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Amelia Earhart, the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, mysteriously disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
Watch a short video about Amelia Earhart and fly through her childhood as a daring little child to her mysterious disappearance as an adult.
After a plane ride at an air show, Amelia Earhart decided she would learn to fly. After becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, she embarked on her flight around the world and disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.
Amelia Earhart embarked on the longest non-stop flight by a woman.
Remains of Amelia Earhart's plane lead to theories about her demise. From the "Biography: Amelia Earhart - Recovery Expedition" video.
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Despite the efforts of 66 aircraft and nine ships—an estimated $4 million rescue authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt—the fate of the two flyers remained a mystery. The official search ended on July 18th, 1937, but George Putnam financed additional search efforts, working off tips of naval experts and even psychics in an attempt to find his wife. In October 1937,
he acknowledged that any chance of Earhart and Noonan surviving was gone. On January 5, 1939, Amelia Earhart was declared legally dead by the Superior Court in Los Angeles.
Many theories emerged after the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Some believed Earhart was on a spy mission to the Marshall Islands authorized by President Roosevelt, and was captured by Japanese troops. This theory extended to claiming that Earhart was forced to broadcast to American GIs as "Tokyo Rose" during World War II. Another theory claims she purposely crashed the plane into the Pacific on a suicide run.
There are two theories that seem to have the greatest credibility. One is that the Electra Earhart and Noonan were flying was ditched or crashed, and the two perished at sea. Several aviation and navigation experts support this theory concluding that the outcome of the last leg of the flight came down to "poor planning, worse execution." Investigations concluded that the Electra aircraft was not fully fueled, and couldn't have made it to Howland Island even if conditions were ideal. The fact that there were so many issues creating difficulties lead investigators to the conclusion that the plane simply ran out of fuel some 35 to 100 miles off the coast of Howland Island.
Another theory that gained credibility, due to recent physical evidence, is that Earhart and Noonan might have flown without radio transmission for some time after their last radio signal, landing at uninhabited Gardner Island (now known as Nikularoro). This island is where they would ultimately die. This theory is based on several on-site investigations that have turned up artifacts such as improvised tools, bits of clothing, an aluminum panel, and a piece of Plexiglas the exact width and curvature of an Electra window. Most recently, in May 2012, investigators found a jar of freckle cream on a remote island in the South Pacific, in proximity to their other findings. Many investigators believe the cream belonged to Earhart.
Earhart's life and career have been celebrated for the past several decades on "Amelia Earhart Day," which is held annually on July 24—her birthday in 1897. Earhart would have celebrated her 115th birthday on July 24, 2012.
Amelia Earhart possessed a shy, charismatic appeal that belied her determination and ambition. In her passion for flying, she amassed a number of distance and altitude world records. But beyond her accomplishments as a pilot, she also wanted to make a statement about the role and worth of women. She dedicated much of her life to prove that, like men, women could excel in their chosen professions, and that they could have equal value. This all contributed to her wide appeal and international celebrity. Her mysterious disappearance, added to all of this, has given Earhart lasting recognition in popular culture as one of the world's most famous pilots.
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