CONFIRMED: “Nikumaroro Bones” not Amelia Earhart

…the most robust scientific analysis and conclusions are those of the original British finding indicating that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to a robust, middle-aged man, not Amelia Earhart.
-Pamela J. Cross

Aa_earhart_subj_eThe “Nikumaroro Bones” are not those of lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart, states a newly published paper by Pamela J. Cross and Richard Wright. Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, this new analysis is a welcome redress to the reputation of Dr. D.W. Hoodless (the medical official first responsible for the evaluation of the bones) and raises serious questions for The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), an Amelia Earhart-focused nonprofit investigatory group and the top proponents of the “Gardner Island Theory.”

Note: The Gardner Island theory states that Amelia Earhart, unable to locate her intended destination of Howland Island, broke off from her search pattern and flew another 350 miles to crash-land on the shores of Gardner island, now known as Nikumaroro island. She supposedly then lived for a short while as a castaway before dying on the island.

Amelia Earhart disappeared on one of the final legs of her 1937 round-the-world flight, never reaching her waypoint on Howland Island. In 1940, a skull, partial skeleton and other artifacts were discovered on Nikumaroro Island, a small atoll roughly 350 miles SE of Howland Island. This raised great interest with British colonial administrator Gerald B. Gallagher due to the proximity to Howland. By all accounts, Medical examiner Dr. D. W. Hoodless, Principal of the Central Medical School of Fiji was a respected teacher and doctor, and his practice included both theoretical and practical anatomy with great experience in dissection and skeletal analysis. Interest waned when he concluded that the bones belonged to a stocky male, and the bones were ultimately lost.

The Nikumaroro bones identification controversy: First-hand examination versus evaluation by proxy — Amelia Earhart found or still missing? By Pamela J. Cross, Richard Wright. (Available for a limited time at the following link.)


In 1998, a paper was presented to the American Anthropological Association Annual Convention that re-opened the case based on a re-examination of recordings relating to the now-lost bones. They concluded that the bones belonged to a “tall white female of Northern European ancestry.”

Amelia Earhart’s Bones and Shoes? Current anthropological perspectives on an historical mystery. Burns, Jantz, King, Gillespie. Paper available here.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the 1998 re-examination misinterpreted the results of cranial analysis software FORDISC, used to classify “probable ancestry and sex.” The 1998 research effort did not take into account the low sample size of database, nor did it fully evaluate available data from the other bones. Cross and Wright’s paper sets the record straight, redeeming Dr. D. W. Hoodless’ original analysis and confirming that the Nikumaroro bones did not belong to Amelia Earhart.

Taylor Zajonc | Author, Historian & Shipwreck Expert


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