75 years ago this month, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart vanished. Today, a group of searchers looking for proof that her plane crashed on a remote Pacific atoll returned to Hawaii, having failed to find evidence that her plane crashed on Nikumaroro. More on the ongoing search: CNN, NatGeo, CSM, Guardian. There are many theories about what happened, but no closure.
Earhart’s birthday is today. If she were still alive, she would be celebrating her 115th birthday. Google has a doodle up in her honor:
Over at the Open Culture blog, Mike Springer has a post about her life.
The famous American flier and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off on July 2, 1937 from Lae, Papua New Guinea in a custom-made Lockheed Electra 10E airplane on the most perilous leg of their attempted round-the-world journey.
Their goal was to reach tiny Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean, more than 2,500 miles from Lae. As Earhart and Noonan neared the end of their 20-hour flight (it was still July 2–they had crossed the International Dateline) they planned to make contact with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca, stationed just off the island, and use radio signals to guide their way in. Howland Island is only a half mile wide and a mile and a half long. The communications crew of the Itasca heard several radio transmissions from Earhart, but for some reason she and Noonan were apparently unable to hear the ship’s responses. “We must be on you,” Earhart said, “but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” They never made it.
Two great video clips in the post, including one with Earhart speaking about her work in a vintage newsreel.
If you’re in Washington, DC any time soon, you really must check out the small but excellent exhibit on Earhart at the National Portrait Gallery. I visited over the weekend, and it was one of my favorite museum experiences in years. It includes artifacts from her life, photographs, portraits, even her aviator’s helmet.
And my favorite item: the letter she wrote her soon-to-be husband George Putnam, before they were married, explaining the terms under which she would agree to marry him. Those terms included a mutual agreement to allow each other to fall in love with other people. Amelia Earhart, polyamorous pioneer?
You can view more videos from the Earhart exhibition here.
Image: A detail from Amelia Earhart’s first pilot’s license. “She was only the sixteenth woman to receive a pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the governing body of sports aviation.”