A small cosmetics jar linked to Amelia Earhart has been found on an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati. This supports the theory that she landed and later died on the island.
The jar was found broken into five pieces by researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a group which has been investigating what happened to Amelia Earhart 75 years ago.
When reassembled, the jar is nearly identical to ones used by Dr. C.H. Berry’s Freckle Ointment. The ointment was popular in the early 20th century as a way to make freckles fade.
“It’s well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them,” said Joe Cerniglia, the TIGHAR researcher who spotted the freckle ointment as a possible match.
The jar fragments were found along with other artifacts during expeditions to the tiny atoll where Earhart is believed to have died.
She vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean on July, 2 1937 during a record attempt, to fly around the world at the equator. The most accepted theory is that she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean somewhere near Howland Island. There are other theories though.
“The navigation line Amelia described in her final in-flight radio transmission passed through not only Howland Island, her intended destination, but also Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro,” Gillespie said at a special press event on March 20 hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
According to the researchers, she might have made an emergency landing on a flat coral reef 300 miles southeast of the destination. This is supported by a number of artifacts the researchers found there, suggesting a castaway presence on the island.
“Broken shards from several glass containers have been recovered from the Seven Site, the archaeological site on the southeast end of Nikumaroro that fits the description of where the partial skeleton of a castaway was discovered in 1940,” Gillespie told Discovery News.
“Unfortunately, the bones and artifacts found in 1940 were subsequently lost,” said Gillespie.
There are relics on the island dating from other times though also, and not all can be attributed to a castaway.
“For example, the top of a war-time Coke bottle and pieces of what was probably a large salt shaker of a style used by the U.S. military are almost certainly relics of one or more U.S. Coast Guard target shooting forays,” Gillespie said.
Two bottles found there dating to the 1930’s appear to be from a castaway though.
“The bottoms of both bottles are melted but the upper portions, although shattered, are not heat-damaged — implying that the bottles once stood upright in the fire. A length of wire found in the same spot has been twisted in such a way as to serve as a handle for holding a bottleneck,” said Gillespie.
“It seems reasonable to speculate that the bottles were used by the castaway to boil collected water to make it safe for drinking,” he added.
Many of the recovered items appeared to be women’s items. The most intriguing item to the researchers though was the cosmetics jar.
“The problem we have in precisely identifying the jar is that all the examples we have found come in opaque white glass. The artifact jar is clear glass,” said Cerniglia.
“The reassembled artifact jar does, however, fit nicely in a box in which freckle cream was marketed. The known Dr. Berry jars do not. So we know there was a jar of Dr. Berry’s Freckle Ointment of the same size as the artifact jar, but we don’t know whether it was clear glass,” Gillespie said.
Another important detail is that four of the shards of the jar were found together while the fifth was found 65 feet away near the bones of a turtle. And, according to the researchers, shows signs of being used as a cutting tool.
”The bottles and other artifacts we have found at the Seven Site tell a fascinating, but still incomplete, story of ingenuity, survival, and, ultimately, tragedy. Whether it is Amelia Earhart’s story remains to be seen,” Gillespie said.