch with a leather band.  The wear marks on the band would give us an accurate measurement for the size of her wrist - a very import dimension for assessing the "robustity" of her build.  What else?  I know there are several dresses in various collections but dresses usually fit loosely and probably won't be very useful.  A leather belt would be great.  There are shoes but they are mostly from her youth.  Any other ideas?


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Albert Durrell

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2018, 10:33:19 AM »

Anyone ever looked at medical or dental records?  It would be a long shot that any are still around.
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Randy Jacobson

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2018, 05:32:06 PM »

One thing that stood out in Janz's paper and database was that there were very few Polynesian/Micronesian entries. 

"It should be mentioned that a sample of Micronesian or Polynesian bone measurements was unavailable to test against the Nikumaroro bones. I consider it highly unlikely that inclusion of such a sample would have changed anything."

This statement needs to be put to bed.  If the bones were not from Earhart, then this group would be the most likely source.  This group of people needs to be more thoroughly investigated. 
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Kurt Kummer

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2018, 06:28:21 PM »

There are AE artifacts at both the Amelia Earhart Museum / Birthplace and the Santa Fe Museum, both of which are in Atchison, Kansas.  I remember several dresses, shoes, a cloth flying helmet and so forth.  I don't remember seeing a wristwatch or belt but who knows what may be in the back rooms when they're not on display?
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Greg Daspit

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2018, 07:01:16 PM »

The Buffalo Bill Center in Wyoming has an Aviator coat with belt. It was in a news article last week. It may be difficult to allow for how it fit. It mentions there are pictures of her with it on.  Unrelated, in the same article there was a picture of her wearing those multicolored shoes that  had not seen before.
3971R
 
« Last Edit: May 05, 2018, 07:15:24 PM by Greg Daspit »
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James Champion

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2018, 11:42:45 PM »

The Smithsonian has a leather flying suit of Amelia's. I saw it in display at the Udvar-Hazy Center 2-1/2 years ago. I believe it was mention in another discussion thread about the time you were getting photo measurements of the Lockheed Vega, but I don't recall that you examined the flying suit at that time.
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Jerry Germann

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2018, 11:06:11 AM »

Amelia's elephant bracelet was probably the one item she wore most often; but I don't know that it would help much, as it seems a belt notch or wristband notch is what would help the most.
However; If one could study photos and determine a usual riding position of the bracelet on her arm, if my help provide the circumference of her arm at that point.
https://www.google.com/search?q=amelia+earhart+elephant+hair+bracelet&safe=strict&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ0aabyPHaAhWen4MKHdW0AZUQsAQILQ&biw=1280&bih=918#imgrc=5hL_EtOAyFQD1M:
« Last Edit: May 06, 2018, 11:24:18 AM by Jerry Germann »
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Jerry Germann

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2018, 11:28:22 AM »

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/relics-of-amelia-earhart

Museum of woman's pilots seem to have a wristwatch, along with other items.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2018, 11:33:30 AM »

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/relics-of-amelia-earhart

Museum of woman's pilots seem to have a wristwatch, along with other items.

Bingo!  Thanks Jerry. We need to find a photo of AE wearing the watch and confirm that it had a leather band, then hope the band is still with the watch.
The gloves in the photo may also be useful.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2018, 12:32:42 PM »


One thing that stood out in Janz's paper and database was that there were very few Polynesian/Micronesian entries. 

"It should be mentioned that a sample of Micronesian or Polynesian bone measurements was unavailable to test against the Nikumaroro bones. I consider it highly unlikely that inclusion of such a sample would have changed anything."

This statement needs to be put to bed.  If the bones were not from Earhart, then this group would be the most likely source.  This group of people needs to be more thoroughly investigated.

I'm not sure what you mean by "This statement needs to be put to bed." but I think I can explain why Jantz considers it "highly unlikely that inclusion of such a sample would have changed anything."

Let's begin by noting that Dr. Lindsay Isaac, who did an unauthorized examination of the bones when they passed through Tarawa on the way to Fiji, believed them to be the remains of an "elderly male of Polynesian race and that indications are that bones have been in sheltered position for upwards of 20 years and possibly much longer."

Hoodless, on the other hand, said, "I am not prepared to give an opinion on the race or nationality of this skeleton, except to state that it is probably not that of a pure South Sea Islander---Micronesian or Polynesian. It could be that of a short, stocky, muscular European, or even a half-caste, or person of mixed European descent."

Finally, Gallagher, who originally thought the castaway might be Amelia Earhart, changed his mind and sided with Isaac.  In Fiji on July 3, 1941 he wrote, "I have read the contents of this file with great interest. It does look as if the skeleton was that of some unfortunate native castaway and the sextant box and other curious articles found nearby the remains are quite possibly a few of his precious possessions which he managed to save."

Isaac didn't explain why he thought the castaway was Polynesian. Hoodless noted that both the “orbital index” and the cephalic index of the skull indicated that the person was European.  Why he threw in “or even a half-caste, or person of mixed European descent.” is a mystery.  Gallagher seems to be saving face and falling in with the party line.

So why does Jantz believe that having skeletal measurements from a large Micronesian/Polynesian population would not change the statistical probability that the bones were Earhart's?  Different ethnic/regional populations have different characteristic body types and proportions.  You don't need a large database of skeletons to know that the Massai are built differently from Inuit.  The differences can be much more subtle than that.  Dr. Jantz explained to me that 20th century Europeans are typically quite different from 20th century Euro-Americans, largely due to the two wars that brought dietary/environmental hardship to European populations.   Similarly, 19th century Euro-Americans are different from 20th century Euro-Ameicans due to advances in medicine and nutrition.   

As Jantz shows in Fig. 3 of his paper, the humerus and tibia lengths of the Nikumaroro bones are quite different from Polynesian and Micronesian  populations and most similar to Euro-Americans. Amelia Earhart, born in 1897, was a 20th century Euro-American.  The 2,776 skeletons Jantz used for comparison were mostly 20th century Euro-Americans.  In other words, Jantz was comparing the castaway bones to the population most likely to produce similar individuals – and yet, in that population, only 19 (.7%) of the 2,776 were more similar to Earhart than the castaway. 

It is, of course, possible for a Pacific islander to be built like a 20th century Euro-American but it would be highly unusual.  If we could add, say, 1,000 Microsnesian/Polynesian skeletons to the database, the likely result would be a much lower percentage of individuals more similar to the castaway than Earhart.

I, therefore, disagree with the statement that “If the bones were not from Earhart, then this group [Micronesina/Polynesian] would be the most likely source.”

(Dr. Jantz has reviewed this reply and agrees with my explanation.)

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2018, 01:01:28 PM »

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/relics-of-amelia-earhart

Museum of woman's pilots seem to have a wristwatch, along with other items.

Bingo!  Thanks Jerry. We need to find a photo of AE wearing the watch and confirm that it had a leather band, then hope the band is still with the watch.
The gloves in the photo may also be useful.

This photo from the Purdue collection was taken in 1934 so it's probably the watch the museum has.  Leather band.  This photo was taken in 1934. At that time she wore her watch with the face on the top of her wrist. In 1937 she wore her watch with the face on the underside of her wrist, aviator-style (so you can see the face when you're holding the yoke).
« Last Edit: May 06, 2018, 01:55:48 PM by Ric Gillespie »
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Ricker H Jones

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2018, 07:44:55 AM »

A few more watch pics:
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2018, 07:48:29 AM »

A few more watch pics:

Is that the watch in the 99s museum?  I hope not. What we want is a leather band with wear marks to indicate where the buckle was.
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Ricker H Jones

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2018, 07:49:50 AM »

One more:
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Research Needed - Moving beyond 99%
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2018, 07:52:57 AM »

One more:

That's a 1937 pic taken during the world flight. That watch is sure as heck is not in anyone's collection of AE memorabilia.
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