Few female heroes have captured the public interest quite like Amelia Earhart. She was a daring aviator who was ahead of her time. She was America’s sweetheart. And for nearly 80 years, she’s been one of the country’s most famous missing people. There are a lot of theories about what happened to Earhart, ranging from the reasonable to the absolutely erratic, but no one has really solved her great mystery. Will someone finally crack the case in time for her holiday?
What Happened to Amelia Earhart?
Amelia Earhart was planning to fly around the world in the summer of 1937. She never completed the journey. On October 2, Earhart disappeared, along with her plane and her navigator, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. No trace of her was ever found again, despite a massive search at the time and several subsequent searches. So what could have happened to Amelia?
She crashed: One popular, and reasonable, theory is that Earhart crashed into the Pacific Ocean after running out of fuel. This has happened to planes before. Historians believe that Fred Noonan, Earhart’s navigator, misguided the plane en route to Howland Island. Earhart was in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, and said she couldn’t find the island. Many believe she circled until she ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean.
She landed elsewhere: Or perhaps Earhart landed on Gardner Island, which was nearby, and died of exposure. This island was near Howland, where she was scheduled to refuel, but it was uninhabited. This theory has been largely discounted in the past, but researchers discovered some items that could potentially belong to Earnhart on the island. An empty jar of cream and a piece of Plexiglas could be the last remains of Amelia Earhart…or random trash from the ocean. Many historians have since gone to the island to look for relics, but nothing more has been found.
She was executed: Many believe that Earhart was killed by the Japanese. The U.S. was not on good terms with the Japanese government, to put it mildly, and some theorists even take this one a step further. Some say Earhart was spying for the American military, and subsequently captured by the Japanese. A book, written in 1987, says that the pilot landed on Saipan Island, north of Guam. The book accuses the American military of a cover-up, and says that her plane was destroyed. However, Saipan is many hundreds of miles away from Earhart’s Howland Island destination. Also, Earhart’s route took her nowhere near Japan and her trek around the world wasn’t covert in any way.
She did it for love: Not all the theories involve untimely death and dangerous war games. In one romantic theory about Amelia, she staged her own disappearance in order to run off with navigator Fred Noonan. Earhart was known to be shy about her own fame, and did not want celebrity. Did she decide to run off to a deserted island with Noonan? If so, no evidence of their love nest (or the plane) has been found.
Aliens took her: One of the wildest theories is that Amelia Earhart, Noonan and the plane were abducted by aliens. This theory played out on an episode of ” Star Trek:Voyager,” in which Earhart had been cryogenically frozen and preserved for about 400 years. Earhart’s episode is titled “The ’37s.”
Earhart’s Last Day
Amelia Earhart left New Guinea to fly for 19 hours to Howland Island. It’s a tiny landing spot between Hawaii and Australia. And on the morning of July 2, 1937, Earhart was looking for it in the middle of the big, blue Pacific Ocean. She couldn’t find it. She was just 7,000 miles away from the world’s long round-the-world flight.
“Gas is running low,” Earhart told the Coast Guard when she radioed in. The Coast Guard could hear her, but Earhart did not hear their responses to her. “We are running on line north and south,” she told them. Those who heard the transmission said that Earhart sounded distressed. No one ever heard from her again.
The search for her and her plane cost $4 million, an unprecedented amount, and lasted for 17 days. She was never found.
Or was she? Reportedly, 5 days after her disappearance the U.S. Navy received distress signals from the island now known as Nikumaroro, a few hundred miles away from Howland. A battleship arrived a week later, but the signals were gone and there was no sign of habitation. The whole affair was written off as a false alarm.
Three years passed. A group of British coconut harvesters came across a partial skeleton on the island once known as Gardner. It had been disassembled by coconut crabs. The remaining bones were collected along with a few items: pieces of shoes and a box. The bones were sent to Fiji, where a doctor determined they had belonged to a short man. The bones and the artifacts have since disappeared.
Amelia Earhart’s disappearance remains a mystery, and her legend continues to inspire people to this day. July 24 is celebrated as her day. And perhaps some day, the answer to the Earhart riddle will be unlocked.