Thursday, September 17, 2009

No DNA evidence of Amelia Earhart

Got an update from the International Women's Air and Space Museum - one they send out to all subscribers.

As an aside, *I* could have told them what they were about to find out below. Not so much that it wasn't hair, but that even if it was hair, they wouldn't be able to get any DNA off it because the DNA is found in the roots, not in the hair follicles. So says Bones, and every CSI program that exists...

Last week, as part of our monthly e-news, we reported that a sample of hair from Amelia Earhart had been provided by IWASM to TIGHAR for DNA testing. We got an update on the process last night and we wanted to share it with everyone. The hair, quite simply, is not hair. First, a little background. The lock of hair was taken out of a wastepaper basket by Mrs. Lillian Rogers Parks, who served as a maid at the White House for many years, during one of Amelia's stays with the Roosevelts. Mrs. Parks references the hair in her book, "My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House". Mrs. Parks eventually forwarded the lock of hair to the Smithsonian, who sent it to IWASM. And until this year's Amelia Earhart exhibit opened here in March, it stayed tucked in a drawer for many years. The lock of hair included a note from Mrs. Parks, explaining how she came to have it, and this coincided with the story in her book.

Last month, Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR came to the museum to give a lecture. We showed him the hair and he asked for a small sample of it to first, verify that it was indeed Earhart's, and second, to possibly use it to confirm the DNA of artifacts he hopes to recover on TIGHAR's next expedition to Nikumororo, scheduled for May/June 2010. We agreed to provide the sample and proceeded to extract a portion of the hair to send it to TIGHAR. As we were working with it, we became concerned that it was not hair. It did not seem like a number of small strands but rather a couple of longer strands that were difficult to work with. We sent it off to TIGHAR with our suspicion. TIGHAR proceeded cautiously once they received the hair but, based upon an initial look at it, thought that it likely was hair. The sample made its way to the DNA laboratory, who also initially believed it to be hair. But, after the appropriate testing they concluded it was thread and there was no DNA on it.

Many people for many years believed this was a lock of Amelia Earhart's hair. And while this is indeed disappointing news for us we felt it was important to tell the rest of the story.

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