Experts say new clues have emerged that could solve the mystery disappearance of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, 75 years after she and her navigator Fred Noonan vanished over the Pacific Ocean.
Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, disappeared on July 2, 1937 during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.
The first clue, presented this weekend at a three-day conference devoted to Earhart, was a broken glass jar found on the tiny and remote Pacific island of Nikumaroro, where The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which conducted a $500,000 of the island earlier this year, theorizes she and Noonan crashed. Several bone fragments were found on Nikumaroro in 1940 but were since lost. Additional bone fragments were found on island in 2010.
The jar, which had been broken into five pieces and was reassembled by TIGHAR researchers, resembles the packaging from a container of Dr. C.H. Berry's Freckle Ointment, a concoction from the early 20th century that was used to reduce the appearance of freckles. "It's well-documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them," researcher Joe Cerniglia told Discovery News.
TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie says the jar and another bottle may have been used by the aviators to boil water after a crash. "The bottoms of both bottles are melted but the upper portions, although shattered, are not heat-damaged -- implying that the bottles once stood upright in the fire."
The evidence is not conclusive: All known bottles of Dr. Berry's ointment are opaque; the one they found on Nikumaroro is clear.
The other evidence presented at the conference concerned a series of previously dismissed distress calls that were received in the weeks after Earhart's disappearance. While many of the calls were thought to be fakes in 1937, the researchers say that 57 of them may have actually been credible. "The results of the study suggest that the aircraft was on land and on its wheels for several days following the disappearance," Gillespie told Discovery News.
The TIGHAR team used several types of computer programs to analyze 120 distress calls received between July 2 and July 18, 1937. They say that nearly half of the signals could have come from Earhart's Electra (NR16020) radio on the 3105 kHz and 6210 kHz frequencies, the latter of which did not have voice capabilities. Gillespie says that other radios in the area were not transmitting on those frequencies during that time period, so "Earhart's Electra was the only plausible central Pacific source of voice signals on 3105 kHz."
The TIGHAR team also studied tidal patterns at Nikumaroro and theorize that Earhart's plane probably fell into the ocean on about a week after she disappeared. Recent analysis of a photograph taken at Nikumaroro in late 1937 shows, according to TIGHAR, what appears to be a wheel of a plane sticking up out of the water. Earhart could not have removed the radio from the plane as it required the plane's engine for power. "The safest procedure is to transmit only when the engine is running, and battery power is required to start the engine," Gillespie said. "To run the engine, the propeller must be clear of obstructions, and water level must never reach the transmitter."
Gillespie calls this new evidence "the elephant in the room that has gone unacknowledged for nearly seventy-five years."
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