Originally created 02/17/99

Search resumes for Amelia Earhart's bones



SUVA, Fiji -- A hunt is about to begin in musty corners of the buildings of the Fiji Medical School for bones that may be the remains of missing American aviator Amelia Earhart.

The government today said it had authorized a search of storerooms in the medical school and Suva's central hospital for the pioneer aviator's remains. She vanished in 1937 while trying to become the first woman to fly around the world.

Most authorities believe Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lost their bearings, ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific while flying between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

The U.S. Navy conducted an elaborate search and picked up signals suggesting Earhart's plane went down somewhere in the region of the Gilbert Islands in the central Pacific.

In 1940, a Fiji naval officer, Stanley Brown, was sent on a reconnaissance mission to uninhabited Nikumaroro, a desolate Gilbert atoll about 1,000 miles north of Suva, and reported accounts of finding the bones of two people of possible European origin.

The bones were sent to British headquarters in Tarawa, where a physician concluded they belonged to a man. The bones were ordered into storage, but the crate containing them vanished.

Richard Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a nonprofit organization that has searched for evidence of Earhart's fate for 10 years, recently found records of the examination in Tarawa and Britain, the Los Angeles Times reported in December.

Other experts who examined the records said the skeleton was that of a white female of northern European background.

The Fiji Museum said there are records of two wooden boxes arriving about 1940 and possibly containing the bones of the missing fliers.