Today we will tell you the story of Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937), an American aviation pioneer. She was the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane. We remember her today, July 24, on her birthday, because her disappearance at sea (and relative date) still remains an unsolved mystery today.
Childhood and youth of Amelia Earhart
Daughter of Amelia “Amy” Otis Earhart and Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart, Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Kansas. Like Dorothy, of the Wizard of Oz! Nicknamed Millie, Amelia has been a leader from a young age, especially with her younger sister Grace Muriel, nicknamed Pidge. They both received an unconventional and very free upbringing considering they were girls, including spending a lot of time playing outdoors.
In 1916, Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School. She closely followed the stories of successful women in men’s fields, such as film, engineering, law and advertising. Which are also the stories that we like here at Zoa Studio. How can we forget, for example, women like Ayn Rand, Jane Austen, Patti Smith, Artemisia Gentileschi, to name a few?
However, in 1917, during the First World War, Amelia joined her sister in Toronto. There she trained as a nurse and worked as a volunteer treating wounded soldiers who had returned from Europe. In 1918, a Spanish flu epidemic (which is still discussed today at the time of Covid-19) reached Toronto and Amelia continued her nursing activities. Falling ill herself, her convalescence lasted a year during which she read a lot and studied mechanics.
Flight lessons by Neta Snook
In Long Beach in 1920, Amelia Earhart and her father visited an airport. Pilot Frank Hawk offered her a first flight that changed her life. Later, Amelia would tell that while she was in the air, she suddenly she knew she had to fly.
Working in various trades to save money, she was able to afford flying lessons from another aviation pioneer, Anita “Neta” Snook, who started in January 1921. Aware of the risk of being judged by other pilots and eager to make her own dream, Amelia worked hard. But you know, this is how it is if you are a woman in a world dominated by men. You have to work twice as much to get the same result.
Six months later, Amelia bought herself a yellow biplane which she named The Canary. On October 22, 1922, Earhart reached an altitude of 4,300m, the record for an aviator at that time. On May 15, 1923, she became the sixteenth woman to obtain a pilot’s license.
Amelia Earhart: the first woman to cross the Atlantic alone by plane
In 1927, while Charles Lindbergh was flying over the Atlantic, Amy Phipps Guest expressed a desire to sponsor a similar flight with a woman. The choice fell on Amelia Earhart. The following year she left on a transatlantic flight with two companions. It is a flight for which Amelia was not trained, but this flight gave her enormous notoriety.
Upon her return, she accepted a position with Cosmopolitan, which she used to promote aviation and the role of women in the field. With Charles Lindbergh, she represented Transcontinental Air Transport and was involved in the creation of a New York-Washington line.
She continued her flights and became the first woman to make a round trip to North America.
In 1931 Amelia got married, but her marriage is a very emancipated one, in which she enjoys her freedom and her career. Earhart never had children. On May 20, 1932, her career continues: she left from Newfoundland and Labrador, for a solo flight of 14 hours and 56 minutes to Northern Ireland: she became the first woman to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone by plane.
In January 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to successfully fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, a flight previously attempted by a team. She then flied alone from Los Angeles to Mexico City and then from Mexico City to New York. She competed in long distance races and broke several women’s speed and distance records.
In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her colleague Fred Noonan attempted to circle the world from the east in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra. They disappeared at sea on July 2, 1937, after being last seen in Lae, New Guinea.
Earhart and Noonan were officially declared missing at sea on July 19, 1937, following an extensive sea and air search involving 4,000 crew members, nine ships and 66 aircraft. In recent years, Nauticos, a deep-sea research firm from Hanover, Maryland, has been looking for the Earhart aircraft, but their efforts have not been successful.
Amelia Earhart’s disappearance theories
Since the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan’s plane, theories (including conspiracy theorists) on this topic have multiplied. Let’s see the most famous ones together.
Crash and sinking in the Pacific Ocean
Many experts believe Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10 Electra never made it to Howland Island because it ran out of gas, crashed and sank in the Pacific Ocean.
The worldwide flight began in Oakland, California on May 21, 1937. On June 29, she and Noonan reached Lae, New Guinea. Days later, the duo embarked on the third final leg of the journey: a 2,556-mile non-stop flight to Howland Island, a small coral atoll in the South Pacific. There they had planned to refuel before heading to Hawaii and then to California.
At 6:14 am on July 2, Earhart and Noonan’s plane established radio contact with the United States Coast Guard (Itasca). Earhart reported they were only 200 miles away, but around 7:42 am she contacted Itasca again to say they were running out of fuel and couldn’t locate land.
Communication was choppy, and Earhart couldn’t hear most of Itasca’s responses. The plane transmitted several times before losing all contact. Earhart’s latest warped post reportedly read: “We’re on line 157-337 … we’re running on the north and south line.”
Today, many parties – including the U.S. government and experts from the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum – say the plane likely ran out of gas and crashed into the ocean, killing Earhart and Noonan.
Earhart was a secret agent
In her 2016 book Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave, author WC Jameson created a theory that Earhart was not just a pilot: she was also a spy, hired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to monitor Japanese military installations in the Marshall Islands. A sort of Mata Hari in aviation
According to Jameson, Earhart’s plane was equipped with cameras. However, the aviator’s surveillance mission does not go as planned: she is shot down by the Japanese or captured in the Marshall Islands after an accident or forced landing.
According to the story, Earhart would have been held captive for years, but Roosevelt remained silent about her where she was, not wanting the public to know that he had hired the world’s most famous aviator to guard the enemy. Meanwhile, officials altered Coast Guard records to say her plane was missing. (Jameson says he interviewed the nephew of a former U.S. Army officer, who said some high-ranking parties knew Earhart was on a spy mission.)
According to the theory, Earhart was released in 1945 and returned to the United States, she changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam and lived undercover as a banker in New Jersey. In 1982, Bolam-a.k.a. Earhart is dead.
This theory has been widely disproved and Bolam herself called it a “poorly documented hoax”. She filed a $ 1.5 million lawsuit and the book’s publisher, McGraw-Hill, withdrew the book from the market. The case appears to have been settled out of court. As for the so-called “similarity” between Bolam and Earhart, people who compared the photos of the two (including a forensic scientist hired by National Geographic) claim that they are not the same person.
Amelia Earhart captured by the Japanese
Some say Japanese forces arrested Earhart and Noonan – perhaps as spies, or simply as stranded crew members – on Saipan Island in the Northern Mariana Islands or the Marshall Islands. Eventually they died in captivity.
Several works propose variations of this theory, in particular that of Fred Goerner in The research of Amelia Earhart (1966). Goerner postulates that Earhart and Noonan crashed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Locals reportedly saw Earhart’s plane land and helped the Japanese pick it up and ship it to Saipan, nearly 2,000 miles away. As for Earhart and Noonan, they were captured alive and sent to Saipan, where they died prisoners.
In 2009, Wally Earhart, Amelia Earhart’s fourth cousin, confirmed these claims. According to him, her relative died of dysentery and Noonan died by beheading by the Japanese. (Wally Earhart declined to name his sources, so this premise is hearsay until proven otherwise.)
Recently, the Parker Hannafin Corporation, a motion control technology company, funded research efforts in the Marshall Islands, where the nonprofit search and rescue organization Amelia Research, Inc. found pieces of metal allegedly from the Earhart’s plane after it crashed. The results of the expedition were not disclosed.
Earhart died as a castaway- TIGHAR’s theory
Some people believe that Earhart and Noonan, unable to locate Howland Island, have been looking for another island to land on. The duo ended up traveling to Nikumaroro, in the peaceful republic of Kiribati, located about 350 miles southeast of Howland. There they made distress radio calls for days until their plane was washed away by the tide. Earhart (and presumably Noonan) both died as castaways.
The main proponents of this theory are members of a non-profit group called TIGHAR. Led by Richard Gillespie, they have spent decades investigating Earhart’s last flight and have visited Nikumaroro Island several times since 1989. Their expeditions have uncovered artifacts, including pieces of leather shoes, leather, fragments of a vase that it could have been freckle cream (Earhart had them) and bits of plexiglass and aluminum.
TIGHAR recent discoveries
Recently, TIGHAR made headlines by announcing that a new analysis of the bones found on Nikumaroro in 1939 or 1940 could support their explanation of the sinking. The 13 bones – including a skull, a humerus and a radius – were found along with the sole of a woman’s shoe, an empty box that may have contained a sextant and other debris. A long time ago, a doctor named D.W. Hoodless determined they belonged to an elderly man. But in 1998, TIGHAR re-examined the recorded measurements of the bones and claimed that Hoodless was wrong: they were, in fact, from a woman of the same height and ethnicity as Earhart.
On the latest round of speculation, a forensic imaging specialist named Jeff Glickman analyzed the original photos and measurements of the skeleton and noted that the skeletal forearms were particularly long, as were those of the missing pilot. However, many experts have dismissed the new findings, stating that – along with TIGHAR’s other theories – they are not strong enough to confirm Earhart’s fate.
Dorothy Cochrane, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, even stated that “Gillespie’s theory is based on conjecture and circumstances. It repeatedly ignores facts like the found sole of a women’s shoe that is the wrong size for Earhart – a fact reported by her sister”. Identification of the skeleton as female is also in doubt. In 2015, a different group of researchers noted flaws in the 1998 paper and concluded that the classification of male origin was more likely.
Earhart’s plane crashed in Papua New Guinea
In 1945, a group of Australian WWII soldiers on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, allegedly discovered the wreckage of a civilian plane in the jungle. A reconnaissance patrol card from this mission shows the plane’s build number, C / N 1055, which matches that of Earhart’s plane. Its engines also resembled those of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra.
David Billings, an Australian aeronautical engineer living in Papua New Guinea, is said to have video evidence of the discoverers and, to this day, the widow of a patrol member protects the map.
That said, Earhart should have landed in Howland, not New Britain, so Billings theorizes that he may have turned to Howland and traveled hundreds of miles to find another island. However, many people say it’s unlikely, as this theory contradicts Earhart’s latest radio messages. Also, they claim, her plane was running out of fuel for the trip.
These arguments haven’t stopped Billings and others from trying to prove their theory: in 2012 they launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund an expedition in search of the downed plane in the jungles of New Britain, but it failed to achieve its goal.
“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.” – A.Earhart
No matter what the most accredited theory is and if there is no solution to this mystery, we have to thank Amelia Earhart for everything she has done for women, in times when it was even more difficult to make her voice heard.
And Amelia’s voice has never been forgotten, so much so that it has entered mass culture.
For example, in 2009, a biopic about her life titled Amelia was made. And let’s not forget the movie The Crow. In the film she is quoted in the line: “” This the victim? ” “No, it’s Amelia Earhart. We found her, detective, and you missed it.” ».
Amelia Earhart also appears in various TV series, including Star Trek. Her story is even mentioned in Friends, which suggests how iconic and popular the aviator is.
And it also appears in literature and comics, for example in the story of Corto Maltese Mu – the lost city published by Hugo Pratt in 1990 we find the character of Tracy Eberhard, a young American aviator who lands on an island in the Pacific with her biplane: the character is obviously a tribute to Amelia Earhart, whose physiognomy also resumes.
Amelia also becomes a quote in numerous songs, including that of Joni Mitchell, another iconic woman.
And with this we greet you, always remembering that, in a real or virtual way, in life we must always “fly”.