There is always someone in our lives we admire from afar. I have always been intrigued by Amelia Earhart.
I would describe her as passionate, strong, determined, courageous, and full of adventure. She was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas, and did a tremendous amount for aviation and women in her 39 years of life. The National Amelia Earhart Day is celebrated on July 24.
Earhart’s story still appeals to people today not only for the numerous aviation records she set but also for the mystery surrounding the events of her disappearance on July 2, 1937, the last time anyone heard a voice transmission from her. She was endeavoring to become the first woman to fly around the world. Earhart was piloting a twin-engine Lockheed 10E Electra with Frederick Noonan as her navigator. On June 1, 1937, they left Miami on what was a 29,000-mile journey with stops to refuel. On June 29, 1937, they arrived at Lae, New Guinea with 7,000 miles left to fly. The next stop was Howland Island in the mid-Pacific Ocean where they would refuel. Howland Island is about half a mile wide, a mile and a half long, 2,556 miles from Lae, and merely a dot in the middle of the ocean. It is owned by the U.S. and has a weather observation station and a landing strip. Itasca, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, was monitoring transmissions from Earhart. According to history.com, “Itasca was in sporadic radio contact with Earhart as she approached Howland Island and received messages that she was lost and running low on fuel. Soon after, she probably tried to ditch the Lockheed in the ocean. No trace of Earhart or Noonan was ever found.”
What happened? No one knows, but theories abound. Some thought if Earhart could have successfully landed on the water, she and Noonan might survive by using their life raft. Another theory claims the pair were rescued near the Marshall Islands by the Japanese but were presumed to be spies and killed. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery believes since Earhart had flown off course, she landed on Gardner Island (now called Nikumaroro) which was uninhabited. They could have survived on this island as castaways and eventually died there. The group made many trips to the island and found artifacts they believe might be associated with Earhart and Noonan. In 2017, they took four border collies to the island who were trained in finding skeletal remains but nothing turned up. Another theory was that the U.S. government knew where Earhart was and did nothing. A two-week search authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt involving the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy found nothing. The search cost about $4 million and covered 250,000 square miles of ocean. Another theory is that they served as spies for the Roosevelt administration. When they returned to the U.S., they were given new identities. The wreckage from the plane has never been found. Earhart and Noonan were declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937.
Another interesting item was a photo published in later years supposedly showing Earhart and Noonan on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It shows a woman with her back to the camera but gazing off to the side. The photo caused quite a stir and a two-hour documentary aired on July 9, 2017 entitled “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” The photo was later discredited as being taken two years before Earhart would have taken her last flight.
Earhart was a leader. Considered a tomboy, she played basketball, climbed trees, hunted rats with a .22 rifle, and took an auto repair course. Earhart was a nurse’s aide for the Red Cross during World War I. She took flying lessons and paid for them by working as a filing clerk at the Los Angeles Telephone Company. In 1921, Earhart received her license and purchased her first plane. It was bright yellow and she named it “The Canary.” She used this plane to set her first female pilot’s record of flying solo at 14,000 feet.
Earhart was the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo in 1932 (five years after Charles Lindbergh). She started in Newfoundland and headed to Paris but due to strong winds and other conditions landed in a pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress – the first female to whom it was ever given.
She was the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the U.S. Earhart was an organizer of the all-women pilots’ group called The Ninety-Nines and also became a designer of flight clothes for women that appeared in Vogue.
On February 7, 1931 Earhart married George P. Putnam, a publisher, promoter, and author. She kept her last name. Still being independent, she was known as saying that her marriage was “a partnership with dual control.” Earhart wrote a book, gave lectures, and endorsed many products with Putnam as her advisor.
According to ameliaearhart.com, “In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a monumental, and final, challenge saying, "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it.’”
In a letter to Putnam to be read in case of a fatality, Earhart wrote, “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.”
Life is a journey. Live your passion.