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Amelia Earhart

When was Amelia Earhart last heard from?

American aviator Amelia Earhart (1897–1937), the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, was last seen on July 1, 1937, and was last heard from on July 2, as she and navigator Fred Noonan (1893–1937) attempted to make an around-the-world flight along the equator.

The Kansas-born Earhart first became interested in aviation, which was very new at the time, during the early 1920s and began taking flying lessons. In 1928 she was invited to be the only woman on board a transatlantic flight, which departed from Newfoundland and landed in Wales. The trip made her famous as the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. She followed that accomplishment in 1932 with a solo transatlantic flight: Earhart took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, on the evening of May 20, 1932. Her destination was Paris. Within hours problems began for the aviator: She encountered a violent electrical storm, the altimeter failed, the wings iced up, and finally, the exhaust manifold caught on fire. Earhart decided to land in Ireland rather than attempting Paris. After a 15-hour flight, she touched down in a pasture outside of Londonderry in Northern Ireland. Again, fame and acclaim were hers, as the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a solo flight. She went on to set speed and distance records for aviation and soon conceived of the idea of flying around the world along the equator.

On May 20, 1937, Earhart and Noonan took off from Oakland, California. Reaching Miami, Florida, they stopped for repairs. On June 1, 1937, they departed Miami and headed for Brazil. From there, they flew across the Atlantic to Africa and then across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula. Then it was on to Karachi, Pakistan; Calcutta, India; and Burma (present-day Myanmar). Earhart reached New Guinea on June 30, and she and Noonan prepared for the most difficult leg of the journey: to Howland Island, a tiny speck of land only two and a half miles long in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. The next day, July 1, they left New Guinea and began the 2,600-mile flight to Howland Island. On July 2 a U.S. Navy vessel picked up radio messages from Earhart that indicated reports of empty fuel tanks. Efforts to make radio contact with her failed. Though an extensive search effort ensued, no trace of the plane or two-person crew was found, and no one knows for certain what happened. Speculation surrounds the disappearance. One theory was that Earhart’s true mission in making the around-the-world flight was to spy on the Japanese-occupied Pacific islands. However, this has never been substantiated, and, given the circumstances under which they were flying, the likelihood is that the plane crashed into the ocean, claiming Earhart’s and Noonan’s lives.


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