TAMPA, Fla. - There’s a chance the remains of Amelia Earhart were found, and a University of South Florida forensic anthropologist may be the one to make the breakthrough.
Earhart was an aviation pioneer who went missing over the Pacific Ocean during her attempt to fly across the world in 1937.
Bones were first discovered on Nikumaroro Island about three years after Earhart's radio signal was last transmitted in 1937.
"In 1940 there were human remains found with a camp-site, kind of a castaway site on an uninhabited atoll," Dr. Erin Kimmerle said. "In the area where they think she might have had an emergency landing. At the time, the island was occupied by the British, and the guy who found them thought this might be her."
British doctor David Hoodless examined them in Fiji, but those bones went missing not long after.
That is, until recently. Bones discovered in the Te Umwanibong Museum and Cultural Centre on the Pacific island of Tarawa, Kirbati. prompted archaeologists with National Geographic to call Kimmerle to determine if these were the ones Dr. Hoodless examined all those years ago.
She relied on his notes from the 1940s to find the match.
"So what we're looking for is ideally a box of bones that would match this exact description. We're trying to find remains that were female and match the description in his report."
Kimmerle assessed the remains’ height, age and ancestry and considered Earhart’s dental features and known sinus condition.
For days, her team looked for the castaway's remains.
"They had four or five large boxes of remains that were co-mingled," she said. "The skulls that were there, there was one set of female remains that matched that description."
And they've put a rush on the DNA test.
"I know in forensic work we do, it could take a year; there's a huge backlog," she said. "But by using private labs and other people, they're looking to get it done much quicker."
The bone fragments were sent for DNA testing to determine whether they matched with any of Earhart’s relatives. Earhart has a living niece.
The National Geographic documentary, "Expedition Amelia," will air October 20.