Amelia Earhart mystery claimed to be solved (once again)

Here’s a post for International Women’s Day, but I was going to put it up anyway before I found out this morning that it was IWD.

The media is buzzing with the results of a new analysis by Richard L. Jantz of bones found on Nikumaroro Island in 1940, and the possibility—”the likelihood”, says Jantz—that they belonged to Amelia Earhart, who, he argues, died on that island after crash-landing in 1937 during her around-the-world flight with her navigator, Fred Noonan. Jantz is an emeritus professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and has expertise in identifying the origin of human bones. His paper, just published in Forensic Anthropology (reference at bottom), is free online, and the pdf is here.

I won’t recount the story of Earhart, or the many theories of what happened to her (I’ve written about this several times before); you can see the long Wikipedia entry for that. Her disappearance got lots of attention—more so than other vanished aviators—because she was a pioneering woman aviator, because she was already famous for breaking aviation records, and because she was popular with the American public, being genial and outgoing to reporters. (Her personal life was a bit of a mess, but we won’t get into that.) She disappeared on the final leg of her journey home, having taken off from New Guinea and heading to small Howland Island, from where she was going to fly to Hawaii and then to California. Despite a radio ship being stationed near Howland, Earhart couldn’t hear their transmission, though they could receive hers (she reported being low on fuel and flying a north-south line). She, Noonan, and the plane disappeared, and the rest is mystery.

In 1940 several bones, including a skull, humerus, radius, tibia, fibula, and two femurs, were found on Nikumaroro Island, a few hundred miles south of Earhart’s destination. Along with the bones were part of a shoe thought to be a woman’s shoe (see below), a sextant box for carrying a 1918-made instrument, and a Benedictine bottle. Here’s Nikumaroro relative to Howland; it’s a classic Pacific atoll, and the proposed site for her emergency landing is given in the second map (both from Betchart Expeditions):

The bones were taken to Fiji where they were measured by Dr. D. W. Hoodless, principal of the island’s Central Medical School. They’ve since disappeared, which is a great pity since DNA from those bones might have allowed a positive identification. (Earhart had no children, but perhaps there are relatives of her still alive.)

All we have are Hoodless’s seven measurements, four of the skull as well as the length of the humerus, radius and tibia. From these measurements, Hoodless concluded that the bones belonged to “a middle-aged stocky male about 5’5.5″ in height.” A reanalysis in 1998 took issue with that, arguing that the bones belonged to a female of European ancestry between 5’6″ and 5’8″ tall. The latter conclusions comport with Earhart, who was probably between 5’7″ and 5’8″: tall for a woman in those days. Here’s Earhart’s driver’s license; her pilot’s license adds an inch to the height recorded here.

To make a long story short, Jantz finds severe flaws in Hoodless’s methodology and conclusions (he screwed up both the sex and stature of the individual), and reanalyzes both the bone data and Earhart’s height and build from old photographs as well as a pair of her trousers that reside at a museum at Purdue University.

Using bones from Pacific Islanders, male and female, as well as from Europeans, Jantz finds Earhart fitting closer to European males than to the Islanders, but also closer to males than females. But she was tall: as tall as the average male, and these conclusions are based on bone length. He then estimates the robustness of Earhart’s build from both the bone data and photos taken of Earhart when she was alive; Jantz did this because Earhart was assumed to be very “gracile” (slender), which did not fit the bone measurements.

It’s amusing to see Jantz engaged in a bit of Earhart fat-shaming, saying she had fat ankles, “piano legs,” and was stockier than everyone assumed.  This is what he says:

It is now possible to address the question of what Earhart’s body build actually was, since it bears on what Hoodless may have seen before him. Cross and Wright (2015) characterize Earhart as tall, slender, and gracile, citing numerous photos of her to support this assessment. However, the few photos showing Earhart’s bare arms or legs (Figure 5) show a woman with a healthy amount of body fat. The photos in Figure 5are inconsistent with a weight of 118 pounds and a BMI of 17.9, which according to contemporary standards is in the underweight or undernourished category. If her height is actually 5’7″, that brings her BMI to 18.5, just to the lower border of healthy weight. But even that is inconsistent with the photos in Figure 5.

It is evident from Figure 5 that Earhart’s calves and ankles cannot be described as slender. In the 1933 photo she is standing next to a woman somewhat taller, but with rather more slender ankles. One of Earhart’s biographers, Susan Butler (1997), recounts that because of her thick ankles, her legs could be described as “piano legs.” Thick ankles are not normally due to an undesirable distribution of fat; the subcutaneous fat layer is normally thin, the ankle configuration owing to underlying bone and muscle (Weniger et al. 2004). Ankle circumference is often used as a measure of frame size (Callaway et al. 1991). Calf and ankle circumference are strongly correlated with weight (Cheverud et al. 1990a), the former reflecting mainly muscle and fat, the latter mainly bone.

She still looks slender to me, even if her ankles weren’t so slim; here is Figure 5.

He concludes that Earhart had a BMI (body mass index) closer to 19 than to 17.1, and probably weighed closer to 130 pounds than 118 pounds, so her skeleton was not as gracile as everyone thinks. (Judging this is, of course, above my pay grade.) With a 27.3-inch waist, about 4 inches less than U.S. military women today, I consider her slim, regardless of her ankles!

Jantz further estimates the lengths of Earhart’s humerus (upper arm bone) and radius (one of the two lower arm bones) from a picture taken shortly before her flight, using markers on the photo (see below) and the known size of the gas can in her hand. He estimates her humerus at 321.1 mm and radius of 243.7 mm, compared to 325 and 245 for the Nikumaroro bones.

The tibia length taken from Earhart’s trousers gives an estimate of 371.7 mm, compared to 372.4 estimated from her height as 67 inches. Those comport well with the 372 mm measurement of the found bone.  Jantz then uses just bone lengths to compared Earhart’s combined data to those of a sample of 2776 individuals from a collection of what I take to be “Euro-American” postcranial measurements (the data are NOT well described; they don’t include Polynesian or Pacific bones, but those would in all likelihood have been shorter). This plot shows the “Mahalanobis distance” of bones from the collection to the bones collected on Nikumaroro. Males are on the top, females on the bottom, and the line shows where Earhart’s data, taken from photos and pants measurements, fits. The closer the estimated data to the found bones, the more similar they are, and the closer to the left-hand size (“zero distance”) on the plots:

As you see, for both sexes Earhart’s estimated data is much closer to a “match” with the found bones than are most individuals in Jantz’s database. He estimates that 98.77% of individuals from his female sample are farther than Earhart’s estimates from the zero point. That means that there’s a very good match between Earhart’s estimated measurements and the actual bones, and a much closer match than that of a random female from the sampled population.

Well, as I said, this is all above my pay grade. All I can say is that yes, the bone lengths seem to match Earhart’s, but so do many people (1.3% of all human females), so this is not a match that would stand up in court. Nevertheless, both Jantz and the press consider this a pretty positive identification of Earhart’s bones, and a solution to the mystery of her disappearance. As Jantz says at the end of the paper:

If Hoodless’s analysis, particularly his sex estimate, can be set aside, it becomes possible to focus attention on the central question of whether the Nikumaroro bones may have been the remains of Amelia Earhart. There is no credible evidence that would support excluding them. On the contrary, there are good reasons for including them. The bones are consistent with Earhart in all respects we know or can reasonably infer. Her height is entirely consistent with the bones. The skull measurements are at least suggestive of female. But most convincing is the similarity of the bone lengths to the reconstructed lengths of Earhart’s bones. Likelihood ratios of 84–154 would not qualify as a positive identification by the criteria of modern forensic practice, where likelihood ratios are often millions or more. They do qualify as what is often called the preponderance of the evidence, that is, it is more likely than not the Nikumaroro bones were (or are, if they still exist) those of Amelia Earhart. If the bones do not belong to Amelia Earhart, then they are from someone very similar to her. And, as we have seen, a random individual has a very low probability of possessing that degree of similarity.

. . . In the present instance, readers can supply their own interpretation of the prior evidence, summarized by King (2012). Given the multiple lines of non-osteological evidence, it seems difficult to conclude that Earhart had zero probability of being on Nikumaroro Island. From a forensic perspective the most parsimonious scenario is that the bones are those of Amelia Earhart. She was known to have been in the area of Nikumaroro Island, she went missing, and human remains were discovered which are entirely consistent with her and inconsistent with most other people. Furthermore, it is impossible to test any other hypothesis, because except for the victims of the Norwich City wreck [11 men], about whom we have no data, no other specific missing persons have been reported. It is not enough merely to say that the remains are most likely those of a stocky male without specifying who this stocky male might have been. This presents us with an untestable hypothesis, not to mention uncritically setting aside the prior information of Earhart’s presence. The fact remains that if the bones are those of a stocky male, he would have had bone lengths very similar to Amelia Earhart’s, which is a low-probability event. Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.

This is a long way from convincing me, for we can’t tell whether the bones are male or female, and Earhart’s measurements were estimated from photos and have fairly big error bars around them. What a pity those bones aren’t around, as Svante Paabo or one of his ilk could use them to test their DNA—if any remained—for a match to living relatives. So it’s suggestive, but hardly dispositive.

There was a Europeans woman’s shoe and a compass, box, though, and that adds some weight to the evidence. But to me, the mystery is a long way from being solved. The media is being way too credulous, although some places have interviewed experts who find Jantz’s analysis wanting.

Oh, hell, I’ll add the shoe information from a paper by Karen Burns et al.:

h/t: Roger Latour

________

Jantz, R. L. 2018. Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro bones: A 1941 analysis versus modern quantitative techniques. Forensic Anthropology 1(2):1-16.

63 Comments

  1. Nicholas K.
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, the forensic analysis is pretty weak sauce. Long bone measurements correlate to stature, but there is a fair margin of error. Femur is better than any arm bone. If only the bones were not lost. The statistical process of elimination is not very satisfying.

    I actually find the shoe evidence more compelling.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Agree about the shoe evidence. Combined with Jantz’s analysis it does seem convincing to me that Amelia Earhart died on Nikumaroro. Not definitive, but convincing.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    So Amelia had “cankles”?

    • Adam M.
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Well, since there’s so much discussion of her ankles, Wikipedia actually has a much better photograph of them.

    • barn owl
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      The phrase that’s used derogatorily by Bloom in Ulysses is a variant of “Beef to the heels like a Mullingar heifer.” But “beef to the heels” is also used in an appreciative manner to describe Milly.

      It’s a bit rich for Jantz to fat-shame Amelia Earhart for having an estimated BMI around 19. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

    • Liz
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Amelia had strong ankles so she could stand on her own two feet among the men.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Remains unsolved and maybe never will know. We do know it was a dangerous leg of this long trip and when highly skilled navigation was critical it just wasn’t there. Nikumaroro is roughly 400 miles or more to the south of Howland/Baker but after 2500 miles of very old fashion technology, it is not so much. They could have been much closer and after not finding their dot on the ocean, turned the wrong way looking for it. As many discover, it is a very big ocean.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      This is a wild guess on my part, but I think navigational technology of the time should have made Nikumaroro much to far off course for it to be a realistic end point. Just sighting off stars would have, I think, gotten them within 100 miles or so of Howland. How could they have been so far off track? Doesn’t make sense that they would be gambling on a technology with such a weak chance of success.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        There was no night time star sighting on the flight – the sky was overcast. The RDF comms with the USCG radio ship were almost certainly borked [see my other comments on that] & the voice radio comms were less than perfect.

        Also Earhart was not a good instruments flyer & certainly couldn’t do dead reckoning navigation – it was all on Noonan

        They knew they were going to hit an island chain running approx south to north with their target to the north end of the chain – it might make sense to deviate south somewhat [in the absence of RDF] so as to be assured of spotting the chain rather than flying north of the chain & missing it entirely.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          ** shoulda gone with better weather [if that possible to arrange in 1937]

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        In essence – they should not have flown the Pacific with:
        ** Broken/missing retractable long wire antenna underneath the plane
        ** broken or wrongly tuned RDF loop aerial

        ** They should have turned back when they couldn’t detect the USGC signal
        ** shoulda used longer range plane
        ** shoulda chosen bigger targets on a shorter crossing [further north crossing]
        ** shoulda learned nav & instruments in her sleep

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          USCG not USGC

        • rickflick
          Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          As a recreational aviator myself, I monitor accidents. The biggest cause of bad endings is failure to take basic precautions. Quite often it’s failure to respond to bad weather. Sometimes, surprisingly, flights end in a world of pain because of fuel exhaustion. Mostly air accidents are preventable. Sounds to me as though Earhart was not a very careful pilot.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

            In her first famous flight – she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air. She never touched the controls, but she & the two male flyers got a ticker tape parade. It was like Moon landings fame.

            She married George P. Putnam – a great promoter in the ’30s

            She was circumnavigating to write & book & ride the wave of fame

            Noonan wanted money & the recognition so as to set up a flight school in Australia [I think Australia]

            I have no idea what sort of pressures the pair were under, but there might have been a promotional timeline they were working to for their US landfall. They really should have taken their time.

            • steve
              Posted March 13, 2018 at 1:53 am | Permalink

              Why do you say,I think Australia?

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted March 13, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

                Because Australia is what I remember reading a long while ago, but I’m not 100% confident my memory is correct

              • steve
                Posted March 17, 2018 at 1:21 am | Permalink

                (She reported being low on fuel and flying a north south line)

                Is there a possibility that instead of Heading to Howland Island,the plane was heading the other direction to Australia.
                The plane may have crashed after it dropped from climbing over the backbone of Papua New Guinea.
                The Radio Ship could hear her transmition but she couldn’t hear from the ship because the plane was already dropping after the climb.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted March 18, 2018 at 3:56 am | Permalink

                OK

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 17, 2018 at 1:48 am | Permalink

              @steve Why would she fly to Australia from Lea Airfield? Are you suggesting she flew to Australia soon after taking off from Lea? The Earhart radio transmission to the Itasca Coast Guard cutter anchored off the target island said she was flying “on the line of position 157-337 . . . . We are running north and south”

              That was received by the cutter at 8:45 a.m. – eighteen or nineteen hours into the flight. Impossible for the cutter to pick up that message in daylight [different atmospherics night & day] unless she was close to her target [within hundreds of miles not thousands]

              • steve
                Posted March 18, 2018 at 3:40 am | Permalink

                Yes,it’s just a suggestion she flew to Australia soon after taking off from Lae.

              • steve
                Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:59 am | Permalink

                When the flight took off from Oaklands,California it flew the opposite direction,so with the Japanese quietly building up military presence in the territories at that time,the early 1930s.
                The flight that also took off from Lae in July 1937 might have also flew the opposite direction after the aircraft have disappeared to the east.

              • steve
                Posted April 7, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

                The plane is still at where it crashed.

  4. darrelle
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jantz’s assessment of Earhart’s stature. After looking at the pictures I find it hard to believe that at 5′-7″ (or there abouts) she was only about 117 pounds.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      It’s not at all well-versed in making these kinds of evaluations, but it’s not beyond belief that at 5’7″ she could weigh 117 pounds. I’m 5’6 1/2″ and could barely break 115. Usually, I’m around 108-112 (and was when I was around her age when she disappeared); but I have very small bones and not a lot of body fat. In the photos I see of Earhart when her arms are exposed, she has what I’d say is a ‘healthy’ amount of fat on those limbs, so on that evidence, I would concur with you that it’s hard to believe that she weighed only 117 lbs.

  5. Curtis
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure why this being reported now. Brian Dunning did a episode on this a while ago:
    https://skeptoid.com/blog/2016/11/01/even-more-amelia-earhart-nonsense/

    The shoe is worthless because there were British people there earlier and colony with dozen of people in 1939.

    “Nikumaroro was inhabited by hundreds of people for decades before Earhart’s flight, but Gillespie has pointed to practically every speck of trash (including part of a shoe and a shard of glass) as proof that Earhart was on the island. Such an identification defies rationality, as Nikumaroro was a British colony of about 100 men, women, and children; a coconut plantation; and a British Coast Guard station; and was loaded with trash from all of those, long before Gillespie and his team began looking for signs of Earhart.”

    • darrelle
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Oops. Didn’t know that. That does sort of take the shoe evidence off the table.

      • loren russell
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        The shoe is not entirely ‘useless’ Just as the skeletal argument, hardly conclusive — if the experts at CatsPaw are to be trusted, it narrows provenance to a few years centering on the date of disappearance. And the photo a few days before is consistent with this particular brand, and a specific [if common] repair.

        It might be interesting to check whether “Biltrite” shoes were sold in the British empire, or just an American brand..

        • Curtis
          Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          If the shoe were examined properly, it could be evidence. However, Jantz (who may be a good forensic scientist) just parrots reports by a group (TIGHAR) which regularly produces nonsense about Amelia Earhart including the proven bogus photograph. TIGHAR.org provides 4 out his 5 footnotes.

          TIGHAR is bogus and his extensive use of them as source casts strong doubts on his credibility. Again, his forensic’s could be good but he is certainly biased.

          • Max Blancke
            Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

            I read his report, and the forensic science seems credible, but he relies on the idea that few people besides Earhart could have been on the island in the years before the remains were found.
            The Tighar people use pretty poor science. Aircraft identification and recovery is a field I have some experience in, although I have no connection to the Earhart search.
            I do remember that they seem to assume that any aluminum debris found is likely connected to Earhart.
            From my own experience, aircraft debris is fabulously common all over the islands of the Western Pacific. Debris recovered prior to the war would be of more interest that any found today.
            The big issue with pop science is that they start with a conclusion, then try to make any evidence found fit the conclusion. And they discard that which does not.
            I also think it is telling that when some images of Gardiner Island were located in New Zealand, Mr. Gillespie found it necessary to travel there in person to see and copy them. I cannot find it on their website now, but I remember at the time reading a plea for funding for the trip, and the reasoning seemed a little suspect to me.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

              I agree re the aluminium

              Nearly all the people on the island during its history were imported from nearby islands – very few westerners. Very few shoe wearers & none that would sport a Western woman’s rugged fashion shoe [if that part of the evidence is correct]

              The location of the bones was not indicative of a cemetery – the ‘islanders’ wouldn’t bury a corpse in such a location

              It’s Gardner Island [or atoll]

              The photographs were aerial ones taken by the New Zealand Pacific Aviation Survey in 1938 – they had set up camp on the island. There was 41 images in a tin in an archive in NZ. There may have been very good reasons for studying the complete archive of diaries, maps & other documents rather than just asking for copies of the pics! READ THIS

            • Posted March 9, 2018 at 12:13 am | Permalink

              I just read through the TIGHAR material, and they seem pretty reasonable when trying to identify those artifacts — noting that some could come from any aircraft of the period, and positively identifying a few as from a B-24.

    • Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      To hell with freckle cream and cats paw heels. Show me the plane! Amelia surely crashed and sank.

      • Adam M.
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Exactly! If all those artifacts came from her, the plane would surely be close by.

      • Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        That’s a coral atoll and the ocean is really deep off of it.

        • Posted March 9, 2018 at 4:50 am | Permalink

          But they would not have ditched in the sea in preference to landing on the atoll.

          • rickflick
            Posted March 9, 2018 at 6:04 am | Permalink

            Right. Often the best place to set down would be on the beach. It can be quite smooth with no obstructions.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 9, 2018 at 6:37 am | Permalink

            It is supposed that any plane landing on the outer ring beach [rather than the lagoon beach] would wash out to sea – being so light. The maximum tidal range for the open Pacific at the latitude of the Island is 2.3 metres – that’s without any extra wind-driven swells.

            I’ve looked at the outer beach in video & the coral sand grades from very fine near the water to large ‘boulders’ [all of coral I assume] higher up the beach. The pilot would put down on the beach as nearest the water as possible I think.

            A good beach spot is near the shipwreck of the SS Norwich City [1929] which is off the northwest coast – very wide beach & near the channel to the inner lagoon.

          • Posted March 9, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

            TIGHAR’s hypothesis* is they landed on the shoal where that ship grounded, then the plane was eventually washed away by the tides. This would explain the receipts of sporadic radio transmissions, that had been dismissed under the ditched-at-sea supposition, as well as locals’ accounts of remnants of a wrecked plane in that location when they arrived in 1938.

            I find the Niku theory very compelling as it accounts for all the evidence, no piece of which is overwhelming alone, but the consilience is.

            (*I’m not sure of the basis of the criticism of TIGHAR that’s been made.)

            • Posted March 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              The problem with a lot of these theories (and not just about Amelia Earhardt’s disappearance) is that they account for the evidence found but they fail to account for the evidence that should be found but is missing.

              So we have some bones (well we have reports that some bones existed once) and a shoe. What we don’t have is a plane, evidence of two skeletons or anything they might have taken out of the plane e.g. water bottles and other supplies. These things can be explained away but each one reduces the balance of probability.

              I’m not saying that the Niku theory is wrong, only that I do not think it is as compelling as you seem to believe.

              • Posted March 9, 2018 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                I’ve just read the Extreme Tech article posted below and it does look like it makes a good case for the Niku theory.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Brian Dunning, Skeptoid, 2012:

      “Nikumaroro was inhabited by hundreds of people for decades before Earhart’s flight, but Gillespie has pointed to practically every speck of trash (including part of a shoe and a shard of glass) as proof that Earhart was on the island. Such an identification defies rationality, as Nikumaroro was a British colony of about 100 men, women, and children; a coconut plantation; and a British Coast Guard station; and was loaded with trash from all of those, long before Gillespie and his team began looking for signs of Earhart.”

      Brian Dunning is an American so I’ll forgive him for a imagining that Niku had a “British Coast Guard station” – HM Coastguard is purely a Search & Rescue outfit based in British home waters [i.e. some parts of the British Isles] – I suppose he thinks HM Coastguard has a similar remit to the military US Coast Guard [piracy, smuggling, rescue etc], but even the U.S, version isn’t sailing the Seven Seas!

      There are other errors of a historical nature throughout his blog post – I am guessing that he’s combining the events & populations of three islands that were fairly close to each other & ascribing them all to Niku alone. THIS REPORT RE NIKU BY P.B.LAXTON FROM 1951 is much better. Laxton was the Assistant Lands Commissioner for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony in the years following World War II.

      I do agree with Dunning that the motives of TIGHAR should be kept fresh in ones mind when considering evidence supplied by TIGHAR [there’s money involved!], but Dunning is off the rails here & should have been a lot more careful in his wording.

      • Curtis
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        Dunning’s report about a British colony is similar to Wikipedia.
        “By June 1939, a few wells had been successfully established and there were 58 I-Kiribati on Gardner, comprising 16 men, 16 women and 26 children. Wide coral-gravel streets and a parade ground were laid out and important structures included a thatched administration house, wood-frame cooperative store and a radio shack. ”

        But you are likely right about the British Coast Guard claim. However, there was a US Coast Guard station:
        “From 1944 through 1945 the United States Coast Guard operated a navigational LORAN station with 25 crewmen on the southeastern tip of Gardner, installing an antenna system, quonset huts and some smaller structures.[17] Only scattered debris remains on the site.”

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 8, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          I am definitely right [not “likely right”] about the “British Coast Guard claim” – he obviously thought the two year LORAN USCG occupation was a British operation by HM Coastguard. HERE’S ORIGINAL INFO on the LORAN site & operation.

          In comment 5. Curtis you write this:

          If the shoe were examined properly, it could be evidence. However, Jantz (who may be a good forensic scientist) just parrots reports by a group (TIGHAR) which regularly produces nonsense about Amelia Earhart including the proven bogus photograph. TIGHAR.org provides 4 out his 5 footnotes.”

          Ric Gillespie of TIGHAR has never promoted that 1935 [or earlier] ‘bogus’ photo of Earhart & Noonan on a dock, in fact he cast doubt on the photo.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        “Brian Dunning, Skeptoid, 2012:” year should be 2016

    • Posted March 9, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      That answers my question about the likely distributions of heights etc. amongst *locals*. Good…

  6. Adam M.
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Man, the poor planning with the Itasca is something of a fiasco, especially the use of untested radio equipment that she wasn’t trained to use, the mismatch between the radio systems of the aircraft and the Itasca, and the lack of contingency planning in case of failure of any radio equipment… Her death seems to have been totally unnecessary.

  7. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    There’s other physical evidence pointing to Nikumaroro [Gardner Island] such as this quote:

    [The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery] TIGHAR found a piece of scrap metal that has the same “fingerprint” as custom-made aluminum sheets that replaced some windows on Earhart’s customized Electra. The piece of scrap metal is the right size, rivets, and other hallmarks that identify it as almost certainly coming from Earhart’s plane

    from this excellent article in ExtremeTech – plenty of photos & diagrams.

    I learned from that article that Earhart/Noonan made radio antenna modifications [or had problems] in that the wire strung underneath the length of the fuselage was missing [there’s other antenna wires above the fuselage too]. This was something they were fully aware of before their last flight – in fact from another source I read that they deliberately cut off the underneath wire! Given that there was a radio ship [USCGC Itasca] was positioned near their intended target island as an aid, they were nuts to take off with less than 100% radio transmission, reception direction finding** capability.

    The above combined with the choice of a Pacific crossing at the widest possible point, with very small target islands, using a beautiful but restricted range Lockheed 10E – a disaster waiting. Compare that with the Aussie Charles Kingsford Smith who went with a horrible, old, boxy Fokker of much greater range & a sizeable crew. Because of his range capability he was able to choose to make the Pacific hop between Fiji & Hawaii – nice, big chunky targets.

    ** RDF [Radio Direction Finding] is done through the small circular loop outside the plane that sits over the cockpit. The loop is rotated by hand to find the strongest signal direction for say the USCGC Itasca radio ship at a predetermined frequency & at pre-determined times [the ship doesn’t continually transmit]. I also read that the Lockheed clock & the USCGC clock were set at different times – a half hour error due to time zones. Complete balls up amateur hour.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      I also read that when the RDF loop was rotated Earhart couldn’t establish a direction to a beacon using it – the reception at her end didn’t rise significantly as the loop pointed closer to the beacon. This was on a earlier leg of the circumnavigation [Atlantic crossing I think]. Should have been fixed…

  8. Nicholas K.
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Well, I just finished reading the paper. It is an interesting analysis, but I am unconvinced.

    The metric data from the Nikumaroro bones are limited to seven measurements, four of the skull (maximum cranial length, maximum cranial breadth, orbital height, and orbital breadth) and three long bone measurements (length of the humerus, radius, and tibia; see Burns et al. 1998 for measurements).

    Most of Jantz’s article discusses the limb bones and how they compare to Earhart. But keep in mind, he is working with just the scant recorded measurements here. Much room for error — I think he does demonstrate that the bones were from a person about 5 foot 7. But, I am unconvinced the bones are demonstrated to be from a female (the original examination deemed them male).

    Also, I’d prefer to see a similar analysis for the skull measurements. It may be possible to determine Earhart’s orbital height and breadth from quality photos with scale (I have done such myself). Most disappointing, no femur length measurement seems to have been taken. That would have been quite helpful (along with a couple of other measurements).

    It is interesting, but unfortunately it does not solve anything for me.

  9. Posted March 8, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I saw a program on TV about this last summer. It convinced me that Earhart died on Nikumaroro. There were pictures of her and Fred Noonan on a dock. Of course, the pictures did not clearly reveal her identity, so they were computer analyzed. The person in the photo was a good match for Amelia when held up against other photos of her. Then there were the witnesses on the island that described seeing 2 white people. The witnesses described Amelia as a man because “he” had short hair and wore pants, but otherwise the accounts fit Amelia’s description perfectly.

  10. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    As expected- thanks PCC(E), well done.

  11. glen1davidson
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Could be.

    Or not.

    Good to know.

    Glen Davidson

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Off topic but this is Women’s day. Name the country with only 32 women….

    The Vatican

    • Paul S
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Fascinating. One of the 32 is a nun, I’m not sure who the others would be. All I could find for women in Vatican City are wives of the Swiss guard, possibly their children as well.
      You’d think a population of all males would die off, but somehow they survive.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Must have a heck of an emigration policy.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Most citizens of Vatican City are only citizens while they’re on the job. Then there’s your retired RC priests who dare not step outside the diplomatic immunity offered by this HQ of a worldwide Organised Crime criminal empire.

      Among the women who have citizenship in Vatican City, there is one officer in the military, two teachers (one teaches in high school, the other teaches in kindergarten), and one academic. Women obtain Vatican City citizenship by marriage (as a baptized Catholic) to their husbands; however such citizenship “lasts only for the duration of their stay” in Vatican City

      SOURCE Of course on a day-to-day basis there are many, many women workers who pop in from outside in their hundreds to do shifts: cooking, cleaning, waiting, & wiping the arses of demented, disgusting Catholic priests.

  13. PatrickQ
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Of course, Earhart was actually abducted by an alien species known as the Briori and is currently in stasis in the delta quadrant.

    http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Amelia_Earhart

  14. Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    It’s amusing to see Jantz engaged in a bit of Earhart fat-shaming, saying she had fat ankles, “piano legs,”

    Jantz seems to be quoting Earhart’s biographer, Susan Butler.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted March 9, 2018 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    sub

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted March 9, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    BTW, on Amelia’s driver’s license, Planetary Transmission = Model T Ford. So presumably it was possible to be legal only to drive Model T’s.

    I have a friend who used to live in California and was only street legal to operate a motorcycle. In her case it was a 1949 Royal Enfield, affectionately named Henry.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 9, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      A model T license? An echo of current law in aviation. Your license qualifies you for certain categories of aircraft, such as helicopter, balloon, single engine, complex, etc. And you must be checked out by an instructor in any plane that’s not in your current capabilities.
      Perhaps early auto licensing thought each make was different enough to require special skill.


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