I can hardly believe it — Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR are once again hoaxing news outlets with yet another absurd claim that he knows where Amelia Earhart is, in blatant defiance of known history. And, once again, the news outlets are parroting his press release without the slightest fact checking or skepticism.
No, there is no chance that the old skeleton from Nikumaroro is Earhart, and no serious scientists think so.
For decades, TIGHAR (a nonprofit formed by Gillespie to fund his Earhart obsession) has been successfully persuading National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and others into funding its various wild goose chases around the South Pacific. This time he is asking for $1.75 million. I guess it’s not bad work if you can get it. Gillespie’s claimed alternate histories for Earhart have never been persuasive to any serious historians, but since he’s the only one making noise, he’s the one whose press releases get trumpeted by the media.
There is no historical doubt to Earhart’s final resting place. She was in partial short-distance radio contact with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca as she ran out of fuel in the immediate vicinity of Howland Island, the planned refueling stop. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan had followed Itasca’s radio direction finding signal to get there. The water there is very deep, and it’s unlikely that much survives of the plane to ever be found. There’s never been any mystery surrounding her loss at sea.
For some reason, Gillespie thinks they flew instead to an island called Nikumaroro, a full ten degrees off the course they are known to have followed, and which their fuel onboard made it physically impossible to reach. Nikumaroro was inhabited by hundreds of people for decades before Earhart’s flight, but Gillespie has pointed to practically every speck of trash (including part of a shoe and a shard of glass) as proof that Earhart was on the island. Such an identification defies rationality, as Nikumaroro was a British colony of about 100 men, women, and children; a coconut plantation; and a British Coast Guard station; and was loaded with trash from all of those, long before Gillespie and his team began looking for signs of Earhart.
Gillespie’s current claim is another in a long line he’s made about a partial skeleton found on the island in 1940, believed to be one of countless pearl divers who visited the island in the decades before World War II. This time he’s claiming that based on having looked at a photo of Earhart, he thinks the skeleton’s forearm length matches hers, despite it being unequivocally male (sorry, Ric).
News outlets, please stop letting this guy hoax you.
Read the full Skeptoid episode on the Amelia Earhart “mystery”. (Includes complete bibliographic references.)