Amelia Earhart mystery: Why anti-freckle cream remnants could confirm where she died

Aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared during their attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937. Despite efforts from the Navy and other searchers, no one was able to find the pioneering pair nor work out how they spent their last days. Even legendary Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic wreckage in 1985, was unable to have any luck during attempts last year. But one man who spent 32 years and $7million (£5.4million) investigating the mystery believes he knows where they both died and more. Research led him and a team to a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, where they claim to have found items that were likely in Amelia Earhart’s possession.

Ever since Amelia Earhart and Fred, then aged 39 and 44, vanished there has been an endless fascination with what actually happened to them.

Wild conspiracy theories circulated including that they were eaten alive by giant 40cm coconut crabs and even that they faked their own deaths to become US spies.

But the sad reality of their final days and hours on Earth may be more tragic than we could imagine.

Richard Gillespie, 72, of The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), believes the pair were stranded without hope on a deserted island.

He told his theories on the mystery.

Amelia and Fred were on the longest stint of their round-the-world flight when they lost radio contact over the Pacific Ocean.

They were looking to land on Howland Island – a tiny spit of land that only measures 1.6 square miles.

But as their Lockheed Electa plane’s fuel supplies depleted, they may have landed on Nikumaroro Island – then known as Gardner island – according to Mr Gillespie.

There he believes Amelia could have caught fish and boiled water using items the pair had travelled with.

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Mr Gillespie’s belief that Amelia and Fred landed their originates from lost reports and communication from the British Archives.

After tracking them down the documents revealed that a skeleton was discovered on Nikumaroro Island back in 1940 – three years after the pair vanished.

He believes that British doctors of the time “misidentified” the remains as belonging to a “stocky, white male”.

Mr Gillespie had modern forensic experts look over a sketch and measurements made of the body – that they then compared them with photographs of Amelia.

He told “There’s a better than 99 percent chance that it’s the same person [Amelia Earhart].”

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Mr Gillespie’s investigation took him and the TIGHAR team to Nikumaroro Island, where after carefully combing the sand and brush they discovered what could have been a campsite.

His belief that Amelia stayed there was further fuelled by their discovery of multiple items that could have belonged to an American woman from the 1930s.

Mr Gillespie continued: “There were glass fragments that would form part of a small, oddly-shaped ointment pot.

“We believe it once contained a paste that women put on their skin to make their freckles disappear.

“We don’t know if Amelia used that cream but we do know that she didn’t like her freckles.

“It would have worked as it was 80% mercury – it was so potent that the mercury had impregnated onto the glass, which is how we know what it was.”

He concluded the product was ‘Dr C H Berry’s Freckle Ointment’ – a cream that would have been available to Amelia during the 1930s.

The ointment label claimed: “Positively cures freckles, tan, and all blemishes and discolourations of the skin.”

Researcher Joe Cerniglia, one of Mr Gillespie’s colleagues, agreed that Amelia could have bought the product in a 2012 interview.

He told Discovery News: “It’s well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them.”

In addition to that Mr Gillespie’s team found other items including a reddish material that chemically matched make-up of the era.

They also found broken pieces of a compact kit mirror, personal care products and a specific type of hand lotion that was “popular with women” back then.

The team also discovered the remnants of a zipper pull that could have been worn by Amelia.

The discovery of another broken item may have alluded to the pairs desperation during their final days.

Mr Gillespie’s team found the remnants of a pocket knife – an item that was listed in an inventory from when the pair landed in Hawaii.

He told “It looked like it had been beaten apart with a blunt object to get the blade out.

“It sounds like castaway but Amelia could have used the blade to make a spear or something else.

“There is lots of information to suggest an American woman was living on the island at one point.”

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