I just finished watching Amelia. A biopic of Amelia Earhart (1897-1939), played by Hilary Swank. The first female aviator who broke dozens of records in a era where women just won the right to vote a few years before (1922). She was awesome!
I thought I knew her story, but after watching this movie and doing some online research afterwards, I am blown away not only what she achieved, but how she did it. Check this out:
She flew from Nova Scotia to France (3100 miles) in the dark, during a raging thunderstorm, encountering engine problems along the way, while battling frost build up on her windshield with no copilot or support personnel. She accomplished this feat in a record breaking 14 hours and 26 minutes – twice. All by herself with no radio contact throughout the flight.
In addition to those records, she went on to break numerous transcontinental and transatlantic flight records. Becoming the first woman in history to do so in each case. She was the very definition of girl power long before the term came into being.
Afterwards, she become a global rock star. Everyone on the planet wanted to be seen with her – Presidents, First Ladies, celebrities, kids, especially young girls the world over. Men of that era seemed to be baffled for an explanation for her accomplishments and take charge personality.
Indeed, she was no ordinary woman and could hold her own to anybody who would challenge her. She often told men that she wasn’t the marrying type and had no clue what to do in a kitchen. Her place was in the sky. And no one was going to stop her from “doing what she wants to do”.
Everyone knows that Amelia Earhart disappeared in the Pacific Ocean from our history books. But what really surprise me was that the manner of her death was never in question, despite the conspiracy theories that surfaced over the years. The evidence is crystal clear what happened to her and her onboard navigator, Fred Noonan, in their final moments. The question with no answer is where was the plane when it ran out of fuel, crashed into the ocean and was quickly taken under.
On her last and most ambitious ‘World Flight’, she had to cross the part of the ocean that was 5000 miles across. The only refueling stop was the tiny Howland Island in the middle of the ocean. Earhart’s plane had enough fuel (2500 mile range) to reach this island, but not much more.
Somehow, her onboard navigator, who was a known alcoholic, must have miscalculated the coordinates to this island. The island’s air traffic controller transponder battery was dead from being left on all night. So even though the air traffic control operator heard her calls for directions on the radio, they wouldn’t of been able to locate her in the sky anyway.
They tried sending her a Morse Code Message, she acknowledged it, but couldn’t make sense of it. A large smoky fire was even started on the island to help her navigate her way to it. Nothing worked. They had no idea how close or far away her plane was. For unexplained reasons, her radio wasn’t picking up their voice response to her calls for assistance.
Shortly after her disappearance, the US Government launched the largest search and rescue mission in history up to that time. They didn’t find anything related to her plane. Probably because that area of the ocean was judged to be 2-3 miles deep. Even to this day, science and technology provides no clues to her final resting place, since there is no electronic record to follow.