Amelia Earhart: Is it you at last?

February 22, 2011

I see by the papers, as it were, that a scientist in British Columbia is going to try to identify bone fragments believed to be those of Amelia Earhart by using DNA technology. Earhart went missing in July of 1937 and was presumably killed along with navigator Fred Noonan during their attempt to fly around the world along the equator. Their bodies were never found, but bone fragments that were found on a Pacific island late last year are being examined at the University of Oklahoma to determine if they are the remains of Earhart. A story published today by The Canadian Press reported that a forensic archeologist at Fraser University in Vancouver is going to try to recover Earhart’s DNA from envelopes that contained letters written by Earhart. The letters were opened at the ends, so the flaps are intact. The premise of the study is that Earhart probably licked those flaps in order to seal the envelopes and that DNA from her saliva may still be present.

This news breaks while I’m in the midst of reading a recent biography of Earhart by Kathleen C. Winters. I’ll probably post a review here in a few days.

From a practical point of view, it may not matter very much whether those bones are Earhart’s or not. As there always are in such cases, there are folks who want to believe that the explanation for her disappearance is more complicated than that her plane went down, but there is no evidence to support them. On the other hand, anyone with a sense of history hates stories with missing conclusions. So a definitive finding that those bones belonged to Amelia Earhart would serve two purposes – putting unfounded theories to rest and putting the period to an historical epoch.




2 Responses to “Amelia Earhart: Is it you at last?”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    Now you have me thinking, because of your comment that “anyone with a sense of history hates stories with missing conclusions”.

    I enjoy history, and I enjoy stories. But history is shot through with the provisional, the ambiguous, the deliberately distorted, the mistaken and missing. Sometimes that’s just the way it is.

    On the other hand, if we can enlarge the context, discover new facts or sharpen the focus, things can look quite different. Perhaps that will happen with Earhart.

    In any event, it will be fun to follow this new chapter in Earhart’s story and read what you have to say about the book.

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    I haven’t written about it, but I read that the body of Edwin Booth may be exhumed in order to collect a DNA sample to compare with DNA from a bone fragment from the man who was shot to death by Boston Corbett after the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Since the day it was reported that Corbett had shot John Wilkes Booth, there have been claims that Booth escaped. There is a very specific tale in Enid, Okla., that Booth lived there under the name David George until he killed himself in 1903. The paper I used to work for conducted an exhaustive investigation of claims that a woman who had died here in New Jersey was actually Amelia Earhart. The TV series “In Search Of” did a program about the same woman.

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