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Amelia Earhart: The Female Robinson Crusoe?

A new study suggests the celebrated airwoman may have lived for months on Nikumaroro, a remote island in the republic of Kiribati, before her remains were lost to time.

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There’s a fair chance Amelia Earhart didn’t perish instantly during her fateful attempt to fly around the world in 1937. According to a new study conducted by The Institute for Aviation History (TIGHAR), there is now more evidence than ever that Earhart crash-landed on a deserted island in the South Pacific and survived months as a resourceful castaway.

A team led by TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie just returned from a two-week expedition on Nikumaroro, a six kilometer-long island more than two-thousand miles to the northeast of Australia, where Earhart’s remains are rumored to have been recovered in 1940 and then lost. The 2010 expedition was TIGHAR’s 10th on the island.

“There is evidence on the island suggesting that a castaway was there for weeks and possibly months,” Gillespie tells Discovery News. He says the team found a campsite, several possible fire pits containing fish, turtle and bird bones and recovered “nearly 100 objects,” ten of which are being tested for DNA.

“We are talking about ‘touch DNA,’” Gillespie explained, “genetic material that can be retrieved from objects that have been touched.” Among the recovered objects being tested are two buttons, a broken pocketknife, a broken glass jar and remnants of a woman’s makeup compact.

There is, however, no evidence of human remains. In 1940, Gerald Gallagher, the British Colonial Service Officer in charge of establishing a settlement on the Phoenix Islands, recovered a sextant and human remains that were later determined by forensic anthropologists to belong to a tall white female of European ancestry. Soon after Gallagher discovered the remains, they were taken to Fiji where they were misplaced decades ago.

Photo by Alaniaris via Wikimedia Commons.

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