Researchers who have made multiple trips to a remote Pacific island in search of the final landing spot of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe may finally get some answers—in a university DNA laboratory.
Searchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) found a bone fragment—possibly from a human finger—on the remote atoll of Nikumaroro. The island in the western Pacific now belongs to the Republic of Kiribati. In Earhart’s day it was a British Crown colony and known as Gardner Island.
Making the find especially intriguing was its discovery near other artifacts dating to the period of Earhart’s flight and suggesting that castaways lived on the island during the 1930s. One of the objects reportedly found was a pocketknife consistent with one listed as aboard her aircraft.
In an interview with the newspaper The Telegraph , TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie said that the bone fragment was being tested for traces of human DNA at a molecular anthropology lab of the University of Oklahoma. Results would be forthcoming in a few weeks, but confirmation would be sought from another laboratory.
Since Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared after departing Lae, New Guinea, on July 2, 1937, in a Lockheed Electra 10E, historians, aviation buffs and many others have been beguiled by their story, ever transfixed by searches and theories about their fate.
TIGHAR’s website presents the organization’s theory of what happened—that Earhart died on the island and Noonan’s fate remains unknown—along with evidence to back up its postulation.
The latest discoveries came last summer during TIGHAR’s tenth expedition to Nikumaroro, said the newspaper account.
TIGHAR plans to return to Nikumaroro to search its waters for the Lockheed Electra on or before the flight’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 2012, according to the website.