In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared during an attempted flight around the world.
For the past 75 years, what happened to them has been an ongoing mystery. For all these years, it's been anybody's guess what happened.
Did they crash into the ocean and simply disappear?
Did they crash near an island, make it to shore only to be taken in by natives where they remained, unable to make contact with the outside world?
The truth has never been discovered…but researchers are getting closer all the time.
Clues recently found on the island of Nikumaroro (a tiny spot of uninhabited land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii) have given researchers hope to understand what happened to the ill-fated duo.
Archaeologists recently discovered fragments of objects that might have belonged to Earhart. Specifically, shards of glass that seem to have come from jars of cosmetics. If it turns out that these bits of glass can be linked to Earhart, then the mystery will be somewhat closer to a conclusion.
But to me, that isn't the most interesting aspect of this find.
Five pieces of glass belonging to one of the jars were found. Four of them were located close to each other, while one shard was about 65 feet away, and it showed signs of having been put to use as a cutting or slicing tool.
That would indicate Earhart or Noonan, or perhaps both, survived the crash of her airplane, made it to shore, and lived for a while, improvising tools from what they had available.
It's all still speculation, but it does bring up the importance of being able to improvise needed materials in a survival situation.
What can you do with that rock, this stick, those bits of trash that were left behind by someone else (or perhaps drifted in on the tide)?
Native peoples all over the world understand out how to use the natural resources in their areas to accomplish the tasks of living day to day.
To them, it isn't a survival problem any more than operating your electric can opener is for you.
To them, it's just life.
But hand a person from a true primitive culture an electric can opener and watch the bewilderment on his face.
He would have no more idea how to use that contraption to break into a can of food than most modern men would have trying to discern how to gather food from a jungle.
It's not that they're smarter than we are because they know their way around a jungle…nor that we're somehow superior to them because we are mechanized. It's all about knowing what to do with the resources at hand in any given situation.
That's sometimes what separates survivors from non-survivors.
If Earhart and Noonan were clever enough to use a shard of glass as a cutting tool, it says something about their survival knowledge.
What really happened on Nikumaroro is still a mystery. Maybe someday we'll know the rest of the story. But in the meantime, we can take a small lesson from what has been found. Always be thinking about how you can improvise what you need from what you've got available.