Pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in July of 1937, and people have been looking for her ever since. The latest evidence--the broken pieces of a jar of 1930s era freckle cream used by Earhart--was found by TIGHAR, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, who over the past two decades has discovered several tantalizing clues from archaeological research on Nikumaroro, a tiny island in Kiribati.
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Photo in TIGHAR Collection, courtesy Purdue University Library
The Amelia Earhart Project is an archaeologically-based study run by TIGHAR, whose senior research archaeologist Tom King, a colleague and friend of mine, wrote a piece for us called Amelia Earhart's Fate: The Archaeological Investigation some years ago. Since that time, a few more archaeological field seasons have passed—and Tom published a novel based on the evidence called Thirteen Bones. Recently, TIGHAR published a summary of the archaeological and other research to date that makes the case for Nikumaroro.
In addition to the freckle cream jar, archaeological evidence found on Nikumaroro Island which TIGHAR suggests may be from Earhart and Noonan include:
- Aluminum and Plexiglas fragments which are consistent with a Lockheed Electra like the one in which Earhart disappeared;
- Parts of two shoes, one of which is a Blucher-style oxford dated to the 1930s and known as a style used by Earhart;
- Bones were discovered on Nikumaroro Island; they are now missing although measurements survive and were likely from a woman of European ethnic background, about 5'5" to 5'9" in height;
- A sextant box discovered on the island in 1940, also now missing, had numbers strongly suggesting that it held a U.S. Navy sextant of a kind likelyk to have been used by Fred Noonan;
- A broken bottle made in 1933 containing traces of oil and lanolin;
- Two small pieces of thin beveled glass that match the mirror of a 1930s vintage American woman's compact;
- Three small fragments of red material chemically identified as probably cosmetic rouge; and
- Parts of a 1930s brand zipper.
Seeking Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart. Photo Credit: Purdue University Library
But the story is much more complex than can be told by a series of bulleted points: for the details, read Tom's summary of the logic behind the search in Amelia Earhart's Fate: The Archaeological Investigations.
In summary, though, after two decades of research, TIGHAR believes that its data indicate that Earhart and Noonan crash-landed on Nikumaroro Island in 1937, and died there a few months later.
- Amelia Earhart's Fate: The Archaeological Investigations , here at About.com from Tom King
- What Happened to Amelia Earhart? The Case for Nikumaroro, details on the most recent findings in pdf form on the TIGHAR page
- Amelia Earhart: New evidence tells of her last days on a Pacific atoll (+video), Brad Knickerbocker in the Christian Science Monitor
- Amelia Earhart Distress Call Details Emerge, Rosella Lorenzi in Discovery News
- Tom King.com: Thirteen Bones, publicity blurb on King's new novel
- Overview of the TIGHAR hypothesis at TIGHAR
- Official Homepage of Amelia (the movie)