Amelia Earhart Survived Plane Crash ... Died as a Castaway

11/1/2016 12:24 PM PDT

Amelia Earhart Survived Plane Crash, Died as a Castaway

Amelia Earhart did NOT die in a plane crash -- she died as a castaway on an island after her plane crashed ... that's the pretty shocking new theory, anyway.

New visual examination of a skeleton found in 1940 of a castaway on the the Pacific island of Nikumaroro, Kiribati -- originally thought to be male but later found to be female -- suggests its forearms were virtually identical to Amelia's.

Researchers tell us they compared images of Amelia's forearms to the measurements of the skeleton. No physical testing of the bones themselves was done ... we're told the skeleton's whereabouts are unknown, but you gotta assume it's dust by now.

According to the new findings, Earhart may have struggled for months to survive on the island ... a radically different story from the lore.

Earhart was last heard from on July 2, 1937 as she tried to become the first woman to fly around the world. In August, researchers said they found evidence she made at least 100 radio transmissions trying to get help.