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New Evidence Suggests that Amelia Earhart May Have Landed Plane, Lived as Castaway on Kiribati Island

When the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard failed to find any sign of Amelia Earhart after she vanished on July 2, 1937, it was assumed that the famous pilot and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died when their plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. However, new details have emerged suggesting that...

Amelia Earhart in Ireland.

When the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard failed to find any sign of Amelia Earhart after she vanished on July 2, 1937, it was assumed that the famous pilot and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died when their plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

However, new details have emerged suggesting that the true story of Earhart’s disappearance may be different – and more tragic – than originally thought.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been conducting an investigation into whether Earhart may have actually managed to land her plane on a reef off of Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati) and survived there with Noonan for a period of time before eventually perishing, undiscovered.

TIGHAR presented its findings during a three-day conference last week.  Among the evidence?  The remains of a glass bottle believed to have contained cosmetic ointment used by the aviatrix, and dozens of radio signals previously dismissed, but which investigators now think may have been credible transmissions – distress calls made by Earhart from her Lockheed Model Electra plane, before a rising tide washed it under the waves.

An expedition to locate Earhart’s plane using high-tech underwater search equipment will be launched next month – the 75th anniversary of the pilot’s disappearance.

For all the latest science news, check out the National Geographic’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

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Alyson Foster
Alyson Foster works in the National Geographic Library where she purchases books for the Library’s collection and assists NG staff with finding research materials.