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Papua New Guinea - Nukumanu Islands


Nukumanu Islands

Located in the path of the Polynesian migration to Oceania some 5,000 years ago, the Nukumanu Islands were settled by the Polynesians and retained their Polynesian character as part of the Melanesian Archipelago of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Their most recent claim to fame, however, is that they were the last place on the path of Amelia Earhart before she and her co-pilot disappeared forever into the vast Pacific Ocean.   

Comprising a ring of more than twenty islets on a reef surrounding a large lagoon, the islets and islands of Nukumanu remain largely unchanged. They are located on a sandy strip of coral no more than a meter above sea level just 4 degrees south of the equator. The land resources of the Nukumanu people are quite few and they grow a kind of taro and bananas. Coconuts are, however, an integral part of the islanders' diet with the soft inside being a staple food and coconut flesh being consumed with raw fish and clams. They are also competent fishermen who dive for beche-de-mer in the lagoon. This is exported mainly to Asia and along with trochus shells which are used to make mother-of-pearl, they comprise the backbone of the Nukumanu economy.


On 2nd July, 1937, at 0000 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred J. Noonan departed Lae, New Guinea, for the next leg of her 29,000 mile around-the-world flight. The intended destination of this leg was tiny Howland Island, an atoll approximately 20 feet high, a few miles long, and 2,556 miles distant. At 07:20 hours (about 800 miles into the flight) GMT Amelia provided a position report placing the Electra on course at some 20 miles southwest of the Nukumanu Islands. The last weather report Amelia was known to have received was before take-off. The head wind speed had increased by 10-12 mph, but it is not known if she ever received the report.

Amelia Earhart photographed in Hawaii with Howard Hughes (far left)

At 08:00 GMT Amelia made her last radio contact with Lae. She reported being on course for Howland Island at 12,000 feet. There is no real evidence as to the precise track of the aircraft after Nukumanu.

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