The mystery of what happened to intrepid round-the-world flyer Amelia Earheart seems to have been solved at last.
American Earheart disappeared along with her navigator Fred Noonan somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
Both flyers were experienced air travel pioneers.
Earheart had earlier flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean, while Noonan plotted many commercial air routes across the Pacific in the early 1930s.
Rescuers believed the couple had crashed into the sea after developing engine problems, but new technical analysis of old distress calls and a forensic examination of human bones found on an uninhabited island may have the key to what really happened.
Experts believe Earheart landed on a remote island and transmitted mayday calls for at least a week that were picked up thousands of miles away.
The haunting messages from a women repeat: “We have taken in water. We can’t hold on much longer.”
Analysts Ric Gillespie has tried to pinpoint where the distress calls came from and believes the source was a small coral atoll called Nikumaroro, about 2,000 miles from Hawaii, which is part of the modern-day nation of Kiribati.
He believes Earheart saw out her final days as a castaway marooned on the island.
To add to the evidence, bones discovered on the island prove to be those of a woman with features consistent to Earheart’s height and ethnic origin.
Human remains found
They were found near the remains of bonfires and fish bones thought to be left by the dead castaway.
“There is an entire final chapter of Earhart’s life that people don’t know about. She spent days – maybe months – heroically struggling to survive as a castaway,” Gillespie said.
The supposition is Earheart landed on Nikumaroro – formerly known as Gardner Island – after running into trouble trying to find Howland Island, near Hawaii, where she planned to stop for fuel and supplies on the way to California.
Planes and ships searched Nikumaroro, but after the distress calls stopped, failing to find the plane.
The plane maker, Lockheed, explained at the time the plane had landed safely because the radio would not work if wet and could not transmit for a week without the pilot recharging the batteries – and the engines could not run if the plane had crashed.