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.

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