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Searching for Amelia Earhart

Updated on September 28, 2018
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Karen lives and works in Jackson, MS with her husband and son. She enjoys writing, reading, and playing Dungeons and Dragons

Earhart by her Electra


The Mystery of Amelia Earhart's Last Days

The Femme Fatale of Aviation, Amelia Earhart, crashed the plane she called "The Flying Laboratory" into the sea while on her last leg of a trip to circumnavigate the world. Where exactly did her plane crash? What were her last days, moments of life like?

In the 70 plus Years since she went missing, researchers have proposed several very different theories as to what might have happened to Earnhart and her plane. From prisoner to castaway, each one seems to contain some grain of evidence to support it.

Let's take our own look at some of these ideas, and explore the seas of the Pacific ourselves to see if we can solve the mystery of the disappearance of Amelia.

Overhead - WWII Internment camp
Overhead - WWII Internment camp

The Tokyo Rosa Theory

An American Spy

One of the more popular theories is that the Japanese took Both Amelia and Fred Noonan (her navigator) prisoner after they crashed in the Pacific, supposedly somewhere on or near Saipan. This would have been plausible, given that the United States was within only a few years of getting into World War II against the Japanese. The photographic equipment on board Earhart's plane was evidence to the Japanese that they were spies. The story goes that they were held first in a motel, then later jailed. Some eyewitnesses report marks on Ms Earhart that would be consistent with torture.

Other witnesses report seeing the two of them on a three seater motorbike, blindfolded and driven off, with the assumption that they must have been executed. Author Buddy Brennan excavated the site where they were believed to have been killed, and did find one piece of cloth which resembled a blindfold, but no human remains were found with it.

Some also surmise that perhaps Earhart really was a spy, and that even if she was not caught by the Japanese, that she would have lived the rest of her life under a different name. Earnhart's mother was quoted as seeming to believe the spy theory, although she never actually said it outright, only that she thought it possible.

Photo: looking east - Crystal City WWII civilian internment camp. (UTSA ITC archives)

This is the type of photo Ms Earnhart would have been accused of trying to get from Japanese territory.

Flight for Freedom - Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, 1943

This movie took the Spy theory and created a fictional and patriotic account of the Earnhart disappearance.

Her story inspired a major motion picture!



Flying might not be all plain sailing,

but the fun of it is worth the price.

Amelia Earhart


The Navy's Theory

Simply Lost at Sea

The official record from the Navy keeps it pretty plain and simple. She was lost at sea, and all the other theories are false. At least, if this is true, the plane should be somewhere. Let's hope someone finds it soon and we can know for sure!

Here is the Naval account - verbatim.

"A coordinated search by the Navy and Coast Guard was organized and no physical evidence of the flyers or their plane was ever found. Earhart and Noonan's fate has been the subject of many rumors and allegations which were never substantiated. Modern analysis indicates that after passing the Nukumanu Islands, Earhart began to vector off course, unwittingly heading for a point about 100 miles NNW of Howland.

...Researchers generally believe that the plane ran out of fuel and that Earhart and Noonan perished at sea."

The Last Days of Amelia Earhart

In Search of - Amelia Earhart

Narrated by Leanard Nimoy, 1978 TV series episode explorers the Earhart story.

July 24th is Amelia Earhart Day, and celebrates the birth of Amelia Earhart on July 24, 1897.

Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia - 2009 Movie

Beautiful scenery, with Hillary Swank and Richard Gere

Where's Amelia Earhart? - National Geographic Video

Nikumaroro Theory - Digging on the Island - The Earhart Project

Nikumaroro and TIGHAR boat
Nikumaroro and TIGHAR boat

By following the naviational line last reported by radio from the "Flying Laboratory", they would have likely gone down near Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, a small coral island (atoll) which is about 356 miles from Howland Island, their intended rendevouz point that day.

Multiple searches of the island by TIGHAR have recovered items consistent with westerners inhabitating the island for some time, including items specific to the types of items Ms Earhart would have had with her.

Some of the items include:

A small glass jar, likely used for drinking water

Part of a mirror from a woman's compact

Pieces of makeup, likely rouge

2 buttons

A zipper handle

Pieces of a Jacknife

Cloth tied into a bow

Also found and excavated were several fire features which held bones from birds, fish, and small game which could have been how the castaways kept themselves alive.

In 1940, bones were found on the atoll, which were carefully measured and recorded. With the equipment available at the time, the bones were believed to be of a polynesian male. More recent analysis of measurements conclude the bones' measurements were white female and match Amelia Earhart's features perfectly.

The Earhart project believes that at least Amelia survived and lived on the atoll for quite some time. The likely resting place for Earhart's plane is at the bottom of the ocean, in the very deep water off of Nikumaroro.

Finding Amelia - Discovery Network

Ric Gillespie on TIGHAR's research supporting the Nikumaroro theory.

Ode to Amelia: Kinky Friedman Sings Her Song - Amelia Earhart's Last Flight

Kinky Friedman live in Austin, Nov 11, 1975

Chorus Lyrics:

There's a beautiful, beautiful field

Far away in a land that is fair.

Happy landings to you, Amelia Earhart

Farewell, first lady of the air.

What do you think happened to Amelia? - Thanks for commenting!

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    • profile image

      Michael Baker 

      4 years ago

      Interesting! It appears as though sufficient evidence has been found at Nikumaroro. I'm hoping that her plane, or what's left of it, will eventually be found.

    • Mandy Stradley profile image

      Mandy Stradley 

      6 years ago

      I've always been intrigued by Amelia Earhart. What an amazing and brave woman! I suppose I will just go with the lost at sea theory... who knows!?


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