It’s been quite the year for the world’s most famous female pilot. Amelia Earhart disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the globe 80 years ago. There have been countless theories as to what happened to her and her navigator, Fred Noonan, on the night of July 2nd, 1937. While many of the theories actually make a whole lot of sense, the American Government has stuck with its official story that she ran out of gas and crashed into the Central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
The news from just weeks ago claimed to have found the final resting place of Earhart and Noonan. The report came to the conclusion that Earhart most likely died on an uninhabited tropical island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, according to researchers. Their claim has a lot of evidence behind it, as they’ve found multiple artifacts that would suggest that after a comedy of errors based on technological issues (Earhart was unable to hear any communication from her destination) and Earhart’s lack of understanding of some new navigational equipment on her plane, Earhart had a forced landing on the island’s smooth, flat coral reef as one of their last recorded messages signaled that they were running low on gas and flying at a low altitude of 1,000 feet.
The thought is that the two survived for a time on the island as castaways but eventually died. It’s been widely reported that a partial human skeleton was discovered in 1940 by Gerald Gallagher, a British Colonial Service Officer, who mailed the skeleton to Fiji where it was initially analyzed but then lost. That analysis at first found that the skeleton belonged to a man that was 5’5″ tall, a later analysis in 2012 found that it belonged to a woman of northern European ancestry, but that analysis was contradicted by another in 2015 that “found” that the skeleton again belonged to a man. Perhaps more important than the skeleton was the fact that an old-fashioned sextant was found next to the skeleton, which would suggest that the skeleton was that of Fred Noonan, who would’ve utilized a sextant as a flight navigator. A woman’s shoe and an empty bottle was also found which would make sense as Amelia Earhart had feet and Fred Noonan was a known alcoholic.
The next shoe to drop (get it?) is the fact that in the days after Earhart disappeared, over 200 radio signals were picked up by amateur radio operators across the western seaboard of the United States. It’s those distress signals that make it “indisputable” that Earhart survived, according to the man in charge of searching for her remains on the island of Nikumaroro, Richard Gillespie of TIGHAR. It’s TIGHAR that created news at the end of June by announcing a plan to bring corpse sniffing dogs to the island of Nikumaroro in the hopes that they’ll find additional remains or at least pick up the scent that would imply that someone did, in fact, die on the island of Nikumaroro. However, that “indisputable” theory was blown wide open yesterday when someone found a photo in the United States National Archives of what looks like Amelia Earhart in the custody of the Japanese. Beyond just the resemblance (while she does have her back turned to the camera, it does look a lot like her), it also appears that her plane is being towed away by a ship in the distance.
That picture lends credence to the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese, who the United States was on terrible terms with at the time and a few years away from Pearl Harbor and the start of the United State’s involvement in World War II. While many are saying that this discredit’s Gillespie’s theory, the two theories could actually support one another. What if Earhart crash-landed but Noonan, who was much older and also an alcoholic, didn’t survive the crash and/or the drying-out period on the island. Assuming Earhart survived and was able to send out distress signals broad enough to be picked up by teenagers in their parent’s basement, those same signals would’ve most definitely been picked up by the Japanese military. In that case, what if the Japanese came to the island of Nikumaroro, found Earhart and treated her as if she was a spy or at least a person of interest? She was so famous that they clearly didn’t want to announce that she was a prisoner of war. While the United States would’ve found out at some point, the public was so against entering any armed conflict after the horrors of World War I that the government would have found it best not to announce that the Japanese had imprisoned one of America’s most famous people.
Either way, it goes to show you how famous and important Earhart was. 80 years to the day of the flight that made her more famous than she would’ve been had she completed it, there are two competing and very realistic theories as to what ended up happening to her that are dominating the news. While it would’ve been great had she survived her attempt to fly around the world, it looks like there’s hope that she did, in fact, survive, even if it means she was imprisoned in Japan (At least she would get some good food?). It’ll be interesting to see what updates, if any, come from this (as Japan has already officially stated that they never imprisoned Earhart), but knowing the loose lips on social media that the current POTUS has, he very well could let us know the real truth.