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Press Release

For Immediate Release, 6 February 2018

A newly published study further supports the hypothesis that Amelia Earhart landed and died as a castaway on the remote atoll known as Nikumaroro (Gardner Island).

A highly technical peer-reviewed paper published in the scientific journal Forensic Anthropology compares measurements of the bones of a castaway found on an uninhabited Pacific atoll in 1940 with new quantified data on Amelia Earhart. The author concludes that “Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”

The study, titled “Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones – A 1941 Analysis versus Modern Quantitative Techniques” is open access and can be downloaded at the University of Florida Press.

The author, Richard L. Jantz, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. The university’s Anthropological Research Facility, famously known as “The Body Farm,” was founded by Dr. William Bass. The donated body program was established in 1981 as a means of studying factors that affect human decomposition and to develop a skeletal collection of modern Americans. Many of the skeletons used to characterize Amelia Earhart were from the donated collection.

In 2005, Richard Jantz and Stephen Ousley created Fordisc, a computer program for estimating sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements. Now in version 3.1, Fordisc, is used by nearly every board certified forensic anthropologist in the United States and many around the world.

This latest finding in the 80-year search for an answer to Earhart’s fate is the culmination of research that began with TIGHAR’s 1998 discovery of original British files that document the finding of a partial skeleton on Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) in 1940. The bones were suspected at the time of possibly being the remains of Amelia Earhart. In 1941, a British colonial doctor concluded that the bones belonged to a short, stocky European or mixed-race male. The bones were subsequently lost.

In 1998, forensic anthropologists Karen Burns and Richard Jantz analyzed measurements of the bones included in the British file. Using late 20th century forensic tools and techniques they concluded that the skeleton appeared to be consistent with a white female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin. In 2015, British graduate student Pamela Cross and Australian anthropologist Richard Wright took issue with Burns and Jantz. In a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science they argued that the original 1941 British findings were more likely correct. Their study, titled “The Nikumaroro bones identification controversy: First-hand examination versus evaluation by proxy — Amelia Earhart found or still missing?” can be purchased at Science Direct.

Karen Burns died in 2012, but in response to the 2015 Cross/Wright critique, Richard Jantz undertook a quantitative analysis of the Nikumaroro bone measurements using the latest software and new forensic information about Amelia Earhart’s physique obtained by TIGHAR with the cooperation of Photek Forensic Imaging, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and Purdue University Special Collections. His newly released paper, “Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones – A 1941 Analysis versus Modern Quantitative Techniques” is the result.

Dr. Jantz’s study stands in stark contrast to the evidence presented in the July 2017 History Channel special “Amelia Earhart – The Lost Evidence.” Shortly after the show aired, the lost evidence – a photo said to show Earhart and Noonan in Japanese custody – was revealed to be neither lost nor evidence when it was found to have come from a Japanese tour book printed in 1935 – two years before the flyers disappeared. The show was withdrawn from re-broadcast and a promised investigation by the History Channel has, so far, not materialized.

Since launching The Earhart Project in 1988, TIGHAR has taken a science-based approach to testing the hypothesis that the missing flight ended at Nikumaroro. Thirty years of research suggests that Earhart made a relatively safe landing on the dry reef at the west end of the uninhabited island. She and her navigator Fred Noonan sent radio distress calls for six nights before rising tides washed the airplane into the ocean where it broke up in the surf at the reef edge. An over-flight by U.S. Navy search planes on the seventh day failed to spot the stranded flyers. Earhart survived for a matter of weeks, perhaps months, before dying at an improvised campsite near the atoll’s southeast end. Her partial skeleton was found three years later when the British established a colony on the island. Noonan’s fate is unknown.

For further information: Ric Gillespie, Executive Director,
TIGHAR, Phone: 610-467-1937, Email: tigharic@mac.com.

Click HERE to support the effort to find Amelia Earhart.

Digging Into the Glenn Miller Disappearance

December 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of the disappearance of iconic Big Band leader Major Alton G. “Glenn” Miller on a 1944 flight from England to Paris. In terms of public familiarity, it’s an aviation mystery second only to the Earhart disappearance and, like the AE enigma, proposed answers to the riddle range from the ridiculous to the rational. The most credible research suggests that the UC-64 Noorduyn Norseman carrying Miller came down in the English Channel due to either weather or friendly fire.

We’re taking this a step at a time. We are raising funds to be used to cover Phase One. The purpose of Phase One will be to determine whether what appeared to be the wreck of a C-64 Noorduyn Norseman snagged, and briefly raised, by a fisherman trawling in the English Channel could possibly be the aircraft in which Miller was lost on December 15, 1944. If the informant’s account is found to be not credible, or the reported location is beyond the realm of possibility based on the known facts of the case, or the location is not specific enough – we’ll write a report and leave it at that. If Phase One finds that further research is warranted we’ll proceed with a possible research trip to England next year. A later search expedition would only be contemplated if it looked like there was a reasonable chance of locating and identifying the wreck.

Our ability to move forward depends entirely upon contributions to the Glenn Miller Research Fund. Please go ahead and contribute what you can now. We’ve made a great start. We’ll include a further progress report in the spring issue of TIGHAR Tracks.

The Earhart Project What Happened to Amelia Earhart Earhart

The Earhart Project is testing the hypothesis that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed, and eventually died, on Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati. READ MORE.

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Finding Amelia II

TIGHAR’s new book is well under way. Click HERE to read a sample chapter and support the research and writing of this essential tool for all Earhart historians.

Click HERE to support the effort to find Amelia Earhart.

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