Horrifying Theory Could Explain Why Amelia Earhart’s Remains Were Never Found

Horrifying Theory Could Explain Why Amelia Earhart’s Remains Were Never Found
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Ed Mazza
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There’s a new effort underway to discover what happened to aviation legend Amelia Earhart, who vanished 82 years ago along with navigator Fred Noonan during an ill-fated attempt to fly around the world.

Explorers Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic and the Bismarck, and Allison Fundis, the chief operating officer for Ocean Exploration Trust, are leading the expedition to find the long-lost Lockheed Model 10-E Electra off Nikumaroro Island in Kiribati. While they search the waters, a National Geographic team plans to scour the island.

But one possible fate might be too horrible to ponder.

National Geographic reported that according to one theory, one or both may have survived a crash landing on a remote Pacific atoll, and after some period of time, died there. Then, they were devoured by crabs ― including massive coconut crabs that can measure 3 feet across from leg to leg ― that dragged their bones into burrows.

This theory could explain why colonists who attempted to settle Nikumaroro Island in Kiribati ― then called Gardner’s Island ― discovered 13 human bones.

British colonial officer Gerard Gallagher, who found the bones in 1940, claimed the rest of the remains had been dragged off by crabs. Tests at the time suggested that the bones didn’t belong to Earhart, but the bones have since been lost, making it impossible to subject them to more modern tests.

If the crab theory was correct, some of those bones could still be there on the island, just scattered and buried.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which has been searching for years for signs of Earhart or her aircraft, posted a video in 2014 of one of the island’s famously giant coconut crabs in its burrow:

The group also did an experiment with a pig carcass to see what would happen to the animal’s body and bones. The crabs ― both coconut crabs and much smaller strawberry crabs ― devoured the flesh in a matter of weeks, but didn’t do much to the bones at first.

However, one land crab was caught on camera dragging a bone, proving they could, in fact, do it:

The crabs didn’t make off with many of the bones during the experiment itself. But a year later, more bones had been dragged away, presumably by crabs. Some were taken as much as 60 feet from the carcass and others never found at all, National Geographic reported.

Could crabs move most of a human body or two over the space of a few years? That’s still to be determined, although Gizmodo threw some cold water on the theory in 2014.

We can’t find any documented accounts of them actually taking things and leaving with them,” Richard Gillespie, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery’s executive director, told the website, adding:

We don’t know that Gallagher was right when he made that assumption [that coconut crabs moved the Nikumaroro remains]. We don’t know that he was wrong, either.

“All this evidence points to something weird happened on this island,” he added.

The results of the latest expedition will air on National Geographic Channel in October.

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Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan

FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart, left, and navigator Fred Noonan pose with a map of the Pacific showing route of their last flight in this undated photo. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart, left, and navigator Fred Noonan pose with a map of the Pacific showing route of their last flight in this undated photo. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)

Amelia Earhart

FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart is shown. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart is shown. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)

Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan

FILE - In this May 1937 file photo, aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles, prior to their historic flight in which Earhart was attempting to become first female pilot to circle the globe. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this May 1937 file photo, aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles, prior to their historic flight in which Earhart was attempting to become first female pilot to circle the globe. A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart's final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo, File)

Earhart

FILE - An undated file photo shows American aviatrix Amelia Earhart. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)
FILE - An undated file photo shows American aviatrix Amelia Earhart. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)

Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan

FILE-- In a 1937 file photo aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles prior to their historic flight in which Earhart was attempting to become first female pilot to circle the globe. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)
FILE-- In a 1937 file photo aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles prior to their historic flight in which Earhart was attempting to become first female pilot to circle the globe. A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago? (AP Photo, File)

Earhart

FILE - In a March 10, 1937 file photo American aviatrix Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937. Earhart is flying to Oakland, Ca., where she and her crew will begin their round-the-world flight to Howland Island on March 18. (AP Photo, file)
FILE - In a March 10, 1937 file photo American aviatrix Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937. Earhart is flying to Oakland, Ca., where she and her crew will begin their round-the-world flight to Howland Island on March 18. (AP Photo, file)
This image provided by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery and displayed at a U.S. State Department news conference on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, may provide a new clue in one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries and could soon help uncover the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, who went missing without a trace over the South Pacific 75 years ago, investigators said. Enhanced analysis of a photograph taken just months after Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane vanished shows what experts think may be the landing gear of the aircraft, the small black object on the left side of the image, protruding from the waters off the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati. Armed with that analysis by the State Department, historians, scientists and salvagers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, are returning to the island in July 2012 in the hope of finding the wreckage of Earhart's plane and perhaps even the remains of the pilot and her navigator Fred Noonan. (AP Photo/The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery)
This image provided by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery and displayed at a U.S. State Department news conference on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, may provide a new clue in one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries and could soon help uncover the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, who went missing without a trace over the South Pacific 75 years ago, investigators said. Enhanced analysis of a photograph taken just months after Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane vanished shows what experts think may be the landing gear of the aircraft, the small black object on the left side of the image, protruding from the waters off the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati. Armed with that analysis by the State Department, historians, scientists and salvagers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, are returning to the island in July 2012 in the hope of finding the wreckage of Earhart's plane and perhaps even the remains of the pilot and her navigator Fred Noonan. (AP Photo/The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery)

Amelia Earhart

FILE-- An undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is meeting Tuesday March 20, 2012, with historians and scientists from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will launch a new search in June for the wreckage of Earhart's plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro. (AP Photo)
FILE-- An undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is meeting Tuesday March 20, 2012, with historians and scientists from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will launch a new search in June for the wreckage of Earhart's plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro. (AP Photo)

Amelia Earhart

FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane sits on top of a plane. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is wading into one of the 20th century’s most enduring mysteries: the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, disappeared over the South Pacific 75 years ago. Clinton is meeting March 20, 2012, with historians and scientists from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will launch a new search in June for the wreckage of Earhart’s plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this undated photo, Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane sits on top of a plane. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is wading into one of the 20th century’s most enduring mysteries: the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, disappeared over the South Pacific 75 years ago. Clinton is meeting March 20, 2012, with historians and scientists from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will launch a new search in June for the wreckage of Earhart’s plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro. (AP Photo)

Amelia Earhart

FILE - In this Sept. 4, 1936 file photo, Amelia Earhart is talking with her husband George Palmer Putnam, right, and friends in New York, before taking off from Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett field for Los Angeles in the Bendix Trophy race. Floyd Bennett Field was built between 1928 and 1931 and quickly became the preferred launching site for record-setting flights by Howard Hughes, Earhart, Wiley Post and other aviation pioneers. The Navy took over the airport in 1941 and most of the airport closed for good in 1971, but the New York Police Department still uses a corner of it as its helicopter base. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 1936 file photo, Amelia Earhart is talking with her husband George Palmer Putnam, right, and friends in New York, before taking off from Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett field for Los Angeles in the Bendix Trophy race. Floyd Bennett Field was built between 1928 and 1931 and quickly became the preferred launching site for record-setting flights by Howard Hughes, Earhart, Wiley Post and other aviation pioneers. The Navy took over the airport in 1941 and most of the airport closed for good in 1971, but the New York Police Department still uses a corner of it as its helicopter base. (AP Photo, File)

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.