One of the 20th century’s most enduring mysteries may at last finally be drawing to a close.
Last week, researchers studying the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart revealed that they had stumbled upon a possible anti-freckle cream jar that could have belonged to Earhart herself on a remote island in the western Pacific. Since then, more evidence has surfaced, suggesting that radio distress calls from Earhart’s plane may have been dismissed in the days after her disappearance as search and rescue operations waned.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has been studying Earhart’s famous last flight, presented the evidence last Friday during a three-day symposium covering their findings.
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Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 when her plane went missing somewhere over the middle of the Pacific. According to the group, a series of radio distress calls fueled a U.S. Coast Guard and Navy search for Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, after her disappearance in early July. But when the search failed, the radio calls were considered bogus, and were subsequently ignored.
It is now believed that Earhart and Noonan crashed on Nikumaroro Island in the western Pacific, where they radioed for help until the Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept away. At that point, they could no longer make calls for help, relying on their wits and chance. The group hypothesizes that Earhart’s remain still lie somewhere on the island.
According to Discovery News:
In other cases, credible sources in widely separated locations in the U.S., Canada, and the central Pacific, reported hearing a woman requesting help [on the radio]. She spoke English, and in some cases said she was Amelia Earhart…
At the same time, an amateur radio operator in Melbourne, Australia, reported having heard a “strange” code which included KHAQQ, Amelia’s call sign.
TIGHAR also presented several glass fragments found on the fateful island, which reassemble to make up a jar identical in shape to the packaging of Dr. C. H Berry’s Freckle Ointment, a pharmaceutical marketed in the early 20th century to make freckles fade.
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Joe Cerniglia, one of the researchers on the team, told Discovery News, “It’s well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them.”
The fragments were discovered at the same location as the partial skeleton of a castaway, found in 1940:
Found with the skeletal remains at that time were part of a man’s shoe, part of a woman’s shoe, a box that had once contained a sextant, remnants of a fire, bird bones and turtle bones — all suggesting that the site had been the castaways’ camp.
The research group will launch another expedition to Nikumaroro Island next month. July 2 marks the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance.
Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.