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The article addresses this point, in case you missed it.

> According to the official report, a search pilot saw “signs of recent habitation” there. But because nobody waved them down, the search team left and the Navy dismissed the theory. What the sailors didn’t know was that the island had been uninhabited for 40 years.

> Earhart landed on the very edge of the island, Dr. Ballard believes. As tides rose, her plane may have slipped down the underwater slope.




> What the sailors didn’t know was that the island had been uninhabited for 40 years.

It seems that it was occupied for several days by the 24 survivors of the shipwrecked SS Norwich City in November 1929, who were forced to abandon the wreck as it caught fire. I believe it is the ship in the photograph.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikumaroro#SS_Norwich_City_wre...




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