Amelia Earhart is one of those historical figures who rises like the phoenix from the ashes whenever some new discovery about her missing whereabouts hits the news. This past weekend, a biopic by AE Electra Productions starring Hilary Swank as the ambitious aviator hit the movie theatres. The national curiosity about her final resting place, and what actually happened to her, has never really left the public’s consciousness. With improved scientific means and discovery techniques, however, the final evidence regarding what happened to Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan has been discovered and released to the public.
Nikumaroro, formerly known as Gardner Island, is where certain remains of Amelia’s flight has been discovered. A campsite along with women’s cosmetics including a compact and a sextant box was found at the site, along with human bones nearby. In the past years, a group called The International Group for Historic Aircraft (TIGHAR) has been searching the islands of Kiribati and Nikumaroro, the exact area where her plane went down. Nikumaroro is not inhabited thus making it difficult to determine if any natives even saw the plane go down at the time, sparking their curiosity to go forth and see what happened. Nikumaroro is located in the western Pacific in the Kiribati group of islands. While other explorers have encountered the island, Nikumaroro proved to not be conducive to habiting, with a lack of fresh water available on the island. Temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year which makes it uncomfortable for people to survive. TIGHAR speculates that Amelia and Fred could have died from dehydration, illness, or even coconut crabs when they forced their plane to land. Nikumaroro has a large population of coconut crabs, the largest anthropod in the world. Coconut crabs average over 4′ with their legs fully spread out, making them a formidable animal to deal with if they are hungry and their meal is living but incapacitated. Any crab powerful enough to split open a coconut could very well do major damage to any dead bodies laying on the ground from a plane crash.
The Discovery cable channel aired a special this past week on Amelia, to coincide with the release of the biopic. If the hypothesis put forth by TIGHAR is correct on how Amelia wound up – a victim of coconut crabs – that is indeed tragic, but the event happened during a time when locating the remains of the downed plane was not sophisticated, given the fact there were no black boxes on board to document what caused the plane to go down. When Amelia’s plane disappeared over the Pacific in 1937, it would be a year later when British survey ships would arrive on Nikumaroro. By then, she would have definitely died, without means of sustenance or fresh water. Dying and finally being eaten by coconut crabs is quite a way to go, but Amelia’s ambitions to fly around the world that year continued to inspire young women to achieve their dreams.