By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
A Canadian scientist plans to extract DNA from envelopes licked by Amelia Earhart to help determine if a bone fragment found on a Pacific island -- or any other remains found in the future -- might belong to the lost aviator. Dongya Yang, a genetic archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, told National Geographic News last week that he will try out the technique on test envelopes first, to ensure that the process is not destructive. "When we have the best technique available, that's when we'll move on to the real letters," Yang said. If enough DNA is found in the envelope seals, it will be compared to DNA from Earhart's living relatives to determine if it's really hers, National Geographic said.
The mystery of Earhart's disappearance has persisted since July 1937, when she and navigator Fred Noonan went missing above the South Pacific while attempting to fly around the world. In 2009, searchers with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery discovered a tiny bone fragment, thought to be part of a woman's hand, on a the Nikumaroro atoll. If DNA can be extracted from the bone fragment and compared to DNA from the envelopes, that could solve the mystery. According to the TIGHAR website, an update on the DNA work might be posted by the end of this week. "A word of caution about the DNA update ... don't expect any dramatic revelations," says the website news feed. "We still have more questions than answers." The group plans to return to the island in July 2012 to search for more clues underwater.