The Missing Case Of Amelia Earhart

Earhart pictured next to her plane, a Lockheed Electra before taking off to circumnavigate the globe at the equator. Photo courtesy of AP Photos

The day is July 2, 1937, and the world’s first woman to fly across the Pacific solo, Amelia Earhart, goes missing as she attempts to circumnavigate the globe at the equator. Earhart was preparing to land for refueling and for more supplies at the Howland Islands, where the Coast Guard along with the ship Itasca were deployed to aid her in landing. Earhart radioed the ship to inform them that she was low on fuel; but the Itasca could not pinpoint her location nor could she pinpoint theirs, despite the Itasca pumping miles of black smoke into the air. She radioed “one-half hour fuel and no landfall” and later tried to give information on her position.1 Soon after, contact was lost, and Earhart presumably tried to land the Lockheed on the water.2 After this, no news of Earhart emerged, and she was officially declared missing, along with her copilot, Fred Noonan. What happened to Amelia Earhart?

Theories suggest that Earhart crash landed near Nikumaroro, an island near her original destination, Howland Island. It is said that Itasca, the nearby ship sent out by the Coast Guard, was able to pick up her transmissions, which is why it is believed that she was near the Howland Islands. In 1940, the colonial administrator of Howland Islands, Gerald Gallagher, discovered thirteen bones in what seemed to be the remnants of a campfire. The bones were shipped to Fiji to be examined by Physician D.W. Hoodless, who examined the bones and determined that they belonged to a stocky, short man of European descent, which would seem to rule out Earhart and Noonan. After deciding this conclusion, Hoodless discarded the bones, completely eliminating the chance for further examination. However, the International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) took Hoodless’s original measurements and found that the bones could have possibly belonged to a tall woman of European descent.3 Earhart was known to be around 5’7 to 5’8. To entertain the bone evidence, TIGHAR Director Ric Gillespie states that the lack of bones could be caused by the island’s coconut crab population. Coconut crabs are known to grow up to three feet long, and can break open coconuts with their claws. The crabs could have possibly carried the remains of bone and flesh to their burrows for feeding.

Along with these bones, a shoe sole was found with writing on it, stating, “Cats Paw Rubber Company USA.” The sole was from the same type of shoe that Earhart was pictured wearing in Indonesia shortly before her disappearance. However, the sole belonged to a size-nine shoe, which would have been too big for Earhart’s feet, disproving the possibility of it being hers. But along with the sole, a sextant, an instrument used to find latitude and longitude, was discovered with the bones and campfire.4 This instrument could have belonged to Earhart, as it was very common for pilots to navigate through longitude and latitude using a sextant. It made sense that Earhart and Noonan could have used the instrument to determine their location after landing. To further this theory, across the island are findings of campfires, along with remains of fish, clams, birds, and turtles. Based on the way the clams were opened and the way the fish were eaten without their heads, it is more plausibly the activity of non-pacific islanders.

A less likely theory suggests that Earhart and Noonan were given orders that if they could not find the Howland Islands, to crash land near the Marshall Islands, which at the time were controlled by Japanese forces. The purpose of this could be so that the US army could move towards the area, claiming that they were “searching for Earhart.” Another claim is that Earhart and Noonan were captured by the Japanese Army and eventually killed.5 Evidence exists that shows that at the time, locals claimed seeing the plane crash on the island. Also, in 1944, an Army Sergeant named Thomas E. Devine claimed that he came across a group of US Marines guarding a hanger containing Earhart’s Electra, on the formerly settled Japanese Island Saipan.

Believed photo of Earhart and Noonan captured by Japanese Forces. Earhart is sitting on the dock, while Noonan is standing to the left | Image Courtesy of National Archives

Furthermore, a photo found in the national archives suggests that the photo contains Earhart and Noonan after landing on the Marshall Islands. However, the photo was subsequently found in a Japanese textbook  published in 1935.6 Furthermore, experts claim that at the time, Earhart would not have had enough fuel to make it to the Marshall Islands, considering that in her last radio transmission, she claimed to have only seventy-four gallons remaining.

In conclusion, despite theories ranging from survival on islands to alien interference, most enthusiasts speculate Earhart crashed into the ocean, burned up in the crash, and sank to the bottom of the ocean. However, the world will never know what happened to Amelia Earhart unless the aircraft or a body is discovered. For now, the case of Amelia Earhart remains a mystery.

  1. Women In World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, 2002, s.v. “Amelia Earhart,” by Doris L. Rich.
  2. Candace Flemming, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart (New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011), 30-36.
  3. Kristina Killgrove, “The Mysterious Disappearance Of Amelia Earhart’s Skeleton,” Forbes Science Journal 02, no.1 (November 2016): 1-3.
  4. TIGHAR Project Amelia, “The Sextant Box Mystery,” Earhart Project Research Bulletin 2, no.12 (January 1999): 1-2.
  5. Johnny Dodd, “Does This Photo Prove Amelia Earhart Survived Her Flight,” Journal Of  Human Interest 14, no. 4 (July 2017): 1-2.
  6. Two Leaf Yakosubi Store, The life line of the sea My figure of the South Sea: South Sea archipelago photo book (Two Leaf Yakko Cloth Store, 1935), 34-35.
The Missing Case Of Amelia Earhart
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The Missing Case Of Amelia Earhart

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  • Although I am very familiar with Amelia Earhart the influence she had and still has to this day on many women and young girls, I never knew she had disappeared and never been found. There is so many theories and interesting ideas thrown out about her mysterious disappearance, but it is astonishing how not one of those leads ended in the finding of her. I wonder if maybe with the advanced technology we have now, we could find where Amelia ended up after she went missing. Great article!

  • I honestly had no idea Amelia Earhart went missing before reading this article. This article was very interesting to read because it had so much detailed information. I liked the different theories that were included on what may have happened to her. This article was written very well!

  • Despite Amelia Earhart being one of the most well known unsolved disappearances, I never knew much about the kind of search that when into trying to find her. The main theories I have only heard about was the possibility of the Bermuda Triangle being involved, and even aliens, which is why I was captivated while reading this article about the numerous (more plausible) possibilities of her whereabouts, such as being captured by the Japanese or living on islands. Excellent article!

  • This was a very well written article. The story of Amelia Earhart is a historical story that most people know of. From this article I have learned more about her story that I ever had before about her mysterious disappearance. To think that there was a chance that she serviced the crash, however like the article said it is still a mystery as to what exactly happened to her. over all this was a very interesting article.

  • This was a very interesting article. Before reading this article, I had no previous knowledge of who Amelia Earhart was. After reading, I learned she is a very brave woman, but the way she went missing was very intriguing. Allot of people always go missing in the Bermuda Triangle. Investigators are going to have to work extremely hard to find this discovery. Overall, this is a very good article.

  • This was an awesome article. I have always been fascinated with historic mysteries. I had just read recently about the photo of Earhart and Noonan on the Marshall islands and i am sad to find out that it is a fake. I do believe that she must have crashed somewhere in the middle of the ocean and died in the crash and sank to the bottom. If by some chance she was able to have made it to an island i believe that she would have been found or at least more concrete evidence that she was actually there would have been found.

  • Before reading this article, I never really knew who Amelia Hart was. I really enjoyed reading this article and learning about the journey of Amelia. It Is amazing how she was the first woman to fly over the pacific in the year on 1937. After her plane went off the radar they have been may theories of what happened to Amelia. Her case remains a mystery.

  • Awe shucks! The Bermuda Triangle has always been a mystery to me that some how keeps fascinating me. It is a tragedy that ships and planes go missing there but it is interesting how it even happens. There have always been theories about Amelia Earhart and I wish I knew more about her and this topic to gather my own assumption or theory. Overall great article.

  • As much as I’ve heard of Amelia Earhart, this article goes into great detail about the different possibilities of what could have actually occurred. It’s interesting to learn about the different theories they have as to what really happened to her. I think it’s crazy that with different things that they have found, there isn’t an exact explanation as to what really happened to her or where she could have possibly landed.

  • I have some knowledge before about Amelia Earhart’s case. It is actually very interesting the fact that she disappeared and could never found. Still now in days the case could not be figure out and have been left with a bunch of theories. I would like to know what happen to Amelia Earhart after the radio transmission. Very interesting and excellent article! Keep it up with the good work.

  • This was a very interesting article! I have always been fascinated with the mysterious story of Amelia Earhart. She was such a courageous women, and was brave to take on this long flight all by herself. I really hope she turned out to be fine, but the Bermuda Triangle loses ships and planes all the time so it will not be easy to find evidence. Such a great article!

  • I have always been familiar with the mystery behind Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and it has always fascinated me. This article was short and sweet in getting down to the facts of Amelia Earhart’s unknown whereabouts and the most talked about theories to accompany. I find it so amusing how she was never found and, of course, we can somewhat blame the lack of technology since this was during the 1930’s. I’m not sure what the current status of the investigation on locating Amelia Earhart’s whereabouts, but hopefully a conclusion is reached eventually.

  • I have always hoped that one day the answer to what happened to Amelia would be answered. Sadly, as years go by I fear that the answer may never come. I am so glad that I read this article because I was not aware of the possible involvement with the Japanese. There are so many things that could have possibly happened to her and her copilot, one cannot even imagine all of the possibilities. For what she represented was amazing. She was brave and courageous. She is a legend that will live on forever, and it deeply saddens me that she most likely lost her life before she could conquer more.

  • I had heard before of Amelia Earhart, I had seen her in a scene in the movie about a museum going alive and all. But I had never read about her. It is really sad what happened to her and it kind of makes me mad that in the research the mishandled the case. I do like the theories that come out. I might even create ones on my own.

  • I never knew that Amelia Earhart had gone missing. it caused a great mystery about what happen and the outcome of that is we have all of these theory about what may have happened. in my opinion I think she may have fell into the ocean. its the only one that makes since to me. with the evidence it really dosent support the others but it still something that no one knows

  • It’s always a shame to have situations like this ending up in mystery. Even in recent events, we’ve had planes somehow disappear with no trace. In this day and age, it makes no sense for it to occur without some sort of foul play being in the situation. I don’t think that’s the case for Amelia Earhart. Still sad nonetheless, she is brave for attempting such a feat.

  • I have always been very familiar with the story of Amelia Earhart and her disappearance, however this is the first time I have read about the theories surrounding the case. To throw away such a valuable piece of evidence, such as the bones, seems like a very incompetent thing to do. I am sure that with today’s technology this case could have been solved, but for now we will always wonder what truly happened to her. Over all, this was a very informative article that intrigued me from the start.

  • I am quite familiar with the whole Amelia Earhart conspiracy theories. I actually saw the movie that was based on her life story, the movie ends with Amelia looking at her copilot with worry as the screen goes black. Such a tragic ending for a extraordinary woman who had her whole life ahead of her. I like how the author went into detail for each theory and left nothing unanswered. I do hope one day we finally answer the ongoing question of Amelia’s whereabouts.

  • I liked this article because it focused more on the “living flesh” and different theories of what could have actually happened to her. Everywhere you hear of theories such as aliens capturing her and that is was due to the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. I had no idea that she was accompanied by a co-pilot though! It seems that her disappearance is greatly exaggerated when compared to his.

  • I didn’t really know that Amelia Earhart had gone missing. I did know that she was a fun and risky when it came to flying and how much she enjoyed it. It was great how this article really brought up the several theories there was as what had happened to Amelia Earhart. But hopefully we can find out what really happened to Amelia Earhart instead of going based off of theories that we suspect may be true to her disappearance.

  • Undoubtedly, the case of Amelia Earhart is a shocking and mysterious case. I was pleased to read this article because this story is very useful to be used as a literary resource. On the article: I had previously seen the history of this great aviator, and really her achievement was impressive. People like her are icons that are not only protagonists in what they do, but are also symbols for female pride, are reasons for women’s empowerment, people like Amelia inspire women to reach the sky and beyond. For the great majority of people, it would seem useless to spend money and energy, to risk life in a task that has no real utility. But what Amelia did was not just crossing the ocean, but also crossing the wall that divided the men of women, to break with the sexist idea of ​​male superiority, and to give fuel not only to her plane, but to all women who were sick of being under men and wanted to be free and independent. A laudable woman worthy of a movie, the one I saw and fascinated me. I still have the hope that she did not die, and that she survived on a pacific island, that only God knows.

  • Christian Garcia creates an interesting article that capture my attention, I was not familiar with the story of Amelia Earhart. Garcia is able to explain the multiple theories regarding the disappearance of Earhart. The most interesting part of the article I would say are the pictures Garcia picked. They are a great addition to the story because they create imagery for the reader.

  • It almost seems to me like there are too many theories that are possible or held up by good pieces of evidence. I believe that with a great story such as that of the first woman to try to circle the globe, there fits a better ending than her simply crashing in the ocean. Maybe it’s just the conspiracy theorist In me but I think most likely she made it to an island. Sadly this is one of the many of the unanswerable mysteries of our world that will have us questioning just what exactly was the answer.

  • At a young age, I was taught about the very famous female pilot. I don’t think I was as informed about Amelia Earhart as I thought I was however. I somewhat knew about her going missing while flying, but I never knew that she was never found. When reading this article and reading the evidence found, I kept thinking that it was for sure her remains, but as soon as I thought that, I was disproven by more facts about her which would steer her away from the evidence. I understand why it is a mystery. This was a very well written article.

  • This was a very interesting article. With very good research involved in the article. The way is written kept me intrigue through out the most of the article. Her story has much conspiracy around it, with why she went missing. I think that the one of which so that military can go into a place to say that they are searching for her was a very interesting one. She will always be remember for her great risk to do this as the first women, her actions shall not be forgotten. Overall very well written article.

  • Your article was fantastic! There is nothing like a good unsolved mystery to draw your readers in. You included quite a bit of evidence when referencing the different theories as to what happened to her. The only one you didn’t dive deeply into was the aliens. Obviously we know that is not the case but it would be fun to read about.

  • Before reading this article I knew very little about Amelia Earhart. In fact, I only knew she was the first female pilot, and that she was the inspiration for many women to do what they wanted to do. I didn’t know she went missing and her plane and cadaver were never found. Her disappearance and death were tragic events. Interesting article, very engaging and well developed.

  • Great article! I did not know that were so many theories about Amelia Earhart’s crash. I had only heard about the last theory that she burned and crashed into the ocean. All the theories really made you think about what if she really survived or if she was captured by the Japanese did she escape? I hope that one day we will be able to solve the mystery and figure out what really happened to Amelia and her copilot.

  • I have always thought that Amelia Earhart’s case was so fascinating. I’ve always wondered what happened to her and tried to piece this whole puzzle together myself just out of curiosity. It’s sad to know that we still don’t know what could have possibly happened to her and that we may never know what happened to her. I really hope that we don’t give up on this puzzle and hopefully one day answer the questions we all have concerning her and her copilot’s disappearance. It just seems somewhat hard to believe that someone could just vanish into thin air with no trace.

  • Throughout my middle school and high school tenure I was introduced to Amelia Earheart, and was aware that she was the first women to engage in flight. However, I was completely unaware of Earheart’s case of going missing. I found this article very interesting. I really enjoyed the images that were displayed throughout the article, and I enjoyed how this article developed their research for this article. I am now curious on where Amelia Earheart’s remains are located.

  • I love mysteries and this sure is one to talk about. What an amazing article. You do a great job of keeping the reader intrigued throughout the story. This theories are all pretty crazy. I think the one that makes the most sense is the one where they crashed near Nikumaroro. I mean evidence of pilot equipment, human bones found to match a woman of height. That all makes pretty good sense to me. However, you never know what the government could be hiding so maybe the second theory could be a possibility as well.

  • This is an amazing article! Total learning experience for me. Although I have been aware of the mysterious disappearance of Earhart, I wasn’t aware of the various speculations about her disappearance. You do a great job presenting all the known theories concisely, something that would usually take a lot of time and space. I really enjoyed how you concluded your article, as you show the most popular theory among speculators, being that she crashed into the ocean because of lack of fuel. Even after her death, her legacy lives on, being a prominent face for women in aviation around the world.

  • This was a very well written article. I never knew the different theories on what had happened to Amelia Earhart. I knew she crash landed in the pacific somewhere. I also did not realize this had happened around the time of world war two. I wish there was more information on what had happened to her. She is a very important female figure today.

  • I had not known much about Amelia Earhart except for her incredible flying abilities and having made a huge impact on feminist movements. Apart from that there wasn’t much to be known about her and I now realize after reading this article that it was probably due to her disappearance. You don’t find many mysteries this interesting with so many theories behind them, especially with someone as iconic as Earhart. The article was very informative and interesting, I was continuously hoping the mystery of her disappearance would be revealed so I was on edge the entire time.

  • I have heard numerous things about Amelia Earhart and her accomplishments, but I have never before learned about her disappearance, so this article was a very welcome read. I never knew there were so many theories surrounding her vanishing and death, and furthermore, they all seem very plausible. It gave me chills to hear about the discovery of the bones and the picture of “Amelia Earhart” in Japan, as it is scary to think that Earhart and Noonan could have been stranded or captured somewhere and lived every day terrified and alone. This evidence only further proves that we will never truly know what happened to her and her co-pilot.

  • I think all these theories could possibly be true with what ever little evidence found apart from reasons that could prove the theories wrong. However, in my opinion, theory of the aircraft crashing in the ocean and Amelia sinking to the bottom sounds more likely to have happen. Overall, this was as very interesting article and I think it was a great idea listing theories on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

  • I think that this is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the world today. I have seen many different documentaries on the Earhart case and think that each comes away with a more fascinating approach to this case. I think a good theory is that she crash landed on an island and could not communicate from there. All these theories you presented are plausible and could have been what happened to her but until then the case of Earhart remains unsolved. Very informative and definitely a good read!

  • Very very interesting article. I never knew that Amelia Earhart went missing. It’s crazy to think that she could have survived on the island and eventually just died. At least she had company. This article contains very good information about the story of Amelia Earhart. I wonder if they will ever find the plane or her body. I have no idea how people actually identified Amelia and her co-pilot in a textbook, they don’t even show her face.

  • When I had first heard of the Amelia Earhart story I was very intrigued and have always found interest in mysterious. I had just recently heard of the different theories surrounding her disappearance and find this article a great way of conveying these theories. I find the picture and research they have done to try to prove it to be Earhart very interesting.

  • All of the theories seem possible, I think either they crashed into the water or they landed and tried to survive but failed because if they would have succeeded in survival they would have found a place to contact the outside world. I fear what was really the outcome of them both because of the strange events and unexplained findings, I was kept engaged in the article.

  • A well written and put together article that kept me interested the entire time. I always wanted to know what happened to Amelia Earhart, it just seemed strange how something so planned out could end so badly. I’ve heard the stories about the Bermuda Triangle, abducted by aliens, but the most realistic theory is one I never heard before. The idea that Amelia Earhart could have been captured by an enemy country never accrued to me.

  • I have heard of the many theories regarding Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, leading me to wonder what truly happened. Most of the theories sound ridiculous and maybe even a bit humorous but when it comes to these mysteries, we will never really know what exactly occurred. I hope people keep investigating this case because I’d like to find out what happened.

  • This is a very interesting case of someone going missing. Amelia Earhart stood out in many ways, she was one of the first female pilots of her time and was attempting what most would say was impossible clearing the pacific ocean. It is still crazy to believe that with her massive popularity there wasn’t more done to find her. That just leaves the outcome to the imagination, still it was a shame she was never found. She was a great role model for everyone around her and still is to this day.

  • Its incredible that such an influential figure in woman rights has just vanished from the face of the earth. It must have been devastating at the time for female activists to hear of Amelia’s disappearance as she must have been a great role model. I cannot comment on what I think happened her and he co pilot as i truly don’t know enough about it yet, however this article has intrigued me enough to do my own research and come to some kind of conclusion. A great article.

  • I had known before reading this article that Amelia Earhart had disappeared after trying to go around the globe. I did not know, however, that there were possibilities that they might have found where she and her co-pilot landed. I had assumed that there would be theories as to where she landed but I am amazed to find out that Amelia’s bones might have been found. This article had definitely informed about something that I was not aware about. It is very interesting to also read about the theories that have been thought of to explain the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

  • It is sad to say that we probably will never find Amelia Earhart’s and Fred Noonan’s body and their plane. I have found the conspiracy theories to be quite entertaining yet primary, not plausible. I enjoyed your reading your article on the missing case of poor old Amelia Earhart. I thought the pictures you added helped convey your article and it was great. Overall, good work on your article and hope to read more.

  • Amelia Earhart is one of the more known mysteries in the world, and the amount of theories for it is numerable. One of my favorite ones is that she was captured by the Japanese and then killed. Honestly, I feel that’s quite ridiculous and totally out of line, but it could also be true, which is the whole reason this idea is and will always be interesting: no definite answer.

  • I think it is so crazy how things can just be lost at sea and never found. The ocean is so large but one would think if you were to look for an airplane that crashed in the water it should be able to be found. I didn’t know who Amelia Earhart was before reading this article and I found it pretty interesting. It seemed like she was a very risky person which could have been the reason for her to go missing. Despite the evidence they have recovered and many reports she has never been found. I wonder if after so many years there may still be a chance of finding her or if all evidence is too far gone to ever be discovered.

  • Before reading this article I don’t believe that I knew that Amelia Earhart had gone missing. I know that she liked to take risks with her flying but I didn’t know that one of those risks ended up causing a huge mystery about her. This article was very informative, it is interesting to hear all of the different theories about what could have happened to her. Hopefully one day we will be able to discover how and where she ended up.

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