Quest goes on for remains of Amelia Earhart

This undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart. Three bone fragments found on a South Pacific island could help prove that Earhart died as a castaway after failing in her quest to circumnavigate the globe. Researchers told The Associated Press on Friday Dec. 17, 2010 that the University of Oklahoma hopes to extract DNA from bones found by a Delaware group dedicated to the recovery of historic aircraft. The fragments were recovered earlier this year on an uninhabited island about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii. (AP Photo/File)
AP Photo

NORMAN, Okla. - The University of Oklahoma announced it was unable to determine if bone fragments found on a remote South Pacific island are the remains of famed aviator Amelia Earhart.

Researchers at the university have decided to put aside research on the bones until better testing is available, as there are few fragments and testing them with current technology is necessarily destructive.

Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while trying to fly around the world, is believed by many to have gone down somewhere in the South Pacific. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery recovered the bone fragments on Nikumaroro, known at the time of Earhart's 1937 disappearance as Gardner Island. The group says Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan may have died as castaways on the island 1,800 miles south of Hawaii.

The University of Oklahoma attempted to detect human DNA from three bone fragments recovered last year by the group.

The school plans a Thursday news conference. Researchers said Wednesday some of the samples remain and could be tested later.

The aviation group says other evidence may link Earhart to the island, including bottles and old makeup. Earhart was declared dead in 1939.

On its website, the aviation group writes:

"A large and growing body of circumstantial evidence suggests the missing flyer and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed and lived for a time as castaways only to eventually perish on the uninhabited, waterless atoll. The process of trying to extract DNA is necessarily destructive. Further attempts to resolve the ambiguity, even if successful, would use up the remaining portion of bone, thus precluding any chance for independent replication - an absolutely essential step, especially if the initial tests indicate that the bone is Amelia's. The same applies to two other bone fragments found at the site in 2010 that might be human. Previous attempts by another lab to extract DNA from those bones were unsuccessful and very little material remains. TIGHAR agrees with (Oklahoma researchers') recommendation that further testing on any of the bone fragments should await the development of new technologies and techniques in the rapidly advancing field of DNA research."