For 79 years, people have been searching for Amelia Earhart. But for 76 years, the mystery of her disappearance might have been solved. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery says Earhart's bones were perhaps found on the island of Nikumaroro in Kiribati in 1940, three years after her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. TIGHAR scientists who've focused the Earhart search on Nikumaroro have been familiar with the bones—identified as male, and then lost—for some time: In 1998, scientists including Richard Jantz discovered the skeletal measurements and determined they were "consistent with a female of Earhart's height and ethnic origin." But another break came recently when Jantz realized a forearm bone was longer than normal, reports News.com.au.
Jantz then asked a forensic imaging specialist to compare the arm bone measurements to a photo showing Earhart with partially bare arms. Paying close attention to the location of Earhart's shoulder, elbow, and wrist, the specialist estimated Earhart's radius bone in her forearm was 76% of the length of her humerus, or upper arm bone—"virtually identical" to the castaway's bones, TIGHAR says in a statement, per USA Today. It adds the average woman's forearm was 73% of the length of her humerus during Earhart's lifetime. "The match does not, of course, prove that the castaway was Amelia Earhart, but it is a significant new data point that tips the scales further in that direction," the group says. (TIGHAR might have also found a piece of Earhart's plane on Nikumaroro.)