TIGHAR has long bought into the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan landed on Nikumaroro Island after failing to find Howland Island, their intended destination about 640 kilometers (400 miles) northwest.
The group had collected artifacts from the island – including fragments of US skin care products, parts of a folding pocket knife, and traces of campfires – which seemed to back up the idea that the two of them lived as castaways for some time before succumbing to either starvation or dehydration on the freshwater-lacking atoll.
The group point out that Earhart made around 100 distress calls from somewhere in the western Pacific between July 2 and 6, which they say rules out the possibility that her plane crashed.
“We speculate Noonan died early on as she reported him being injured in the initial distress calls,” TIGHAR’s executive director Ric Gillespie told CNN.
The remains of her plane and Noonan have never been recovered, and it’s likely they were quickly dragged into the sea by powerful wave action. This meant that, if this somewhat fantastical – but entirely plausible – story is true, Earhart‘s last few weeks alive were unfathomably lonely.
It’s unlikely she would have regretted her choices though. “Flying might not be all plain sailing,” she once said, “but the fun of it is worth the price.”
The small island of Nikumaroro. Google Earth