Oct 31, 2014 03:21 PM EDT
Since her disappearance on July 2, 1937, many have questioned the final hours of pilot Amelia Earhart's life. Was she lost at sea when her plane disappeared over the South Pacific? Or did she go down with her plane? While many feared the worst, urban legends abounded creating alternate endings for Earhart's expedition around the world-and it appears that one of those endings may be more frightening that the plane crash itself.
After decades of searching across the Pacific Ocean, nearest the equator, researchers revealed this week that they may have found a bit of Earhart's wreckage from the plane she disappeared in. And while evidence now pinpoints exactly where Earhart may have landed, researchers are shedding light on an urban legend that may in fact be true: that Amelia Earhart's tragic demise came at the hands, or better yet claws, of giant coconut crabs.
Amelia Earhart was the first female of her kind, and the first female aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. The decorated pilot was a woman of many talents and much savvy, however, her career was cut short in a tragic accident, the details of which are still debated today. The mishap occurred as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, flying a Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane, and Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean. Some researchers believe that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lived as castaways on an island in the South Pacific after the plane went down, and new evidence may in fact support that urban legend. Researchers now believe that an aluminum fragment recovered in 1991 on the Nikumaroro island, 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, belonged to Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft and hope that further evidence may reveal more about the long-standing mystery.
Delving deeper into the long-held urban legends that have surrounded the Earhart disappearance, researchers have begun to look for an answer to her demise, and they've come up with a terrifying culprit - coconut crabs.
The largest of all terrestrial arthropods, growing up to three feet across and nine pounds in weight, the coconut crab is a common species on the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. And such, Earhart likely encountered them if she made it to the safety of land.
"Coconut crabs come fort irregularly at night to feed, loot, raid and plunder" researchers at Environmental Graffiti say. "Now, even more interesting clues are arising that seem to substantial the idea that [Nikumaroro] is where she met her demise. The most compelling hypothesis currently under consideration is that coconut crabs overwhelmed her where she lay."
It was a theory that arose when in 1940 researchers came across skeletal fragments on the island of Nikumaroro that fit the description of Earhart. Realizing that coconut crabs could potentially have dismembered the pilot, they devised an experiment to validate whether or not the crabs had the shear strength to accomplish the task... and what they found was startling.
In 2007, when the hypothesis was tested, the coconut crabs were able to dismember a small pig carcass rather quickly, and scattered its bones across the land - reaffirming fears that many have had.
"The evidence on Nikumaroro could, [however], turn out to be an odd coincidence and wishful thinking, meaning that the castaway's bones actually belong to some other poor, stranded soul" BBC says. "In this scenario, Earhart simply crashed into the ocean and died on impact - probably a preferable ending to being eaten by giant coconut crabs."
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