- Category : Adventurer
- Type : PM
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 2
Amelia Mary Earhart (24 July 1897 – missing 2 July 1937, declared deceased 5 January 1939) was a noted American aviation pioneer and women's rights advocate. Earhart was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, which she was awarded as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, a women's pilots' organization.
Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight in 1937. Intense public fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.
Amelia Mary Earhart, daughter of Samuel "Edwin" Stanton Earhart (1868-1930) and Amelia Otis Earhart (1869-1962), was born in Atchison, Kansas. in the home of her maternal grandfather, Alfred Otis, a former federal judge, president of the Atchison Savings Bank and a leading citizen in Atchison. Alfred Otis had not initially favoured the marriage and was not satisfied with Edwin's progress as a lawyer.
Amelia was named, according to family custom, after her two grandmothers (Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton). From early on, "Meeley" (sometimes "Milie") was the ringleader while younger sister (two years her junior), Grace Muriel (1899-1998) or "Pidge," acted the dutiful follower. Both girls continued to answer to their childhood nicknames well into adulthood.Their upbringing was unconventional since Amy Earhart did not believe in molding her children into "nice little girls." Meanwhile their maternal grandmother disapproved of the "bloomers" worn by Amy's children and although Amelia liked the freedom they provided, she was aware other neighborhood girls did not wear them.
A spirit of adventureseemed to abide in the Earhart children with the pair setting off daily to explore their neighborhood for interesting and exciting pursuits. As a child, Amelia spent long hours playing with Pidge, climbing trees, hunting rats with a rifle and "belly-slamming" her sled downhill. The girls kept "worms, moths, katydids and a tree toad" in a growing collection gathered in their outings. Some biographers have even characterized the young Amelia as a tomboy. In 1904, with the help of her uncle, she cobbled together a home-made ramp fashioned after a roller coaster she had seen on a trip to St. Louis and secured the ramp to the roof of the family toolshed. Amelia's well-documented first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a bruised lip, torn dress and a sensation of exhilaration. She exclaimed, "Oh, Pidge, it's just like flying!"
Although there had been some missteps in his career up to that point, in 1907 Edwin Earhart's job as a claims officer for the Rock Island Railroad led to a transfer to Des Moines, Iowa. The next year, at the age of 11, Amelia saw her first airplane at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Her father tried to interest her and her sister in taking a flight. One look at the rickety old "flivver" was enough for Amelia, who promptly asked if they could go back to the merry-go-round. She later described the biplane as “a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting.”
While her father and mother found a small home in Des Moines, Amelia and Muriel (she never used Grace) remained with their grandparents in Atchison. Until she was 12, Amelia and her sister received a form of home-schooling from her mother and a governess. She later recounted that she was "exceedingly fond of reading" and spent countless hours in the large family library. In 1909, when the family was finally reunited in Des Moines, the Earhart children were enrolled in public school for the first time with Amelia entering the seventh grade.
While the family's finances seemingly improved with the acquisition of a new house and even the hiring of two servants, it soon became apparent Edwin was an alcoholic. Five years later (in 1914), he was forced to retire, and although he attempted to rehabilitate himself through treatment, he was never reinstated at the Rock Island Railroad. At about this time, Amelia's grandmother Amelia Otis died suddenly, leaving a substantial estate that placed her daughter's share in trust, fearing that Edwin's drinking would drain the funds. The Otis house, and all of its contents, was auctioned; Amelia was heart-broken and later described it as the end of her childhood.
In 1915, after a long search, Amelia's father found work as a clerk at the Great Northern Railway in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Amelia entered Central High School as a junior. Edwin applied for a transfer to Springfield, Missouri in 1915 but the current claims officer reconsidered his retirement and demanded his job back, leaving the elder Earhart with nowhere to go. Facing another calamitous move, Amy Earhart took her children to Chicago where they lived with friends. Amelia was enrolled in Hyde Park High School but spent a miserable semester where a yearbook caption captured the essence of her unhappiness, "A.E.- the girl in brown who walks alone."
Amelia graduated from Hyde Park School in 1916. Throughout her troubled childhood, she had continued to aspire to a future career; she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management and mechanical engineering.She began college at Ogontz School in Rydal, Pennsylvania but did not complete her program.
During Christmas vacation in 1917, she visited her sister in Toronto, Ontario. World War I had begun and Amelia saw the returning wounded soldiers. After receiving training as a nurse's aide from the Red Cross she began work at Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto, Ontario with the Volunteer Aid Detachment. Her duties included preparing food in the kitchen for patients with special diets and handing out prescriptions in the hospital's dispensary. She continued to work in the hospital until after the Armistice ending World War I was signed in November 1918.
At about that time, she visited an exposition held in Toronto with a young woman friend. One of the highlights of the day was a flying exhibition put on by a World War I "ace." The pilot overhead spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing, and dove at them. "I am sure he said to himself, 'Watch me make them scamper,'" she said. Earhart characteristically stood her ground, swept by a mixture of fear and exhilaration. As the plane came close, something inside her awakened. "I did not understand it at the time," she said, "but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by."
She had a serious sinus infection that year. This was before antibiotics were available and she underwent surgical treatment. The procedure wasn't successful and Earhart subsequently suffered from sharpening headache attacks. Her convalescence lasted nearly a year, which she spent at her sister's home in Northampton, Massachusetts. She passed the time by reading poetry, learning to play the banjo and studying mechanics. By 1919 Earhart prepared to enter Smith College but changed her mind and enrolled at Columbia University to take a course in medicine. She quit a year later to be with her parents who had reunited in California.
Early flying experiences
In Long Beach, on 28 December 1920, she and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later gained fame as an air racer) gave her a ride that would forever change Earhart's life. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground," she said, "I knew I had to fly." After that ten-minute flight, she immediately became determined to learn to fly. She drove a truck and worked at the local telephone company to earn $1000 for lessons. Earhart had her first flying lessons, beginning on 3 January 1921, at Kinner Field near Long Beach but to reach the airfield Amelia took a bus to the end of the line, then walked four miles. Her teacher was Anita "Neta" Snook, a pioneer female aviator who used a surplus Curtiss JN-4 "Canuck" for training. Amelia arrived with her father and a singular request, "I want to fly. Will you teach me?"
Six months later, Amelia purchased a second-hand bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane which she nicknamed "The Canary." On 22 October 1922, Earhart flew it to an altitude of 14,000 feet, setting a world record for women pilots. On 15 May 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license (#6017) by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).
Aviation career and marriage
According to the Boston Globe, she was "one of the best women pilots in the United States", although this characterization has been disputed by aviation experts and experienced pilots in the decades since. Amelia was an intelligent and competent pilot but hardly a brilliant aviator, whose early efforts were characterized as inadequate by more seasoned flyers. One serious miscalculation occurred during a record attempt that had ended with her spinning down through a cloud bank, only to emerge at 3,000 ft. Experienced pilots admonished her, "Suppose the clouds had closed in until they touched the ground?" Earhart was chagrined yet acknowledged her limitations as a pilot and continued to seek out assistance throughout her career from various instructors. Gradually her skills and professionalism grew and, by 1927, "Without any serious incident, she had accumulated nearly 500 hours of solo flying - a very respectable achievement."
Throughout this period, her grandmother's inheritance, which was now administered by her mother, was constantly depleted until it finally ran out following a disastrous investment in a failed gypsum mine. Simultaneously, Earhart's health problem persisted as her old sinus pain sharpened, so in early 1924 she was hospitalized for another unsuccessful sinus operation. Consequently, with no immediate prospects for recouping her investment in flying, Earhart sold the "Canary" as well as a second Kinner and bought a yellow Kissel roadster which she named "the Yellow Peril." After trying her hand at a number of interesting ventures including setting up a photography company, Amelia set out in a new direction. Following her parents' divorce in 1924, she drove her mother in the "Yellow Peril" on a transcontinental trip from California with stops throughout the West and even a jaunt up to Calgary, Alberta. The meandering tour eventually brought the pair to Boston, Massachusetts where Amelia underwent a new sinus surgery, this time a more successful one. After recuperation, she returned for several months to Columbia University but was forced to abandon her studying and further plans for MIT because her mother could no longer afford the tuition. Soon after, she found employment first as a teacher, then as a social worker in 1925 at Denison House, living in Medford.
Earhart maintained her interest in aviation, becoming a member of the American Aeronautical Society's Boston chapter, and was eventually elected its vice president. She also invested a small sum of money in the Dennison Airport as well as acting as a sales representative for Kinner airplanes in the Boston area. She wrote local newspaper columns promoting flying and as her local celebrity grew, laid out the plans for an organization devoted to women flyers.
1928 transatlantic flight
After Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Amy Phipps Guest, an American socialite (1873-1959), expressed interest in being the first woman to fly (or be flown) across the Atlantic Ocean. After deciding the trip was too perilous for her to undertake, she offered to sponsor the project, suggesting they find "another girl with the right image." While at work one afternoon in April 1928, Earhart got a phone call from publicist Capt. Hilton H. Railey, who asked her, "Would you like to fly the Atlantic?"
The project coordinators (including book publisher and publicist George P. Putnam) interviewed Amelia and asked her to accompany pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon on the flight, nominally as a passenger, but with the added duty of keeping the flight log. The team departed Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland in a Fokker F.VIIb/3m on 17 June 1928, landing at Burry Port (near Llanelli), Wales, United Kingdom, approximately 21 hours later. Since most of the flight was on "instruments" and Amelia had no training for this type of flying, she did not pilot the plane. When interviewed after landing, she said, "Stultz did all the flying - had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes." She added, "...maybe someday I'll try it alone."
While in England, Earhart flew the Avro Avian 594 Avian III, SN: R3/AV/101 owned by Lady Mary Heath. She purchased the aircraft and had it shipped back to the United States (where it was assigned “unlicensed aircraft identification mark” 7083).
When the Stultz, Gordon and Earhart flight crew returned to the United States they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York followed by a reception with President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
Trading on her physical resemblance to Lindbergh, whom the press had dubbed "Lucky Lindy," some newspapers and magazines began referring to Amelia as "Lady Lindy. The United Press was more grandiose; to them, Earhart was the reigning "Queen of the Air." Immediately after her return to the United States, she undertook an exhausting lecture tour (1928-29). Meanwhile, Putnam had undertaken to heavily promote her in a campaign including publishing a book she authored, a series of new lecture tours and using pictures of her in mass market endorsements for products including luggage, "Lucky Strike" cigarettes (this caused image problems for her, with McCall's magazine retracting an offer) and women's clothing and sportswear. The money that she made with "Lucky Strike" had been earmarked for a $1,500 donation to Commander Richard Byrd's imminent South Pole expedition.
Rather than simply endorsing the products, Amelia actively became involved in the promotions, especially in women's fashions. For a number of years she had sewn her own clothes, but the "active living" lines that were sold in 50 stores such as Macy's in metroplitan areas were an expression of a new Earhart image. Her concept of simple, natural lines matched with wrinkle-proof, washable materials was the embodiment of a sleek, purposeful but feminine "A.E." (the familiar name she went by with family and friends). The luggage line that she promoted (marketed as Modernaire Earhart Luggage) also bore her unmistakable stamp. She ensured that the luggage met the demands of air travel; it is still being produced today. The endorsements would help Amelia finance her flying.Accepting a position as associate editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, she turned this forum into an opportunity to campaign for greater public acceptance of aviation, especially focusing on the role of women entering the field.In 1929, Earhart was among the first aviators to promote commercial air travel through the development of a passenger airline service; along with Charles Lindbergh, she represented Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), and invested time and money in setting up the first regional shuttle service between New York and Washington, DC. (TAT later became TWA).
Although she had gained fame for her transtlantic flight, Earhart endeavored to set an "untarnished" record of her own. Shortly after her return, piloting Avian 7083, she set off on her first long solo flight which occurred just as her name was coming into the national spotlight. By making the trip in August 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. She subsequently made her first attempt at competitive air racing in 1929 during the first Santa Monica-to-Cleveland Women's Air Derby (later nicknamed the "Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers), placing third. In 1930, Earhart became an official of the National Aeronautic Association where she actively promoted the establishment of separate womens' records and was instrumental in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) accepting a similar international standard. In 1931, flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogiro, she set a world altitude record of 18,415 feet (5613 m) in a borrowed company machine.
During this period, Earhart became involved with The Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots providing moral support and advancing the cause of women in aviation. She had called a meeting of women pilots in 1929 following the Women's Air Derby. She suggested the name based on the number of the charter members; she later became the organization's first president in 1930. Amelia was a vigorous advocate for women pilots and when the 1934 Bendix Trophy race banned women, she openly refused to fly screen actress Mary Pickford to Cleveland to open the races.
For a while she was engaged to Samuel Chapman, a chemical engineer from Boston, breaking off her engagement on 23 November 1928. During the same period, Earhart and Putnam had spent a great deal of time together, leading to intimacy. George Putnam, who was known as GP, was divorced in 1929 and sought out Amelia, proposing to her numerous times before she finally agreed. After substantial hesitation on her part, they married on 7 February 1931 in Putnam's mother's house in Noank, Connecticut. Earhart referred to her marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control." In a letter written to Putnam and hand delivered to him on the day of the wedding, she wrote, "I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval (midaevil ) code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.
Amelia's ideas on marriage were liberal for the time as she believed in equal responsibilities for both "breadwinners" and pointedly kept her own name rather than being referred to as Mrs. Putnam. When The New York Times, per the rules of its stylebook, insisted on referring to her Mrs. Putnam, she laughed it off. GP also learned quite soon that he would be called "Mr. Earhart." There was no honeymoon for the newlyweds as Amelia was involved in a nine-day cross-country tour promoting autogyros and the tour sponsor, "Beechnut Gum." Although Earhart and Putnam had no children, he had two sons by his previous marriage to Dorothy Binney (1888-1982), a chemical heiress whose father's company, Binney & Smith, invented Crayola crayons: the explorer and writer David Binney Putnam (1913-1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr. (born 1921). Amelia was especially fond of David who frequently visited his father at their family home in Rye, New York. George had contracted polio shortly after his parents' separation and was unable to visit as often.
A few years later, a fire broke out at the Putnam residence in Rye and before it could be contained, destroyed much of the Putnam family treasures including many of Earhart's personal mementos. Following the fire, GP and AE decided to move to the west coast, since Putnam had already sold his interest in the publishing company to his cousin Palmer, setting up in North Hollywood, which brought GP close to Paramount Pictures and his new position as head of the editorial board of this motion picture company.
1932 transatlantic solo flight
At the age of 34, on the morning of 20 May 1932 Earhart set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland with the latest (dated) copy of a local newspaper. She intended to fly to Paris in her single engine Lockheed Vega, duplicating Charles Lindbergh's solo flight. After a flight lasting 14 hours, 56 minutes during which she contended with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, Earhart landed in a pasture at Culmore, north of Derry, Northern Ireland. When a farm hand asked, "Have you flown far?" Amelia replied, "From America." The site is now the Amelia Earhart Centre..
As the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic, Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover. As her fame grew, she developed friendships with many people in high offices, most notably, Eleanor Roosevelt, the "First Lady." Roosevelt shared many of Earhart's interests and passions, especially womens' causes. After flying with Amelia, Eleanor actually obtained a student permit but did not pursue her plans to learn to fly. The two friends communicated frequently throughout their lives. Another famous flyer, Jacqueline Cochran, who the public considered Amelia's greatest rival, also became a confidant and friend during this period.
Other solo flights
On 11 January 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. Although this transoceanic flight had been attempted by many others, most notably by the unfortunate participants in the 1927 Dole Air Race which had reversed the route, her trailblazing flight had been mainly routine, with no mechanical breakdowns. In her final hours, she even relaxed and listened to "the broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera from New York."
That year, once more flying her faithful Vega which she had tagged "old Bessie, the fire horse," Earhart soloed from Los Angeles to Mexico City on 19 April. The next record attempt was a nonstop flight from Mexico City to New York. Setting off on 8 May, her flight was uneventful although the large crowds that greeted her at Newark, New Jersey were a concern as she had to be careful not to taxi into the throng.
Earhart again participated in long-distance air racing, placing fifth in the 1935 Bendix Trophy Race, the best result she could manage considering that her stock Lockheed Vega topping out at 195 mph was outclassed by purpose-built air racers which reached more than 300 mph. The race had been a particularly difficult one as one competitor, Cecil Allen, died in a fiery takeoff mishap and rival Jacqueline Cochran was forced to retire due to mechanical problems and the "blinding fog" and violent thunderstorms that plagued the race.
Between 1930–1935, Amelia had set seven women's speed and distance records in a variety of airplanes including the Kinner Airster, Lockheed Vega and Pitcairn Autogiro. By 1935, recognizing the limitations of her "lovely red Vega" in long, transoceanic flights, Amelia contemplated, in her own words, a new "prize... one flight which I most wanted to attempt - a circumnavigation of the globe as near its waistline as could be." For the new venture, she would need a new aircraft.
1937 world flight
Earhart joined the faculty of Purdue University in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. In July 1936, she took delivery of a Lockheed 10E Electra financed by Purdue and started planning a round-the-world flight. Not the first to circle the globe, it would be the longest at 29,000 miles (47,000 km), following a grueling equatorial route. Although the Electra was publicized as a "flying laboratory," little useful science was planned and the flight seems to have been arranged around Earhart's intention to circumnavigate the earth along with gathering raw material and public attention for her next book. Her first choice of crew was Captain Harry Manning, who had been the captain of the President Roosevelt, the ship that had brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928.
Through contacts in the Los Angeles aviation community, Fred Noonan was subsequently chosen as a navigator. He had vast experience in both marine (he was a licensed ship's captain) and flight navigation. Noonan had recently left Pan Am, where he established most of the company's seaplane routes across the Pacific. He hoped the resulting publicity would help him establish his own navigation school in Florida. The original plans were for Noonan to navigate from Hawaii to Howland Island, a particularly difficult portion of the flight; then Manning would continue with Earhart to Australia and she would proceed on her own for the remainder of the project.
On St. Patrick's Day, 17 March 1937, they flew the first leg from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to Earhart and Noonan, Harry Manning and Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz (who was acting as Earhart's technical advisor) were on board. Due to lubrication and galling problems with the propeller hubs' variable pitch mechanisms, the aircraft needed servicing in Hawaii. Ultimately, the Electra ended up at the US Navy's Luke Field on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The flight resumed three days later from Luke Field with Earhart, Noonan and Manning on board, but a tire apparently blew on takeoff and Earhart ground-looped the plane. The circumstances of the ground loop remain controversial. Some witnesses at Luke Field said they saw a tire blow. Earhart thought either the Electra's right tire had blown and/or the right landing gear had collapsed. Some sources cite pilot error.
With the plane severely damaged, the flight was called off and the aircraft was shipped by sea to the Lockheed facility in Burbank, California for repairs.
While the Electra was being repaired Earhart and Putnam secured additional funds and prepared for a second attempt. This time flying west to east, the second attempt began with an unpublicized flight from Oakland to Miami, Florida and after arriving there Earhart publicly announced her plans to circumnavigate the globe. The flight's opposite direction was the result of changes in global wind and weather patterns along the planned route since the earlier attempt. Fred Noonan was Earhart's only crew member for the second flight. Earhart and Noonan departed Miami on 1 June and after numerous stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia they arrived at Lae, New Guinea on 29 June 1937. At this stage about 22,000 miles (35,000 km) of the journey had been completed. The remaining 7,000 miles (11,000 km) would all be over the Pacific.
Departure from Lae
On 2 July 1937 (midnight GMT) Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in the heavily loaded Electra. Their intended destination was Howland Island, a flat sliver of land 6,500 ft (2000 metres) long and 1,600 ft (500 metres) wide, 10 feet (3 m) high and 2556 miles (4,113 km) away. Their last known position report was near the Nukumanu Islands, about 800 miles (1,300 km) into the flight. The United States Coast Guard cutter Itasca was on station at Howland, assigned to communicate with Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E and guide them to the island once they arrived in the vicinity.
Final approach to Howland Island
Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which are still controversial), the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was never accomplished. Some sources have noted Earhart's apparent lack of understanding of her Bendix direction finding loop antenna, which at the time was very new technology. Another cited cause of possible confusion was that the USCG cutter Itasca and Earhart planned their communication schedule using time systems set a half hour apart (with Earhart using Greenwich Civil Time (GCT) and the Itasca under a Naval time zone designation system). Motion picture evidence from Lae suggests that an antenna mounted underneath the fuselage may have been torn off from the fuel-heavy Electra during taxi or takeoff from Lae's turf runway.
During Earhart and Noonan's approach to Howland Island, the Itasca received strong, relatively clear voice transmissions from Earhart but she apparently was unable to hear transmissions from the ship. Earhart's transmissions seemed to indicate she and Noonan believed they had reached Howland's charted position, which was incorrect by about five nautical miles (10 km). The Itasca used her oil-fired boilers to generate smoke for a period of time but the fliers apparently did not see it. The many scattered clouds in the area around Howland Island have also been cited as a problem: their dark shadows on the ocean surface may have been almost indistinguishable from the island's subdued and very flat profile.
After several hours of frustrating attempts at two-way communications, contact was lost. Don Dwiggins, in his biography of Paul Mantz (who assisted Earhart and Noonan in their flight planning), noted that the aviators had cut off their long-wire antenna, due to the annoyance of having to crank it back into the aircraft after each use.
Her last voice transmission received on Howland indicated Earhart and Noonan were flying along a line of position (157-337 degrees, presumably through Howland Island). Subsequent attempts were made to contact the flyers by radio using both voice and Morse code transmissions. Apparent signals from the downed Electra, although usually unintelligibly garbled and/or weak, were received by operators across the Pacific. Some of these transmissions were later revealed to be hoaxes but others were deemed authentic. Bearings taken by Pan American Airways stations suggested the distress calls were originating in the vicinity of Gardner Island. These signals would indicate Earhart and Noonan were on land (or at least partially so) because the Electra's right engine had to be running in order to charge the power-hungry radio's battery, though questions of fuel consumption remain. Signals from the plane were heard intermittently for four or five days following the disappearance; however, none of these transmissions yielded any understandable position for the downed Electra. Incredibly, a couple of short wave radio listeners on the US mainland may have heard distress calls on upper harmonic frequencies.
The Itasca made an ultimately unsuccessful search north and west of Howland Island based on initial assumptions about transmissions from the plane. The US Navy soon took over the search and over a period of about three days sent available resources to the search area in the vicinity of Howland Island. Based on bearings of several supposed Earhart radio transmissions (along with her last known transmission giving a line of position), some of the search efforts were eventually directed to the Phoenix Islands south of Howland Island. Naval aircraft flew over remote Gardner Island and reported "signs of recent habitation" but the pilots were not aware the island had been uninhabited since 1892. Other Navy search efforts were again directed north, west and southwest of Howland, based on a belief the plane had ditched in the ocean.
The official search efforts lasted about nine days but Earhart, Noonan and the Electra 10E were never found. At $4 million, the air and sea search by the Navy and Coast Guard was the most costly and intensive in history up to that time but search and rescue techniques during the era were rudimentary. Some of the search was based on erroneous assumptions and flawed information. Official reporting of the search efforts was influenced by individuals wary about how their roles in looking for an American hero might be reported by the press. Despite an unprecedented, extended search by the US Navy and Coast Guard, no physical evidence was found.
Two possibilities concerning Earhart and Noonan's fate have prevailed among researchers and historians. As with many aviation mishaps, poor planning is often cited as a contributing cause.
Crash and sink theory
Most researchers believe the Electra ran out of fuel and Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea. Navigator and aeronautical engineer Elgen Long and his late wife, Marie K. Long have devoted 35 years in exhaustive research on the "crash and sink" theory which is the most widely accepted explanation for the disappearance. Another substantive scholarly dissertation by the late Capt. Laurance F. Safford, USN (retired), responsible for the interwar secret Mid Pacific Strategic Direction Finding Net and the decoding of the Japanese PURPLE cipher messages for the attack on Pearl Harbor, began a lengthy analysis of the Earhart flight in the 1970s. Safford established the intricate radio transmission documentation and concluded "poor planning, worse execution" .
The late Rear Admiral Richard R. Black, USN (retired) who was in charge of the Howland Island airstrip as well as manning the radio room on the Itasca concluded in 1982 that "the Electra went into the sea about 10 am, 2 July 1937 not far from Howland" . British aviation historian Roy Nesbit found evidence in contemporary accounts and in Putnam's correspondence that Earhart's Electra was not fully fueled at Lae.
Some of the most compelling evidence of the difficulty in navigation during the 1937 World Flight came from William L. Polhemous, the navigator on the 1967 flight by Ann Pellegreno that followed Earhart and Noonan's original flight path. His theory of how Noonan may have miscalculated the "single line approach" that was intended to "hit" Howland was based on careful analysis of navigational tables for 2 July 1937.
David Jourdain, a former Navy submarine captain and ocean engineer specializing in deep-sea recoveries, basing his research on the theory that the Gardner Island transmissions were false, has extensively searched a 1,200 quadrant north and west of Howland Island. The two $4.5 million deep-sea sonar searches (2002, 2006) by his company Nauticos were derived from the line of position 157-337 that Earhart issued on 2 July 1937. Further bolstering his case is the use of the original Elgen Long data that led Jourdain to conclude: "The analysis of all the data we have – the fuel analysis, the radio calls, other things – tells me she went into the water off Howland." Earhart's stepson, George Palmer Putnam Jr. has been quoted as saying he believes "the plane just ran out of gas."
Thomas Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum further believes that the Earhart/Noonan Electra is "18,000 ft. down" and may even contain a range of artifacts onboard that would rival the finds of the Titanic. His analysis is tempered by the realization that "...the mystery is part of what keeps us interested. In part, we remember her because she's our favorite missing person ."
Gardner Island hypothesis
Immediately after Earhart and Noonan's disappearance, the US Navy, Paul Mantz and Earhart's mother (who convinced G.P. Putnam to undertake a search in the Gardner Group ) all expressed belief the flight had ended in the Phoenix Islands (now part of Kiribati), some 350 miles southeast of Howland Island.
The Gardner Island hypothesis has been characterized as the "most confirmed" explanation for Earhart's disappearance . The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has suggested Earhart and Noonan may have flown for two-and-a-half hours along the standard line of position Earhart noted in her last transmission received at Howland, arrived at then-uninhabited Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) in the Phoenix group, landed on an extensive reef-flat near the wreck of a large freighter and ultimately perished. TIGHAR's research has produced a range of documented, archaeological and anecdotal evidence supporting this hypothesis. For example, in 1940, Gerald Gallagher, a British colonial officer (also a licensed pilot) radioed his superiors to inform them that he believed he had found Earhart's skeleton, along with a sextant box, under a tree on the island's southeast corner. He was ordered to send the remains to Fiji where, in 1941, British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones. In 1998, an analysis of the measurement data by forensic anthropologists indicated the skeleton had belonged to a "tall white female of northern European ancestry," but could not confirm that they matched a woman of Earhart's known height. The bones were misplaced long ago, but it is known that they were found on the only portion of beach on Gardner Island that is tangent to or paralell to the 157/337 navigational line mentioned in Earhart's last confirmed transmission.
Artifacts discovered by TIGHAR on Nikumaroro have included an aluminum panel (possibly from an Electra) a woman's shoe and "Cat's Paw" heel dating from the 1930s (which resemble Earhart's footwear in a pre-takeoff photo), a man's shoe heel, improvised tools and an oddly cut piece of clear Plexiglas which is the exact thickness and curvature of an Electra window.. The evidence remains circumstantial but Earhart's surviving stepson, George Putnam Jr., has expressed enthusiasm for TIGHAR's research.
A 15-member TIGHAR expedition visited Nikumaroro from 21 July to 2 August 2007, searching for unambiguously identifiable aircraft artifacts and DNA. The group included engineers, environmentalists, a land developer, archaeologists, a sailboat designer, a team doctor and a videographer. They were reported to have found additional artifacts of as yet uncertain origin on the weather-ravaged atoll, including bearings which may have belonged to her aircraft and a zipper pull which might have come from her flight suit.
Myths, urban legends and unsupported claims
The unresolved circumstances of Amelia Earhart's disappearance, along with her fame, attracted a great body of other claims relating to her last flight, all of which have been generally dismissed by serious researchers and historians for lack of any evidence. Several of the conspiracy theories have become well-known in popular culture.
Capture by the Japanese
Spies for FDR
Some authors have claimed Earhart was captured in the South Pacific Mandate area by the Japanese. An archaeological dig on Tinian in 2004 failed to turn up any bones at a location rumored since the close of World War II to be the two aviators' grave. Purported photographs of Earhart during her captivity have been identified as having been taken before her final flight. Amy (Otis) Earhart first heard similar rumors days after Amelia's disappearance. A World War II-era movie called Flight for Freedom (1943), starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray has helped further the popular myth that Earhart was spying on the Japanese in the Pacific at the request of the Franklin Roosevelt administration. By 1949, both the United Press and US Army Intelligence had concluded these rumors were groundless. Some researchers have noted the possibility that for wartime propaganda purposes, the US government may have tacitly encouraged (or was indifferent to) false rumors that Earhart had been captured by the Japanese.
Tokyo Rose rumor
Another rumor claimed Earhart had been forced to make propaganda radio broadcasts as one of the many women known as Tokyo Rose. According to several biographies of Earhart, George Putnam investigated this rumor personally but after listening to recordings of numerous Tokyo Roses he was unable to recognize her voice among them. Jackie Cochran (herself a pioneer woman aviator and one of Earhart's best friends) made a postwar search of files in Japan and similarly dismissed the theory of Japanese involvement in the Earhart disappearance.
Saipan prison claims
In 1966, CBS Correspondent Fred Goerner wrote a book claiming Earhart and Noonan were captured and executed when their airplane crashed in the Saipan archipelago while it was under Japanese occupation. Thomas E. Devine (who served in a postal Army unit) wrote Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident which includes a letter from the daughter of a Japanese police official who claimed her father was responsible for Earhart's execution. Former U.S. Marine Robert Wallack claimed he and other soldiers opened a safe on Saipan and found Earhart's briefcase. Former US Marine Earskin J. Nabers claimed that while serving as a wireless operator on Saipan in 1944, he decoded a message from naval officials which said Earhart's plane had been found at Aslito AirField that he was later ordered to guard the plane and witnessed its destruction. In addition, in 1990, the NBC-TV series Unsolved Mysteries featured an interview with a Saipanese woman who claimed to have witnessed Earhart and Noonan's execution by Japanese soldiers. There has never been any corroboration for any of these claims.
Assuming another identity
In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired episode two of the Undiscovered History series about a claim that Earhart survived the world flight, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried and became Irene Craigmile Bolam. This claim had originally been raised in the book "Amelia Earhart Lives" (1970) by Joe Klaas. Irene Bolam had been a banker in New York during the 1940s, denied being Earhart, filed a lawsuit requesting $1.5 million in damages and submitted a lengthy affidavit in which she refuted the claims. The book's publisher, McGraw-Hill, withdrew the book from the market shortly after it was released and court records indicate that they made an out of court settlement with her. Subsequently, Bolam's personal life history was thoroughly documented by researchers, eliminating any possibility she was Earhart. Kevin Richland, a professional criminal forensic expert hired by National Geographic, studied photographs of both women and cited many measurable facial differences between Earhart and Bolam.
Amelia Earhart was a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a young age have driven her lasting fame in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and scores of books have been written about her life which is often cited as a motivational tale, especially for girls. Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon.
Records and achievements
Woman's world altitude record: 14,000 ft (1928)
First woman to fly the Atlantic (1930)
Speed records for 100 km (and with 500 lb cargo) (1931)
First woman to fly an autogyro (1931)
Altitude record for autogyros: 15,000 ft (1931)
First person to cross the US in an autogyro (1932)
First woman to fly the Atlantic solo (1932)
First person to fly the Atlantic alone twice (1932)
First woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (1932)
First woman to fly non-stop, coast-to-coast across the US (1933)
Woman's speed transcontinental record (1933)
First person to fly solo across the Pacific between Honolulu, Hawaii and Oakland, California (1935)
First person to fly solo from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico (1935)
First person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City, Mexico to Newark, New Jersey (1935)
Speed record for east-to-west flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii (1937)
Books by Earhart
Amelia Earhart was a successful and heavily promoted writer who served as aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine from 1928 to 1930. She wrote magazine articles, newspaper columns, essays and published two books based upon her experiences as a flyer during her lifetime:
20 Hrs., 40 Min. (1928) was a journal of her experiences as the first woman passenger on a transatlantic flight.
The Fun of It (1932) was a memoir of her flying experiences and an essay on women in aviation.
Last Flight (1937) featured the periodic journal entries she sent back to the United States during her world flight attempt, published in newspapers in the weeks prior to her final departure from New Guinea. Compiled by her husband GP Putnam after she disappeared over the Pacific, many historians consider this book to be only partially Earhart's original work.
Two notable memorial flights by female aviators subsequently followed Earhart's original circumnavigational route.
In 1967, Ann Dearing Holtgren Pellegrino and a crew of three successfully flew a similar aircraft (a Lockheed 10A Electra) to complete a world flight that closely mirrored Earhart's flight plan. On the 30th anniversary of her disappearance, Pellegreno dropped a wreath in Earhart's honor over tiny Howland Island and returned to Oakland, completing the 28,000-mile commemorative flight on 7 July 1967.
In 1997, on the 60th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's world flight, San Antonio businesswoman Linda Finch retraced the final flight path flying the same make and model of aircraft as Earhart, a restored 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E. Finch touched down in 18 countries before finishing the trip two and a half months later when she arrived back at Oakland Airport on 28 May 1997.
In 2001, another commemorative flight retraced the route undertaken by Amelia Earhart in her August 1928 trans-continental record flight. Dr. Carlene Mendieta flew an original Avro Avian, the same type that was used in 1928.
Amelia Earhart Centre And Wildlife Sanctuary was established at the site of her 1932 landing in Northern Ireland, Ballyarnet Country Park, Derry.
The "Earhart Tree" at the State Capital grounds, Hawaii was planted by Amelia Earhart in 1935.
The Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship Awards were established in 1938.
"Earhart Light" (also known as the "Amelia Earhart Light"), is a day beacon on Howland Island (said to be crumbling).
The Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships (established in 1939 by The Ninety-Nines), provides scholarships to women for advanced pilot certificates and ratings, jet type ratings, college degrees and technical training.
In 1942, a United States Liberty ship named SS Amelia Earhart was launched (it was wrecked in 1948).
Amelia Earhart Field (1947), formerly Masters Field and Miami Municipal Airport, after closure in 1959, the Amelia Earhart Regional Park was dedicated in an area of undeveloped federal government land located north and west of the former Miami Municipal Airport and immediately south of Opa-locka Airport.
The Purdue University Amelia Earhart Scholarship is based on academic merit and leadership and is open to juniors and seniors enrolled in any school at the West Lafayette campus. After being discontinued in the 1970s, a donor resurrected the award in 1999.
Amelia Earhart Commemorative Stamp (8¢ airmail postage) was issued in 1963 by the United States Postmaster-General.
The Civil Air Patrol Amelia Earhart Award (since 1964) is awarded to cadets who have completed the first 11 achievements of the cadet program along with receipt of the General Billy Mitchell Award.
Member of National Women's Hall of Fame (1973).
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace, Atchison, Kansas (a museum and National Historic Site, owned and maintained by The Ninety-Nines).
Amelia Earhart Airport, located in Atchison, Kansas.
Amelia Earhart Bridge, located in Atchison, Kansas.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Alameda, California.
Amelia Earhart International Baccalaureate World School, located in Indio, California.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Hialeah, Florida.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Lafayette, Indiana.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Goddard, Kansas.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Dallas, Texas.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School, located in Provo, Utah.
Amelia Earhart Hotel, located in Wiesbaden, Germany, originally used as a hotel for women, then as temporary military housing is now operated as the United States Army Contracting Agency office.
Amelia Earhart Road, located in Oklahoma City (headquarters of The Ninety-Nines), Oklahoma.
UCI Irvine Amelia Earhart Award (since 1990).
Amelia Earhart Intermediate School, located in Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.
Member of Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1992).
Earhart Foundation, located in Ann Arbor, MI. Established in 1995, the foundation funds research and scholarship through a network of 50 "Earhart professors" across the United States.
Amelia Earhart Festival (annual event since 1996),located in Atchison, Kansas.
Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award, Atchison, Kansas: Since 1996, the Cloud L. Cray Foundation provides a $10,000 women’s scholarship to the educational institution of the honoree’s choice.
Amelia Earhart Earthwork in Warnock Lake Park, Atchison, Kansas. Stan Herd created the one-acre landscape mural from permanent plantings and stone to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Earhart's birth. Located at 39.537621° N 95.145158° W and best viewed from the air.
Earhart Corona, a corona on Venus was named by the (IAU).
Greater Miami Aviation Association Amelia Earhart Award for outstanding achievement (2006); first recipient: noted flyer Patricia "Patty" Wagstaff.
On 6 December 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Amelia Earhart into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) was named in her honor in May 2007.
Amelia Earhart's life has spurred the imaginations of many writers and others:
The 1943 Rosalind Russell film Flight for Freedom derived from a treatment, Stand by to Die, was a fictionalized treatment of Earhart's life, with a heavy dose of Hollywood World War II propaganda.
In the 1962 play written by Arthur Kopit, "Chamber Music," which takes place in an insane asylum, one of the characters believes that she is Amelia Earhart. Ironically, in the context of the play, it is suggested that she could actually be Amelia Earhart, based on the time frame.
In David Lippincott's 1970 novel, E Pluribus Bang!, the protagonist, the former President of the United States disappears and is taken to a Pacific island where he meets an aged Earhart and is told that until his death, Judge Joseph Crater lived on the island.
Possibly the first tribute album dedicated to the legend of Amelia Earhart was by Plainsong, "In Search of Amelia Earhart," Elektra K42120, released in 1972. Both the album and the Press Pak released by Elektra are highly prized by collectors and have reached cult status.
Singer Joni Mitchell wrote a song called "Amelia" on her 1976 album, Hejira, based on Amelia Earhart's legacy.
A 1976 television bio production titled Amelia Earhart starring Susan Clark and John Forsythe included flying by Hollywood stunt pilot Frank Tallman whose late partner in Tallmantz Aviation, Paul Mantz, had tutored Earhart in the 1930s.
Clive Cussler's 1992 book, Sahara mentions Amelia Earhart when talking about a fictional female pilot from the same era, who also disappeared.
Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994) starring Diane Keaton, Rutger Hauer and Bruce Dern was initially released as TV movie and subsequently released as a theatrical feature.
The Star Trek: Voyager episode, "The 37s," (1995) suggests that Earhart and Noonan were kidnapped by aliens (the Briori) in 1937, taken to the Delta Quadrant and placed in stasis, where they were found in 2371 by Captain Kathryn Janeway but chose to remain on the far side of the galaxy instead of returning to Earth; like other Earhart-related fiction, a romance between Earhart and Noonan is implied. (The Star Trek franchise also established that one of Starfleet's main space stations in the 24th century is named after Earhart).
I Was Amelia Earhart (1996) is a faux autobiography by Jane Mendelsohn in which "Earhart" tells the story of what happened to her in 1937, complete with heavy doses of romance with her navigator.
Flying Blind (1999) by Max Allan Collins is a detective novel in which the intrepid Nathan Heller is hired to be a bodyguard for Amelia Earhart. Before long they become lovers (her marriage to Putnam being described as being a union in name only), and later Heller helps her to try to escape from the Japanese following her ill-fated flight.
Earhart is mentioned in the song "Someday We'll Know" (1999) by the New Radicals, later covered by Mandy Moore and Jonathan Foreman for the movie A Walk to Remember. The lyrics are: "Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart? Who holds the stars up in the sky?"
Singer/songwriter Deb Talan's second album, "Something Burning" (2000), begins with a song called "Thinking Amelia." The song goes on to suggest that Earhart had a "one-in-a-million bad day."
Earhart's likeness was included among the icons in Apple Computer's "Think Different" advertising campaign (2002) and is now a sought-after collectible.
In Christopher Moore's 2003 novel, Fluke, Earhart survived her wreck and appears as the mother of one of the characters.
The song "Aviator" by Nemo, which appears on their 2004 debut LP Signs of Life, was written about Amelia Earhart's last flight.
The song "I Miss My Sky," written by Heather Nova for her 2005 album Redbird, is dedicated to Earhart, suggesting that she survived on an island after her disappearance.
Banjo player Curtis Eller of Curtis Eller's American Circus has also written a song about Earhart's disappearance, "Amelia Earhart" in his "Taking Up Serpents Again" release (2005). One of the lyrics poignantly states that she, "disappeared in a cloudbank and the static never cleared."
The Canadian Hip Hop artist Buck 65 links Amelia Earhart and other iconic women Neko Case and Frida Kahlo in the song "Blood of a Young Wolf" (2006) from the album Secret House Against The World.
English singer/songwriter Tom McRae's fourth album King of Cards (2007) features a song called "The Ballad of Amelia Earhart."