Amelia Earhart mystery: Forensic dogs scent human remains on remote Pacific island

Amelia Earhart mystery: Forensic dogs scent human remains on remote Pacific islandFour dogs trained to detect the scent of human bones have located a site on a remote Pacific atoll where Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, may have died on their ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. The four border collies were taken to Nikumaroro, part of the Republic of Kiribati, as part of the latest expedition to the atoll by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and the National Geographic Society. TIGHAR believes Ms Earhart managed to land on Nikumaroro – which was at the time an uninhabited British territory known as Gardner Island – but soon succumbed to hunger, thirst or illness. Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished on their ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. The Delaware-based organisation has carried out numerous visits to the island and discovered some compelling indications that Ms Earhart's Lockheed Electra landed there after being unable to find Howland Island, its intended target. That evidence included aluminium skin from an aircraft, plexiglass from a cockpit, a zip made in Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s, a broken pocket knife of the same brand that was listed in an inventory of Ms Earhart's aircraft and the remains of a 1930s woman's compact. Amelia Earhart – Jaluit Atoll The theory is supported by British colonial records in Fiji reporting the discovery of the partial skeleton of a castaway who perished shortly before the island was settled in 1938. The bones were found in the shade of a tree in a part of the island that fits the description of the encampment that TIGHAR has been excavating. The site is dotted with the remains of small fires on which meals of birds, fish, turtle and even rat were cooked. In an attempt to locate conclusive evidence, such as a bone or DNA, forensic dogs were brought to the island for the latest search, with all four dogs independently sitting at the bases of a tree at the castaways' site and locking eyes with their handler – the way they are taught to "alert" for the scent of human remains.  Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan Scientists say the dogs are able to detect the odour of human bones long after the bones have decomposed and subsequent excavation of the site did not recover human remains. Instead, archaeologists have recovered soil samples from different depths and will submit the samples to a laboratory in Germany that specialises in extracting DNA. Amelia Earhart final flight map Researchers told National Geographic magazine that DNA from Neanderthals has been extracted from soil in a cave in France, although "the odds of securing DNA from a tropical environment like Nikumaroro are very long". The TIGHAR expedition has coincided with the airing of a documentary on The History Channel in the US that claims a photo discovered in US archives proves that Ms Earhart and Mr Noonan were captured by the Japanese and transported to Jaluit in the Marshall Islands. The theory adds that they were both later executed. This 1937 photo shows Amelia Earhart before takeoff in Miami for an attempted round-the-world flight. Les Kinney, a long-time proponent of the theory that Ms Earhart and Mr Noonan were on a spying mission for the US government shortly before the outbreak of World War II, told the Associated Press the image shows Ms Earhart sitting on a sea wall with her back to the camera, Mr Noonan standing with a group of islanders and a Japanese survey ship identified as the Koshu towing a barge carrying the Electra. TIGHAR researchers say they have been aware of the photo for several years but have discounted it for a number of reasons. Documentary argues Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese military 02:47 The person identified as Ms Earhart in the grainy picture has hair much longer than when she took off on the final leg of her journey, they claim, while the image used to corroborate the suggestion that the man is Noonan has been horizontally reversed, meaning that his distinctive parting and hairline no longer match. TIGHAR also points out that the ship is too small to be the Koshu and that what Mr Kinney claims is the aircraft on a barge "is just an indistinct blob". It has also been pointed out that the photograph is marked as being taken in 1940, three years after Ms Earhart's disappearance. Profile | Amelia Earhart  



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