(This is a continuation from Part 1)
Amelia Earhart consistently worked to promote opportunities for women in aviation.
In 1929, after placing third in the All-Women’s Air Derby – the first transcontinental air race for women – Earhart helped to form the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for the advancement of female pilots.
She became the first president of the organization of licensed pilots, which still exists today and represents women flyers from 44 countries.
1937: Flight Around The World
On June 1, 1937, Amelia Earhart took off from Oakland, California, on an eastbound flight around the world. It was her second attempt to become the first pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe.
She flew a twin-engine Lockheed 10E Electra and was accompanied on the flight by navigator Fred Noonan. They flew to Miami, then down to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, then east to India and Southeast Asia.
The pair reached Lae, New Guinea, on June 29. When they reached Lae, they already had flown 22,000 miles. They had 7,000 more miles to go before reaching Oakland.
What Happened To Amelia Earhart?
Earhart and Noonan departed Lae for tiny Howland Island – their next refueling stop – on July 2. It was the last time Earhart was seen alive. She and Noonan lost radio contact with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca, anchored off the coast of Howland Island, and disappeared en route.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized a massive two-week search for the pair, but they were never found. On July 19, 1937, Earhart and Noonan were declared lost at sea.
Scholars and aviation enthusiasts have proposed many theories about what happened to Amelia Earhart. The official position from the U.S. government is that Earhart and Noonan crashed into the Pacific Ocean, but there are numerous theories regarding their disappearance.
Crash and Sink Theory
According to the crash and sink theory, Earhart’s plane ran out of gas while she searched for Howland Island, and she crashed into the open ocean somewhere in the vicinity of the island.
Several expeditions over the past 15 years have attempted to locate the plane’s wreckage on the sea floor near Howland. High-tech sonar and deep-sea robots have failed to yield clues about the Electra’s crash site.
Gardner Island Hypothesis
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) postulates that Earhart and Noonan veered off-course from Howland Island and landed instead some 350 miles to the Southwest on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the Republic of Kiribati. The island was uninhabited at the time.
A week after Earhart’s disappeared, Navy planes flew over the island. They noted recent signs of habitation but found no evidence of an airplane.
TIGHAR believes that Earhart—and perhaps Noonan—may have survived for days or even weeks on the island as castaways before dying there. Since 1988, several TIGHAR expeditions to the island have turned up artifacts and anecdotal evidence in support of this hypothesis.
Some of the artifacts include a piece of Plexiglas that may have come from the Electra’s window, a woman’s shoe dating back to the 1930s, improvised tools, a woman’s cosmetics jar from the 1930s and bones that appeared to be part of a human finger.
In June 2017, a TIGHAR-led expedition arrived on Nikumaroro with four forensically trained bone-sniffing border collies to search the island for any skeletal remains of Earhart or Noonan.
Other Theories About Earhart’s Disappearance
There are numerous conspiracy theories about Earhart’s disappearance. One theory posits that Earhart and Noonan were captured and executed by the Japanese.