Amelia Earhart: Aviation mystery

December 30, 2017
AmelieEarhart-70th Anniversary of Last Flight

Commemorative cover issued for the 70th anniversary of her last flight.

Amelia Earhart the greatest female aviator of all time and a female icon disappeared on July 2, 1937 without a trace. She and navigator Fred Noonan were flying from New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific on the final leg a their attempt to circumnavigate the globe. At the time she was world famous and a celebrity idol.

Born July 24, 1897, Amelia had a thirst for flying. Between 1930 and 1935 she set seven women’s speed and distance aviation records.

Amelia became the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20, 1932. She also was first aviator to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California on June 11, 1935. These were just two of the significant aviation records she set during her career.

One of her goals was to circumnavigate the globe as a solo pilot. She would still need a navigator. All her planning aimed toward that achievement.

In 1937 she began final preparations. At the time she was at the height of her fame. Amelia was a feminist icon inspiring thousands of female aviators. Her charismatic appeal stemmed from her independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, her courage and goal oriented career.

20170411221225!Amelia_Earhart_standing_under_nose_of_her_Lockheed_Model_10-E_Electra,_small

Standing under her Electra in March 1937. Photo: Underwood & Underwood, Public Domain

Amelia did marry publisher George Putnam but they never had children. He was referred to as “Mr. Earhart” and supported her in her career. She retains lasting fame even today some 80 years later.

So what happened and how did she disappear? No one really knows the full answer but there are many theories that have developed over the years.

The most prevalent theories are, Crash & Sink, Gardner Island (Nikumaroro now), and Japanese capture. The first crash and sink is one most historians accept with death resulting on impact or shortly after. The Gardner Island theory says they ditched their plane in the waters off the island and survived only to eventually perish when rescue did not come. Some believe the Japanese military captured them and executed them. There is no firm proof of the last.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) strongly believes in the Gardner Island scenario and has so far sent ten expeditions to investigate. Their extensive research has produced archaeological and anecdotal evidence supporting this theory over the others. It’s possible that some day we will discover the truth about the fate of Earhart and Noonan we’ll just have to wait and see.

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G-7 Pledge: No carbon by the year 2100.

June 13, 2015

white-semi-truckThe G-7 or Group of 7 major industrialized nations at their summit this week pledged to reduce the carbon footprint in their economies, and further to completely remove all carbon by the year 2100 or 85 years from now. The G-7 includes Canada, the United States, European countries like Germany, France and the UK, and Asian powerhouse Japan. Eighty-five years sounds like a long time, but think for a moment what no carbon would mean to our society and our lifestyle expectations.

It means no carbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel allowed. Planes, trains and automobiles will no longer exist in our world unless they were powered by non-carbon fuels. That means no coal, no natural gas and no crude oil in any form. They’re all are carbon-based.

Hydrogen, nuclear, solar or wind power are the potential alternatives. Visualize cars and trucks adorned with sails moving on our highways much like the sailors of old. Perhaps solar panels will be much smaller and more efficient by then and drivers will have vehicles constructed of solar panels top to bottom. When the wind dies we’ll be stranded, becalmed like sailors of old, or if it’s cloudy or when night falls drivers will be unable to go further that day.

Electric cars are also an option but remember the power to charge them is generated now by fossil fuels (carbon). Proliferation of electric powered cars means more power to be generated.

Nuclear power is non-carbon but we’d have to develop compact nuclear reactors to power our vehicles. Would we really want millions of nuclear cores traveling down our highways and byways at high speed. Accidents might result in nuclear explosions or at best meltdowns and radioactive releases to the atmosphere on a routine basis. Massive amounts of nuclear waste would be generated as a byproduct.

Hydrogen is a non-carbon fuel. Best of all it can be sourced from water an abundant resource. Water is H2O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Separation is an expensive process today, but could become cheap if there was a demand. The biggest disadvantage to hydrogen is his extreme explosiveness. It is downright dangerous to handle.

boeing-787-dreamliner_100416655_mAirplanes will be drastically smaller and slower powered by solar or wind power. Traveling around the world will take a vast amount of time. Tourism will become localized. Trips to faraway places will be a thing of the past.

Unless a viable non-carbon alternative fuel is discovered between now and 2100, society will be forced to live a slower pace and stick closer to home. The goods we enjoy today that come to us over long distances will no longer be available. As an example fresh fruit and vegetables in the winter will be a thing of the past.

Society will be markedly low-tech. Our high tech society will cease to exist. Carbon based chemicals are a necessary part of our computers and high tech toys and tools. Replacements don’t presently exist for those chemicals derived from carbon.

I’m not a scientist or an inventor, but I have a hard time imagining where the cheap, abundant alternative to carbon-based fuels and chemicals will come from. I’m not saying a complete phase out of carbon-based fuels and chemicals can’t be accomplished, but it’ll take a complete reinvention of our society and its expectations.


Fly me to the moon: Cool pic day

October 28, 2010

Boeing 747 photo Gerard Julien/AFP Getty Images


Glenn Miller – Another Mysterious Disappearance

February 10, 2010

On December 15, 1944 Glenn Miller took off in a light plane from England to entertain troops in France. The weather at the time was atrocious and he was told to wait, but he said the troops needed him. He disappeared somewhere over the English Channel. No trace of him or his plane have ever been found. He was only 40 years old.

Glenn Miller was arguably the greatest Big Band leader of the era. His music was the anthem of the 1940’s. Girls swooned and men cheered his band’s sound. It was like rock and roll today.

During the Second World War he and his band volunteered to travel to the war zone and entertain the troops. They also traveled all over the United States building morale and selling War Bonds.

His story was told in the 1953 movie, “The Glenn Miller Story”, starring James Stewart.

On this day in 1942 he was awarded the first ever Gold Record for selling 1.2 million copies of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. Other great songs include, “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, and “Pennsylvania 6-5000”.

The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in 1996 honoring him. It is shown below.


Amelia Earhart – What Really Happened to Her?

January 29, 2010

1963 U.S. Airmail Stamp for Amelia

Amelia Earhart was the most famous female aviator of her time, and arguably one of the most famous people of her era as well. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and only the second person to do so. Amelia was the first person to fly across the Pacific from Hawaii to San Francisco. She also set many speed and distance record for flying during the 1930’s.

She was attempting to fly around the world in 1937 when she vanished in the Pacific Ocean around the Phoenix group of islands.

With a major motion picture coming out called “Amelia” starring Richard Gere and Hillary Swank (as Amelia), I thought it would be interesting to speculate on one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

Her plane, navigator Fred Noonan, and Amelia disappeared on July 2, 1937 while attempting to land on Howland Island for refueling. Radio contact was maintained, albeit one-sided until the end. Amelia’s signal could be heard, but she wasn’t receiving radio transmissions. An extensive ground and air search was undertaken by the US Navy at FDR’s request. No trace was ever found of her or her plane.

There are two main schools of thought on what happened to her. The first is that she landed on Gardner Island SSE of Howland. This is an uninhabited coral atoll well out of the shipping lands and with no source of fresh water. The theory is she and Fred survived the landing and lived for a couple of months, then succumbed. In 1940 traces of someone’s camp and bones were found. Further archeological digs have been done on the island, but no direct evidence or smoking gun have been found. This theory maintains the Lockheed Electra she was flying broke up and pieces washed out to sea or were scavaged by local natives. Again no direct evidence supports this.

The other theory and more likely one is that the plane and its passengers ran out of fuel and ditched at sea in 17.000 feet of deep Pacific water. Deep sidescan sonar searches are done yearly to cover an area the size of Rhode Island in trying to find the plane. These searchers believe that eventually they will be successful, and that it’s only a matter of time.

There was also a theory she and Fred were captured by the Japanese, tortured and killed. Research by American and Japanese experts have disproved this one. No partial or direct evidence exists to support this. It is pure speculation, and highly unlikely.

Will one of the world’s greatest mysteries ever be solved? Stay tuned.


Travels With The Gang: Christmas in Maui

March 25, 2008

damiangirls.jpgI know it’s a little late, but I finally put my notes together and here is another adventure we had with the kids. Over Christmas our family vacationed in Maui.

Here I was planning on confining myself for nine hours on an airplane with the gang. Was I crazy? Damian, my dynamic six year old, and three year old twins, Claire and Livia. Would this be a vacation? Sure I thought hopefully. The time in Hawaii maybe, the flight, well that might be another story.

My wife and I loaded their carry-ons with games, coloring books, markers, books and of course goodies and snacks. Will there be enough to last nine hours? That was the million dollar question.

The trek starts with waking them out of a sound sleep at 2:30 in the morning. As usual when you want them to wake up, they want to sleep. You can bet that if we wanted them to sleep, they would be up and ready to go.

Finally we get up. Next we are waiting for the cab to take us to the airport. The cab shows up at 3:30. We load up and then the cat escapes into the cold darkness. Damian and I are chasing it around the yard and it is managing to make us look like fools. At last we pounce on her and toss her back into the warmth of the house, With the cat rescued from death by deep freeze we are on our way to the airport.

At the airport we get lucky and are near the first of the line. Check in, customs pre-clearance and security goes well. Damian is convinced to remove the wheels from his Heelies. Claire refuses to let security x-ray her “little Barney”. This is one of her favorite stuffed toys, she is a Barney freak, and she is not about to part with it. Finally we manage to get it in the x-ray and returned to her. God knows it might have contained a bomb.

The first leg of the flight, Calgary to Denver, goes well. Kids are on their best behavior. The food holds out and the batteries are still working.

Damian sits with me and says, “Dad when we get to Maui I am going to run into the room, get my swim suit on, and jump into the pool.” I decide then and there I better catch some zzzz so I can keep up with him. So I make that my goal. We’ll see how that works out.

Next we board the plane to Hawaii. After sitting on the tarmack for over one hour waiting for “connecting” passengers and their bags, we finally start moving. Halfway through the flight, “the boy” decides it is time to pester the sisters. Hell, it’s been way too quiet and uneventful, at least in his opinion. A melee ensures and separation is the order of the day. When we finally get his “engine” at an idle peace settles over the passenger compartment of the jetliner.

Food has run out and we still have 4 hours to go! My kingdom for some M&Ms. Are we there yet? No that is not the kids braying that, it’s me desparately hoping the pilot has made a mistake and the islands will suddenly appear and we will be on solid ground where I can actually give them a timeout.

Turns out that United Airlines has a contest to see how long it takes to get halfway. I can tell them. It takes several fights and lots of crying, from the kids, and parents before reach that milestone.

They say that countries will always find a way to start a war. My kids parallel the Middle East, any excuse will do. Share is not a word in their vocabulary.

Finally we are at the condo. Very nice one bedroom with large pullout in the common area. The kids decide they all want to sleep in the king-size pullout. They are so tired that it works out well. Damian in the middle with sisters on either side. Big brother is so good to them.

Before bed they go swimming with Uncle Mac, Colin and Caleigh. Meanwhile Cindy, Karen and I hike down to the nearest store for some provisions. The road is super busy with little or no sidewalk. It is so dark it is dangerous walking. We return with basics for the morning.

We are all so tired. To bed with plans for finding a nice beach in the morning.

To Lahania today and the supposedly number one beach in Maui just to the north. It was OK but lots of rocks. Very hot today. Damian and the girls had a blast in the sand building sand castles and burying Uncle Mac. Tried to get on glass bottom boat but full up so will try again tomorrow. Lahania is an historic whaling town from the 1800s with many old buildings. The old court house and jail had a huge Banyan tree in front. This building was once the capital of Hawaii. It is the spot where the official ceremony took place lowering the Hawaiian flag and raising the American flag. This made Hawaii a territory of the United States in 1888. The tree resembled an octopus with its many convoluted branches. Kids climbed all over it before we realized that we weren’t supposed to do that, oh well the kids had fun. Tomorrow snorkling and perhaps the glass bottom boat. Sure beats the heck out of the snow and ice of Calgary.

Snorkling at a local beach today. Lots of fish and a reef/rock formation that came right into shore. Not deep and good viewing. Saw about 20 different species of marine fish.

Back to the condo and a steak barbeque this evening. Christmas Eve. Strange but true. Christmas Day will be a luau on the beach. Maui is fantastic.

Christmas morning we went to Big Beach down the coast from Kihei and relaxed in the sun. Later in the afternoon we went to Lahanai to the luau. The dances and such were excellent, but food was terrible. What a disappointment. All in all a good time though. They did have a special buffet for the kids with chicken fingers and fries.

I was dreading the flight home because sister-in-law and family wouldn’t be with us. They left a day earlier, we had to spent an extra night in a hotel near the airport. I extended the rental car which was one of the smartest things I did. We spent the day at the local mall and took the kids to two movies before heading to the airport.

Turns out we were worried for no reason. The kids were so exhausted that they slept all the way back to San Francisco and then to Calgary. Damian was awake for the last two hours, but he and I watched The Simpsons on my laptop and he drew pictures.
 


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