In my continuing presentation of new evidence for what happened to Amelia Earhart—evidence that always turns out to be wrong—I’ll add this new article from National Geographic: “Forensic dogs locate spot where Amelia Earhart may have died.” This summer, an expedition sponsored by National Geographic (which has an obsession with Earhart’s story) as well as The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), brought a team of researchers, as well as four “bone-sniffing” border collies, to Nikumaroro Island—about 400 miles from Earhart’s reported destination, Howland Island. (She was accompanied by her navigator Fred Noonan.)
Why Nikumaroro? National Geographic says there’s evidence of something there that could be Earhart-related:
TIGHAR’s hypothesis is that, when the aviators couldn’t find Howland, they landed on Nikumaroro’s reef during low tide. Proponents of competing theories argue that Earhart’s plane crashed and sank into the ocean, or that she ended up in the hands of the Japanese in the Marshall Islands or on Saipan.
. . . TIGHAR researchers had previously visited the island and narrowed their search to a clearing they call the Seven Site due to its shape. In 1940, a British official visited the site and reported finding human bones beneath a ren, or tournefortia, tree.
In 2001 searchers located what they believe is the ren tree site, and subsequent excavations unearthed possible signs of an American castaway, including the remains of several campfires, and U.S.-made items such as a jackknife, a woman’s compact, a zipper pull, and glass jars.
The bone-sniffing dogs, which I guess have been trained to sniff human remains (as opposed to those from other animals), zeroed in on the soil beneath a “ren tree” (Heliotropium foertherianum). No bones were recovered, but researchers gathered four bags of soil hoping to find some DNA in there. The article notes that Neandertal DNA has been recovered from soil in Europe, but this is a tropical environment in which DNA degrades rapidly. And even if they found DNA to sequence, they’d have to be lucky to get enough to match it to some living relative. Earhart had no children, but she had a sister, Muriel, who did have two children, one of whom appears to be alive. Muriel and her children would all have the same mitochondrial DNA, the DNA from Earhart’s mother, so there’s a possible match there. And there may be other descendants, but if they use nuclear DNA the chance of finding a match would be lessened.
But what happened to the bones that were found in 1940? The team’s pursuing another story that they may have wound up in a post office on Kiribati. Stay tuned as other hypotheses arise.
In non-fake news about Earhart, Fox News Science (!) reported last year that Earhart’s plane was used in a Hollywood movie before it was delivered to her in 1936.
The plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared over the Pacific has been discovered … in a 1936 Clark Gable film. Discovery News reports that researchers with the International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery spotted Earhart’s Lockheed Electra—given away by the registration number on its wing—in the 1936 film Love on the Run.
It appears that even official Earhart biographers were unaware of the famous plane’s star turn. In the film, the Lockheed carrying Gable and Joan Crawford narrowly avoids running into a crowd of spectators during a comically rough takeoff.
(“I wonder what all those gadgets are for?” asks Gable upon surveying the cockpit.) You can watch the scene here. “It is little wonder that this bizarre and undignified use of Earhart’s vaunted new ‘Flying Laboratory’ was kept quiet,” the group known as TIGHAR states on its Facebook page.
Love on the Run debuted about eight months before Earhart’s disappearance in July 1937. Stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who also served as Earhart’s technical adviser, performed the takeoff in the film.
The plane was delivered to Earhart on her 39th birthday on July 24, 1936, within weeks of the scene being filmed. It’s unclear if she knew it was used in the movie.
Here’s the relevant clip from Love on the Run: