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Amelia Earhart Disappearance
  1. Amelia's Accomplishments
  2. The Flight
  3. The Search
  4. Theories of the Disappearance


Amelia's Accomplishments

Legendary Emelia EarhartAmelia Earhart, or 'Lady Lindy', had already crossed the Gulf of Mexico and flown the Atlantic alone.  But on July 2, 1937, while flying what she described to a friend as 'her last flight', the 2,556 mile last leg of a trek around the world ended mysteriously.


The Flight

Thirty-nine year-old Amelia and her expert navigator, forty-four year-old Fredrick Noonan must have been exhausted after already flying 22,000 miles of their fateful (?) journey.  Their journey had begun on May 21, 1937.  In a newly rebuild Electra, Emelia had changed their original flight plan due to adverse weather conditions in the Caribbean and Africa.  They had 22,000 miles out of the way with only 7,000 miles remaining.  The 2,556 mile leg from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island was considered extremely hap hazardous - the 1 1/2 mile long island being difficult to find even with today's modern equipment.  Add to that the fact that the distance they would be required to cover would conserve almost all of the fuel in their custom designed Lockheed Electra fuel tanks (they left with 1,000 gallons of fuel, enough to last 20 hours of flying), and you can see that the flight was risky to say the least.

The U.S. government had stationed naval ships along Earhart's route of flight and had the Coast Guard cutter Itasca anchored off the island to provide directional assistance.  At 3:45am, about four hours before her estimated arrival time, Earhart made her first radio contact with the Itasca. There would only be a few more of these contacts before the world never heard from Amelia again.

Amelia made several requests for bearings - at 6:14a.m., 6:45a.m., and 7:42a.m.   During her last request she commented that 'we must be on you but cannot see you' indicating that she and her expert navigator felt that they must have been right on target but may have been concerned about finding the island.  Another contact was made at 8:00a.m. requesting yet another bearing.   At 8:44 Amelia made her last harried transmission - 'We are on the line of position 157 - 337.  We are running north and south'.  She was never heard from again.


The Search

The fleet of Navy ships and the cutter Itasca, who had never once 'spotted' Amelia's plane, began one of the largest search and rescue missions the world has even seen.   40,000 men in 10 ships and 65 airplanes scoured the Pacific searching for even the smallest trace of Amelia's Electra.  They reckoned that debris or even the lifeboat stored onboard the plane, would be visible if the plane had been ditched into the ocean.  During the several days of searching they found nothing, even though most believed that the empty fuel tanks on the Electra would keep the entire plane afloat.  On July 18, after $4 million in costs, the search was called off.  George Palmer Putnum, the New York publisher who set up the attempted flight, continued the search until October at which time he too gave up hope.

Please know I am quite aware of the hazards...I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others. - Ameila in a letter to George Putnum


Theories of the Disappearance

Several theories abound attempting to explain the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.  One popular theory is that Amelia successfully landed the airplane on one of the smaller uninhabited islands in the area.  Modern day searchers have discovered the remains of what appears to be an Electra craft, on one of the islands (location not disclosed).  Along with the remains of the craft they found several articles of clothing and evidence the pilots of the downed aircraft may have survived for quite some time.

Some zanier theorists hold that Amelia purposely crashed the plane into the Pacific on a suicide run.  Others conclude that she was captured by the Japanese and forced to broadcast to America GIs as 'Tokyo Rose'.

Another popular theory holds that Amelia guided the Electra north on a clandestine spy mission for the American government to photograph and study the highly secretive Japanese fortifications at Truk, in the Caroline Islands.  Shot down or out of fuel, the doomed pilots crash-landed in the Japanese held Marshall Islands and were either executed or jailed.  Hundreds of eyewitness reports abound of two Americans pilots, on a woman, coming down in the Marshalls around 1937.  To date, the Japanese government has denied these allegations.


Modern Searches

The 'Earhart Project', launched in 1988 by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovey (TIGHAR), seeks to solve the Amelia Earhart mystery using modern day technologies and an extensive worldwide network of investigators.  You can view their latest finding on the TIGHAR web site.

Related Links

The Amelia Earhart Disappearance is one of the most notable historical disappearances to date.  You can get more information on these sites:

- The Earhart Tragedy
- Earhart FBI documents
- The History Channel



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