Mystery. Something about a decades long mystery intrigues us. What happens when the mystery is finally solved. Do we forget? Do we romanticize? Do we delve deep within our writers’ minds and come up with storylines?
Probably all of the above. And more.
Today, June 1st, marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the famed flight that eventually ended with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. A woman pioneer of her time, Ms. Earhart was known as an aviator. She flew across the Atlantic, both accompanied and alone. She was also known for her smiling photos, waving as she readied to pilot another flight (something not familiar to most women in the 1930’s). She was a daring pioneer of that era…both among women and among the population in general.
On the final leg of what would have been an around the world adventure, Ms. Earhart set out July 2 from Lae, New Guinea for Howland Island…just a hop and skip to Hawaii and then the mainland of the United States. She had traveled her around the world course with just 7,000 miles ahead of her and her navigator, Fred Noonan. On that day she went from being not only a famous female pilot but also became one of the greatest mysteries of her time.
She never arrived at Howland Island.
Did she crash at sea from lack of fuel? Many supported this idea. Did she and Noonan ‘run away’ and live quietly somewhere far, far away? Others wondered about this. Perhaps they’d never intended to ever arrive at Howland Island…and had in reality become spies during the 30’s…a time of great changes in Europe and Asia? Others grasped at this idea.
Castaways? Likely, it seems. Oh no, not like the characters of Gilligan’s Island fame. Life would never have been that easy in the area it is suggested they’d found themselves. It has been suggested they found themselves low on fuel, without radio contact and in dire need of somewhere to land in a blue and expansive Pacific Ocean. Finding a tiny waterless atoll, they possibly had landed on an exposed reef, taken up residence on an uninhabited island then called Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro (only about 350 miles northwest of Howland Island) and survived there for an unknown length of time. Charts show this is a plausible theory. Bones, makeup and a shoe found on the island are links to Earhart’s era. A very recent find, a broken glass jar that contained freckle-fading cream (Amelia Earhart was known to use this product as she did not like her own freckles) could possibly provide DNA links to Ms. Earhart herself.
This is one story I will continue to follow. Perhaps it will spark a storyline…perhaps it already has. Her story, at face value, is simple. She was lost at sea while flying around the world. But, after looking at all the stories of her disappearance, about Mr. Noonan, about what has been found on this particular island throughout the years (did you know an aerial photo taken just a few years after her disappearance shows the nose wheel of a plane like hers sticking out of the water just off Gardner Island?), about old campsites and a bounced radio signal heard in Florida of both Amelia and Mr. Noonan pleading for assistance and giving their approximate location.
How can this not spark a writer’s imagination. Above even that…how could it not initiate further funding and studies of the areas in question. I wonder if Mark Ballard could find remnants of the plane? I wonder if TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) will finally provide us the answers.
Did she lose her way and crash at sea? Did she perhaps crash-land in Australia (another theory that has been explored)? Was she taken prisoner by the Japanese or enlisted as a spy somehow? Was Gardner Island home to castaways once upon a time?
I wonder what happened….