Amelia Earhart’s Flight Around the Globe
Amelia Earhart in March, 1937
Amelia Earhart was famous for many things. She was an aviation pioneer who was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was a member of the National Women's Party, a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, a charter member of the Ninety-Nines (a professional organization of women pilots), and a career counselor to women students at Purdue University.
But what she is best known for is her failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe by air in 1937.
She had been planning the attempt for a few years, and although it would not be the first time a person had circled the globe by air, the route she choose would follow the equator which would make it the longest route. Amelia first made the attempt in March of 1937, when technical problems forced her to give up the attempt. For her next attempt she choose a new plane, a Lockheed Electra 10E, which was modified to fit a larger fuel tank.
She wasn't flying alone. It was important to have a navigator along. Air navigation maps were new and often inaccurate. So who would be best qualified to help navigate an airplane across the ocean? A ship's captain. She selected two: Captain Harry Manning, captain of the transatlantic ship the President Roosevelt which had brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928 after her flight across the Atlantic, and Fred Noonan, a licensed ship captain who had worked for the pioneering airline Pan Am, where he was responsible for navigating the route and training the pilots for the Pacific Ocean air routes between San Francisco and Manila. The plan was to fly the Pacific portion with Noonan, the Atlantic portion with Captain Manning ... and the final leg by herself.
The flight started in Oakland, California on May 20, 1937, and the plan was to triumphantly return to Oakland on July 4th. There were planned stops for rest, refueling and repairs, and for the most part the flight was progressing successfully.
Amelia Earhart, 1928
With the trip almost completed, on July 2nd Amelia and Noonan left Lae Airfield in New Guinea, headed for Howland Island, a small uninhabited island about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. The United States Coast Guard ship The Itasca was stationed at the the tiny island, ready to guide her in by radio and then allow her to refuel.
But Amelia never made it to Howland Island.
Amelia Earhart Flight Route
Radio transmission was difficult and sketchy, and it's been suggested that the different equipment in Amelia's plane and The Itasca made it impossible for them to communicate on the same radio frequency. The Itasca couldn't hear her well, and when they heard her say "We must be on you, but cannot see you - but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio" they knew that she couldn't hear The Itasca at all. At one point Amelia started whistling over the radio, hoping that The Itasca could locate her better with a continuous signal. The Itasca used their oil fired boilers to create black smoke, hoping that Amelia could see the black puffs of smoke in the air to help her locate the island, but if she saw it she didn't give any indication that she did.
So what happened? Nobody knows. The search for Amelia's plane officially began just one hour after her last transmission, and the search lasted for 17 days, until July 19th. After the official search ended her husband paid for additional private searches. New theories and "evidence" occasionally pop up, but no conclusive clues to her disappearance have ever been found.
It is most likely that Amelia ran out of fuel and crashed into the water, or landed on another island and either died on impact or survived for a few days. During the search some reported hearing radio signals for the first few days, but there were so many planes and boats searching for her that it is impossible to know if the signals came from Amelia or from fellow searchers.
Several theories have surfaced over the years ...
She was shot down by the Japanese ... and they captured her airplane to copy the technology for their own. (This was before the start of World War II, but while international tensions were rising). It was also reported that she had been kept alive and years later was one of the many "Tokyo Rose" women, American-sounding women used by the Japanese to send demoralizing messages to American soldiers over the radio during WWII. The theory was accepted enough that Amelia's husband listened to the Tokyo Rose recordings, but said he didn't recognize any as his wife's voice.
Another theory is that she faked her own death then moved to New Jersey, remarried and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. This theory was proclaimed in a book published in 1970. It was later disproved, and Mrs. Bolam was not at all pleased with the attention she received from the false allegation. The publisher quickly removed the book and paid a private settlement to Mrs. Bolam.
We like this theory ... She was captured by aliens. ... 'nuff said!
Amelia Earhart. Because of a gap between her front teeth, she was advised to smile with her mouth closed for formal photos.
Amelia left a letter to her husband, to be opened in case the flight was her last, stating: "Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others." ... It seems that she knew her failure could be just as inspiring as her success.
Would you like the excitement of circumnavigating the globe - without the danger? FiberWild!'s new Sock of the Month: World Traveler series is called Around the World in 12 Socks. You'll visit 12 exciting places around the world and knit a new sock inspired by the landscape and culture of each location, all without ever leaving your favorite knitting chair! The odds of you mysteriously disappearing while knitting around the world are fairly slim, and the only equipment failure you will experience is that awful "ping" you hear when you drop a knitting needle on the hardwood floor.
Pack your bags (I mean your knitting bag, of course!) ... and let's fly! Happy Knitting! ... Scout