Yahtzee Shaker Sheds Light on Amelia Earhart DisappearanceJune 3, 2012
Researchers believe they have discovered artifacts that once belonged to Amelia Earhart, the famous aviator who disappeared during an attempt to fly around the world, on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. The artifact, a jar of freckle cream, may have actually been used for playing Yahtzee. The ongoing debate over the jar's purpose has renewed interest in the mystery of Earhart's disappearance, as well as her possible connection to an early form of Yahtzee.
One of the world’s most enduring mysteries has taken a major step closer to being finally resolved – all thanks to a Yahtzee dice shaker. American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared decades ago in an attempt to fly around the globe at its equator. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were never to be heard from again. Now researchers believe they have discovered artifacts that once belonged to the famous pilot on a far-flung island in the Pacific Ocean.
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas. She showed an early interest in adventure and a love of flying, which eventually led her to pursue a career as a pilot. In 1928, she became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat that earned her widespread recognition and cemented her status as a trailblazer in the world of aviation. She went on to set several other flying records, including the first solo flight by a woman across the Pacific Ocean and the first woman to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. She also wrote several books about her experiences as a pilot and became a role model for women everywhere. Despite her many accomplishments, Earhart remained humble and committed to promoting aviation, especially for women, until her unexplained disappearance.
In 1937, she attempted to fly around the world at its equator as part of a global circumnavigation attempt. She set off from Miami, Florida with her navigator, Fred Noonan, in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft. They successfully made it across the Pacific Ocean but after reaching Lae, New Guinea, they disappeared on July 2, 1937, during their flight to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. Despite extensive search efforts, the pair was never found, and their disappearance remains one of the world's most famous aviation mysteries to this day. The enduring story surrounding Earhart’s disappearance has captivated the world ever since.
The Glass Yahtzee Shaker
Now, researchers believe they have discovered artifacts that once belonged to the famous pilot on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. A weathered jar of freckle-remover cream that the self-conscious Earhart was known to use was unearthed on Nikumaroro Island in the republic of Kiribati. The island is within the estimated range where her plane would have gone down after radio contact was lost. The new findings suggest that Earhart and Noonan were able to survive in a controlled landing and lived out their remaining days or years as castaways on a deserted island.
But not everyone in the scientific community is convinced by the explanation for the jar of anti-freckle cream. Steve Janson, of the World Yahtzee Institute, was leading a study on the online Yahtzee habits of Pacific Islanders when the artifacts were uncovered and was able to examine the material firsthand. “I think the notion of Amelia Earhart being so vain as to carry freckle cream on the first round-the-world flight is laughable,” said Janson. He believes that the jar has been properly identified but its purpose is being confused:
“Clearly this was not being used for the freckle cream. As an expert in the area of Yahtzee cups and shakers, I’m quite certain that the only thing this jar ever contained was five dice. Unfortunately, no trace of her Yahtzee scorecards or dice have been found, perhaps being lost to the elements. The glass jar makes for a very sturdy dice shaker but regular Yahtzee equipment can be quite delicate.”
Janson’s claim is receiving more and more serious attention as new facts concerning the “freckle cream jar” come to light. The cream is claimed to be “Dr. C. H. Berry’s Freckle Ointment”, a popular cosmetic product of the 1930′s. However, it seems that Dr. Berry’s cream was only sold in opaque jars – the jar discovered on Nikumaroro is perfectly clear.
“It’s a well-known historical fact that Amelia Earhart preferred clear Yahtzee shakers – she never liked to be kept in the dark,” according to Mr. Janson. “And the wear and tear that you can observe around the mouth of the jar bear the tell-tale signs of dice action. There is no way a cream could have caused these obvious dice markings.”
Assuming that the Yahtzee cup did indeed belong to Amelia Earhart, life on Nikumaroro would have been challenging. She or Noonan may have suffered injuries in what would surely have been a crash landing. Sources of fresh water would be hard to come by on the coral atoll and they would need to hunt, fish, and forage to survive. But carrying the ultimate version of Travel Yahtzee, Earhart was clearly prepared for anything. One can imagine the pioneering pair sitting around a campfire in their old age, throwing a game of Yahtzee out of that old freckle cream jar.
Despite the ongoing debate over the true purpose of the jar, the discovery of these artifacts has renewed interest in the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance. While some believe the jar was used for its intended purpose, others argue that it was actually a Yahtzee dice shaker. Regardless of its purpose, the discovery has added a new chapter to the enduring story of one of the world's most famous aviators.
A Yahtzee Paradox?
The keen Yahtzee student may spot an apparent inconsistency in Janson’s theory. Yahtzee was commercially released for the first time in 1956, a full 19 years prior to Earhart’s ill-fated flight in 1937. How could she have come into possession of a Yahtzee shaker for a game that had yet to be invented?
According to Janson, the game mechanics of what we today call Yahtzee predates its modern incarnation. Similar dice games – a sort of proto-Yahtzee – have been played been millennia all across the world. For example, the Roman game Tali, which could be played with either knucklebones or true dice, is considered to be an early ancestor of Yahtzee. It is likely that Earhart was playing one of these earlier homemade versions of the game that evolved into today’s Yahtzee.
History is littered with imprecision, incomplete evidence, and speculative theorizing. The exact nature of the dice game she and Noonan may have played in their final days may never be fully understood. Regardless, Amelia Earhart leaves behind a legacy of bravery, determination, and pioneering spirit that continues to inspire today’s Yahtzee enthusiasts.