For those of us that enjoy getting the gears in our heads spinning just a bit faster, there’s nothing quite like a good mystery. Sometimes though, the lore associated with a really juicy and longstanding mystery can overwhelm the evidence. This results in the popular belief that these quandaries remain outstanding long after reasonable minds would have called the case closed. Of course, the media plays a pretty significant role in the drive to keep these mysteries alive — in part by publishing, on a regular basis, articles that ignore reasonable conclusions, and then exacerbating the issue by running stories touting poorly vetted possible conclusions as though they’re confirmed facts.
So, with so much contradictory information floating around regarding many of these popular mysteries, it seemed like a good idea to revisit a few and discuss some of the recent revelations that have shed new light on them. Because as much fun as it is to read about a mystery, I’d always prefer reading about a conclusion.
Amelia Earhart probably made it to Nikumaroro Island before dying
In 1940, bones were found on Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific which, based on Earhart’s last known location and trajectory, seemed like they could have been hers. Alongside the bones, people found a woman’s shoe, a box made to hold a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant (for use in navigation) from around 1918, and a bottle of Benedictine -Earhart’s preferred herbal liquor. Analysis of the bones at the time, however, seemed to dash those hopes. A physician named D.W. Hoodless studied the bones and claimed with high certainty that they belonged to a man and not to the famed female aviator.
The bones were the subject of study and debate throughout 1940 and into 1941, but in July of that year Dr. D.W. Hoodless sent one final telegram stating that he would take charge of the bones for further study; and then all correspondence, and mention of the bones, ceases until in 1999 The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) tried to find them again. Thus far they’ve met with no success. They were, however, able to use recorded measurements of the bones to assess the likelihood that they may have belonged to Earhart.
“This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample,” the study noted. “This strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.”
The Bermuda Triangle was pretty much made up by two guys
In 1950, the Associated Press published an article written by Edward Van Winkle Jones that was among the first to credit geography for a string of disappearances in the region. He recounted the loss of Flight 19 (a group of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers that disappeared without a trace somewhere in the triangle on Dec. 5, 1945), as well as two commercial flights that had vanished in the subsequent years, accounting for a total of 135 people he described as being “swallowed without a trace.” That article encouraged another writer by the name of M.K. Jessup to write a book in 1955 that attributed those disappearances, as well as many others, to the presence of UFOs in the Bermuda Triangle. The concept continued to grow from there. By the 1970s, the idea that something was up with the Bermuda Triangle was a commonly accepted belief throughout much of the United States.
Since then, many researchers have been critical of Jessup and other authors that make grandiose claims about the number of people to have vanished inside the Bermuda Triangle—and statistics back them up. The area the triangle occupies is a heavily traversed portion of the ocean and has been for centuries. Ships and aircraft from numerous nations and in widely varied conditions travel in, across or over the triangle each day; statistically speaking, some of them are bound to go down.
When comparing the Bermuda Triangle to other ocean waterways that see such heavy traffic, the rate of “disappearances” is actually just about average. The ocean that we’ve known throughout much of human history is just really good at killing people.
The Loch Ness monster is probably a giant eel (and that’s still crazy)
Loch Ness monster sightings date back to at least A.D. 565 , when a writer named Adomnan recorded the story of Saint Columba coming across a group of men burying their friend, who had died as a result of an encounter with a monster in the Loch. Modern sightings of some sort of massive creature in Loch Ness began in the 1870s, but didn’t become truly widespread until the 1930s, thanks in large part to the world famous “Surgeon’s Photograph” shown below. It’s worth noting that the man that snapped this picture was actually a gynecologist (Robert Kenneth Wilson), but “surgeon” just had a better ring to it.
A recent study of the loch conducted by a team out of the University of Otago in New Zealand didn’t find any evidence of a living dinosaur in the body of water, but they did find a great deal of eel DNA that didn’t belong there. Eels are not known to be native to Loch Ness, but a population of extremely large eels would explain sightings of the monster–because a giant eel really is a sea monster.
“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a press release. “Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.”
Divers have reported seeing eels as thick as their legs in the loch, which at that girth would equate to a length of around 13 feet. That may not be the Loch Ness monster we’ve seen in questionable photos, but if I saw one coming toward my boat I’d call it a monster for sure.