A bit of a Saturday night palate cleanser, and a story which I believe many people will find interesting. (I know I did.) There are plenty of mysteries which we simply may never know the answer to. Did Bruno Hauptmann really kidnap the Lindbergh baby? What really happened at Roswell in 1947? Who talked John Travolta into making Battlefield Earth? Perhaps those secrets will never be revealed, but there’s one long standing case which may finally be coming to a close. What happened to Amelia Earhart? (Hat Tip to OTB)

For decades, pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart was said to have “disappeared” over the Pacific on her quest to circle the globe along a 29,000-mile equatorial route.

Now, new information gives a clearer picture of what happened 75 years ago to Ms. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, where they came down and how they likely survived – for a while, at least – as castaways on a remote island, catching rainwater and eating fish, shellfish, and turtles to survive.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.

Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides and surf. Using equipment not available in 1937 – digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs, TIGHAR concluded that 57 of the 120 signals reported at the time are credible, triangulating Earhart’s position to have been Nikumaroro Island.

I’m not going to pretend that I was even aware of the existence of any International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, but I’m glad they’re on the job. The report goes on to say that in addition to the radio data from the broadcasts mentioned above, they are taking a second look at artifacts found on the then deserted island. They include broken glass, fish and bird bones collected in, or associated with, ash and charcoal deposits, and a “photo taken three months after Earhart’s flight shows what could be the landing gear of her aircraft in the waters off the atoll.”

Of course, all of this could only mean that somebody was stranded there, but it looks promising. They’re heading out there this year to search for wreckage of the plane around the reef. Would it still be there more than half a century later? The wave action and shifting sands, ocean storms, etc. could make that a dicey proposition. If they do manage to find a piece of an aircraft buried in the reef which matches the model flown by Earhart, this is one mystery which may finally be solved. But other questions will still remain. Were they injured, and if so, how badly? How long did they survive? (With enough skills you should be able to live off the bounty of the ocean and the reef for quite some time.)

I took a look at the Google satellite images for the island. Seems like people could survive there for a while with a bit of luck and resourcefulness. (Other people took to living there later on.) So what eventually did them in and where are the remains? Did they attempt an escape on a makeshift raft like Tom Hanks in Castaway after no rescue arrived for a month or two? It’s a great mystery and I’m sure that Discovery Channel or some such outlet will be doing a documentary on it for us when the search gets underway.