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Lead Solidified in Amelia Earhart Disappearance

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Amelia Earthart: Inspiration and Mystery
Book Review: Amelia Earthart, Young Air Pioneer

November 2, 2014

Certainty is growing in the case of the missing aviatrix.

Amelia Earhart disappeared on a round-the-world flight in 1937. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were not heard from after last transmissions indicating that their pair were headed for tiny Howland Island, in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. Theories as to what happened next abound. One of the most prominent theories is that they crashed, either on or near another island, now named Nikumaroro.

A piece of aluminum found on that island in 1991 has been identified as consistent with the exact type of window patching that would have been put on Earhart's plane when the aviatrix and her navigator stopped in Miami for repairs on the famous journey. The stopover lasted eight days, and the aluminum patching was installed on the morning of June 1, 1937, one day before the plane vanished.

The rivets and dimensions of the aluminum sheet match the area on Earhart's plane on which such a piece of patching would have been installed, according to a report by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a group that has long investigated Earhart's disappearance.

A photo taken on June 1, 1937, in Miami shows the aluminum bolted over a broken window. An expedition to tiny Nikumaroro Island (formerly Gardner Island) in 1991 found a similar piece of aluminum. Experts dismissed the connection at the time because the rivet patterns found on the aluminum didn't match ones on Earhart's airplane.

The metal plate appears in no other known photo of Earhart or her plane. The window had been installed especially so Noonan could use the Sun and stars for navigation. Experts think that the window was damaged on Earhart's flight from Oakland to Miami. The window appears in photos before the two landed in Miami, on May 24.

The fate of Earhart has captured the imagination of millions of people in the decades since she disappeared, on July 2, 1937. Theories have included an oceanic crash landing, a slow death by starvation on an uninhabited Island (like Nikumaroro), and the capture of Earhart and Noonan on suspicion of spying for the U.S. Government. Expeditions by TIGHAR and others have recovered some evidence that suggests to many that Earhart and Noonan crashed near the tiny island now known as Gardner Island and that they died there. Another recent historical photograph showed what looked to be an airplane much like Earhart's, in the water near Gardner Island.

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