On July 2, 1937, US pilot Amelia Earhart crashed her Lockheed Electra aircraft somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean during her attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Even to this day, much of the story remains shrouded in mystery, with many people still holding onto hope that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, miraculously survived for years after.
Now, researchers have got their hands on the reports of Earhart's unnerving last radio distress calls. As for the theory that they survived and went on to start a "new life", it’s not looking good.
A new research paper – which has not been peer-reviewed – by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has collected all of the known reports of people who claim to have heard the fateful last radio communications in the days following Earhart's disappearance. From Toronto to Texas, people across North America picked up on sporadic radio calls from Earhart over a period of six days, from July 2 to July 7.
“Our plane about out of gas. Water all around. Very Dark,” one of the communications said, according to one listener from Ashland, Kentucky. “Will have to get out of here. We can’t stay here long.”
Based on the timing and location of the 57 credible radio signals, the report argues that the duo survived after they crashed-landed on the shores of then-uninhabited Gardner Island (aka Nikumaroro) deep in the Pacific. The plane was swamped with water and unable to send radio signals, as this relied on the aircraft's batteries and engine. They could, therefore, only send distress calls during low tide, hence the sporadic nature of the calls.
“The harmonic receptions provided an important glimpse into the desperate scene that played out on the reef at Gardner Island," the study explains.
Notably, this argument is totally different from the US Navy’s official conclusion, which argues that Earhart and Noonan died very quickly after crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Either way, it appears that Earhart didn’t survive for long. By July 8, the signals were gone. According to the TIGHAR, this adds to the body of evidence that she died marooned on an island at some point in early July 1937. To add further credence to their theory, the researchers also point to the bones discovered on Gardner Island in 1940.
Still, many questions remain about the disappearance. There's a mountain of raw evidence about the case, with dozens of researchers still investigating it, however, the story still hasn’t reached a conclusive, water-tight end chapter.
“We’re up against a public that wants a smoking gun,” Richard E Gillespie, Director at the TIGHAR, told the Washington Post. “We know the public wants, demands, something simple. And we’re also very much aware that we live in a time of rampant science denial. Nobody does nuance anymore.”
[H/T: Washington Post]