Google Maps has captured a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A distant neighbour of Fiji, the tiny coral atoll is roughly 7.5km long and is part of the Phoenix Islands. However, Nikumaroro – formerly known as Gardner Island – could hold the key to one of the biggest aviation mysteries the world has known. There is a strong belief it is where famous American aviator Amelia Earhart crashed her plane in 1937.
The remains of the crash and the bodies of Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan have never formally been found.
What really happened to the two pilots has remained a mystery ever since the pair disappeared.
Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.
However, five years later she met a tragic end. She and Fred Noonan flew out of New Guinea in July 1937 on their route to Howland Island (also part of the Phoenix Island chain).
The pair were on the third to last leg of their attempt to circumnavigate the world by plane.
They never made it – and no one knows why. Many believe the plane ran out of gas and crashed into the ocean.
However, another theory is that Earhart and Noonan managed to crash land their plane on Nikumaroro and managed to survive on the island for as long as a few months.
Exploration of the island does go some way to support this theory.
In 1988, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sent four expeditions to Nikumaroro.
On the island, they discovered “improvised tools, an aluminium panel (possibly from an Electra), an oddly cut piece of clear Plexiglas which is the exact thickness and curvature of an Electra window and a size 9 Cat’s Paw heel dating from the 1930s which resembles Earhart’s footwear in world flight photos.”
The skeleton of a tall woman was also found in the 1940s which many believed supported the hypothesis that Nikumaroro was where Earhart landed – but the skeleton was later lost.
The island is uninhabited. Those wishing to visit need permission to land from Kiribati government and Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).
Private charter boats from Fiji or American Samoa may be possible.
Nikumaroro is just one of the many islands in the world that hide a fascinating past.
“La Isla de la Muñecas,” or, the Island of the Dolls, in Mexico is covered with hundreds of hanging, decomposing and mutilated dolls.
The story behind the origin of the dolls is both sad and unnerving – and began over fifty years ago. Don Julian Santana was a Mexican man who moved to the island and became obsessed with a girl who he believed had drowned in the lake.
Santana sought to appease her troubled ghost, claiming he could hear her screams and footsteps in the darkness.
The recluse – who was an artist – discovered a doll floating in the canal where she died and decided to hang the figure from a tree as a sign of respect to the girl.
However, Santana became convinced that the doll was possessed with the girl’s ghost and so hung up more to appease her spirit. He would collect them from canals and from rubbish dumps near the island – even trading produce he grew in exchange for dolls from other locals.
The artist did not attempt to make the dolls more presentable and simply hung them up as they were. Consequently, many of the figures are covered in dirt, missing limbs, decapitated, strewn with cobwebs… and generally truly horrifying.