Speed Reads

where oh where could she be?

These 4 border collies might be our best chance at ever finding Amelia Earhart

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished without a trace after getting lost en route between New Guinea and Howland Island. Soon, though, there could be an answer to the aviation mystery that has puzzled searchers for decades, all thanks to Berkeley, Piper, Marcy, and Kayle — a team of bone-sniffing border collies.

"No other technology is more sophisticated than the dogs," archaeologist Fred Hiebert explained to National Geographic. "They have a higher rate of success identifying things than ground-penetrating radar." National Geographic adds that "human remains detection dogs from the Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) have nosed out burial sites as deep as 9 feet and as old as 1,500 years."

Berkeley, Piper, Marcy, and Kayle are being sent to sniff around the island of Nikumaroro, where some believe Earhart might have landed her plane as it started to run out of fuel:

More intriguingly, when the island was temporarily colonized in 1940, during the last gasp of the British Empire, 13 bones were discovered, shipped to Fiji, measured — and subsequently lost. The colonial administrator suspected they might be Earhart's, and [the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or "TIGHAR"] researchers suspect they know the site where the bones were found.

"There's real potential for there to be more bones there," says [TIGHAR'S senior archaeologist Tom] King. "There are 193 bones unaccounted for." [National Geographic]

If the dogs are successful in finding human remains, the bones will be DNA tested against a living relative of Earhart's for a match. If the bones belong to Noonan, though, the work will be trickier — he does not have any surviving relatives.

Nevertheless, TIGHAR researchers — who have conducted 12 different unsuccessful missions in search of Earhart — remain optimistic. "This expedition is less of a shot in the dark than any expedition we've had," King said. Read more about the expedition and the forensic dogs at National Geographic.