Dogs Employed to Help Find Amelia Earhart's Bones

Posted by Amber King
Amelia Earthart and forensics dog
Featured Image Source: National Geographic and Biography Online

For nearly 80 years, the fate of Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, has remained a mystery.

The pair was on the final leg of a famous around-the-world flight when their plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Navy, and civilian mariners spent countless hours scouring remote islands, diving into the deepest parts of ocean, and looking for signs of the adventurers or their plane, but nothing was ever found.

historical photos: Amelia Earhart

Enthusiasts have spent decades discussing theories and conducting subsequent searches into deep waters, but the most recent expedition gives real hope for finally uncovering the secret to Earhart's final flight.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has pinpointed an island off Fiji where they believe they'll find Earhart's remains. They set sail June 24, but their plan of attack is significantly different than search parties that went before them.

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Their team will include four Border Collies specially trained in the detection of human remains. Berkeley, Piper, Marcy, and Kayle are capable of detecting human bone buried up to nine feet underground and in burial sites up 1,500 years old.

The dogs will make the international journey--including a long plane ride and one week on a ship--to the small tropical island named Nikumaroro.

scent detection border collies
National Geographic

Covered with dense vegetation and crawling with coconut crabs, the detection dogs' job will not be easy. Fred Hiebert, a forensic archaeologist working with the National Geographic Society, is confident in their abilities. He said;

"No other technology is more sophisticated than the dogs. They have a higher rate of success identifying things than ground-penetrating radar."

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The forensic dogs have been trained to sniff out remains and signify their finds by laying down and putting their front paws on either side of the area where the scent is most concentrated. They give archaeologists somewhere to dig, but unearthing the remains is rarely that easy.

Scent travels through the ground via channels of least resistance. That means the actual remains may not be directly below where the dog indicates.

border collie in woods
National Geographic

While the Pacific island of Nikumaroro is currently uninhabited, it was briefly home to a small population of people in 1940. During that time, 13 bones were found, sent for analysis, and soon lost. Many researchers believe those bones belonged to none other than Amelia Earhart.

If human remains are found on the island, they will be shipped back to the U.S. for identification. DNA from a surviving Earhart relative will be used in the analysis to confirm the findings.

If the bone-sniffing dogs are successful, it will be one of the biggest discoveries in history.

Do you think Amelia Earhart's bones will be found? Let us know in the comments.

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Dogs Employed to Help Find Amelia Earhart's Bones