This week we’ll add a new section of facts we’ll simply call mysteries. These will still be facts, but will be events or people surrounded in mystery.
One of the great and tragic stories in recent American history is that of Amelia Earhart. An extraordinary woman who overcame substantial prejudices and bigotry, infamously went missing in 1937 in an attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world.
At the age of 10, Earhart became fascinated by planes after attending an air show in which a pilot, in an effort to scare Earhart and her friend, who were standing in an isolated field, dived toward them. Earhart’s response was to stand her ground. She believed that the plane spoke to her that day. At the age of 22, took her first flying lesson on January 3 1921. Only six months later she purchased her first plane “the Canary, which she would use to set the record for being the first woman to fly above 14,000 feet.
Earhart was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was presented to her after her attempt at flying the Atlantic solo in 1932, which she had already completed with two other men in 1928, however this was her first solo expedition. Ultimately the journey was not completed due to mechanical problems and weather which inundated much of the flight. Instead of landing at her intended destination, Paris, she had to set her plane down in a pasture near Londonberry, Ireland. Earhart believed that this flight showed the equality of men and women when it came to “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, and will power.”
Amelia Earhart’s doomed journey around the world had all but been completed. At a total distance of 29,000 miles, only 7,000 remained when she and navigator Fred Noonan took off from Lae, New Guinea. This was to be the most difficult leg of the journey however, with 2,556 miles between them and their next destination, Howland Island, every calculation and marker had to be perfect. Howland Island is a very small island in the middle of the Pacific, measuring only a mile and a half long by half a mile wide.
The U.S. Coastguard cutter ITASCA was their radio contact, stationed just off Howland Island, as well as additional support from two other U.S. ships located along the flight path as markers, were setup to help them complete the flight to the tiny island.
Due to cloudy skies Noonan’s typical method of celestial navigation became difficult. At 7:42am on July 3rd, Earhart requested that the ITSACA take their bearings, yet after continually sending those transmissions it was apparent she was having difficulty hearing them. In a later message sent to the ITSACA, Earhart stated “we must be on you but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” The Coast Guard again tried to replay but, they appeared to not have received the transmissions. The last message received from Earhart simply said, “we are running north and south.”
After the largest air and sea search in naval history, the search for Amelia Earhart was reluctantly ended in 1938. Theories of Earhart’s fate range from crashing at sea, to landing on a deserted island, to Japanese capture. Despite conspiracy theorists and conflicting reports, no evidence of Earhart or Noonan have ever been found.