Aviator Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, and almost made it around the world: her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Many hypotheses cropped up over the years to explain her mysterious disappearance. Perhaps she simply ran out of fuel far from land. Perhaps she was forced down and captured by the Japanese military. Or, maybe, she was stranded on a desert island.
The latter is probably the case, as a new study of bones uncovered on Nikumaroro Island in 1940 finds that they correspond to Earhart's physical dimensions and are likely her's.
The study is based on the dimensions of the remains, not genetic evidence, and hinges on the fact that forensic specialists of the past were blinded to the physical reality of athletic women by the presumptions of the era. The bones were previously deemed too manly to be those of a high-society lady, and it was inconceivable to previous examiners that Earhart might be significantly more well-built than published posed photographs of the time suggest.
The bones are consistent
with Earhart in all respects we know or can reasonably
infer. Her height is entirely consistent with the bones. The
skull measurements are at least suggestive of female. But
most convincing is the similarity of the bone lengths to the
reconstructed lengths of Earhart's bones. Likelihood ratios
of 84–154 would not qualify as a positive identification by
the criteria of modern forensic practice, where likelihood
ratios are often millions or more. They do qualify as what is
often called the preponderance of the evidence, that is, it is
more likely than not the Nikumaroro bones were (or are, if
they still exist) those of Amelia Earhart. If the bones do not
belong to Amelia Earhart, then they are from someone very
similar to her. And, as we have seen, a random individual has
a very low probability of possessing that degree of similarity. … Until definitive evidence is presented that the
remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing
argument is that they are hers.