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Amelia Earhart Eaten By Coconut Crabs is a historical conspiracy theory that the famous American pilot Amelia Earhart was eaten by coconut crabs on the island of Nikumaroro following her mysterious disappearance and assumed plane crash over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. The theory has been reiterated by researchers and anthropologists who believe her body and bones were scattered by crabs that consumed her. Most notably starting in 2017, memes and tweets surfaced on social media that referenced the theory likely due to its absurdity and visuals.
In 1940, researchers from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, discovered a fraction of a skeleton on Nikumaroro – an uninhabited atoll about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii – that matched the description of Amelia Earhart. The remains were later lost when transported to Fiji.
In July 2007, an expedition of 15 members of TIGHAR revisited Nikumaroro according to CBS News. The expedition aimed at finding more remains of what could possibly be Amelia Earhart or her aircraft. They spend 17 days searching the two-mile-long island by feeding pigs to coconut crabs and tracking where they scattered the pig's bones. The researchers were also looking for the remains of Fred Noonan, who was aboard Earhart's plane as her navigator.
According to TIGHAR founder and executive director Ric Gillespie, Nikumaroro is packed with voracious coconut crabs that make it necessary to wear shoes at all times. Ultimately, the pig bones were discovered to be scattered at random across the island by the crabs.
In 2018, researchers and anthropologists at the University of Tennessee along with TIGHAR showed various bones discovered that year on Nikumaroro had “more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample." These bones were found with the help of dogs borrowed from the Canine Forensics Foundation. This information was provided by National Geographic in an article titled "Colossal crabs may hold clue to Amelia Earhart fate," which was posted online in August 2019.
Besides an article, National Geographic also produced a TV documentary in October 2019 called Expedition Amelia that outlined the researcher's and anthropologist's trip to Nikumaroro.
On October 18th, 2019, the YouTube channel of National Geographic uploaded a two-minute clip from the movie about the 2007 and 2018 expeditions that earned roughly 1.3 million views in three years (shown below, left). Additionally, two years prior on August 25th, 2017, Buzzfeed's YouTube series BuzzFeed Unsolved posted a video about Earhart's disappearance where they talked about the crab theory. The video received roughly 13.3 million views over the course of five years (shown below, right).
Online Reactions and Memes
Buzz surrounding the Amelia Earhart eaten by coconut crabs theory surfaced on Twitter going into 2013, most likely linked to the multiple articles about TIGHAR researchers that had surfaced by that time.
On November 13th, 2017, the Twitter account of Texas news outlet the Austin Statesman posted a tweet about the theory that earned roughly 3,500 likes in five years (shown below, left). The aforementioned tweet, as well as BuzzFeed Unsolved's video, inspired multiple QTs and memes to surface going into the rest of 2017. For instance, on December 6th, 2017, Twitter user logicalpunk captioned the Pepe Silvia meme with "me convincing my speech class that coconut crabs are the reason why we cant find amelia earhart’s body," earning over 25 ikes in three years (shown below, right).
On February 7th, 2020, Twitter user ballofchlo posted a tweet that portrayed the absurdity of the coconut crab theory by captioning the image macro of DJ Khaled holding a glass of wine. Over the course of two years, the tweet received roughly 3,000 likes (shown below, left). Going into 2022, the theory was referenced more in memes across platforms. For instance, on September 27th, 2021, Instagram user ozziemandius posted a Crab Rave video that received roughly 3,600 views (shown below, right).
the coconut crabs eating amelia earhart’s body after she crashed her plane pic.twitter.com/HeORRrc6Ww
— Alex (@alxmalloy) July 4, 2022
 National Geographic – Colossal crabs may hold clue to Amelia Earhart fate