Wednesday, September 1, 2004
The Search For Amelia
Sixty-seven years later, the mystery behind the disappearance of Earhart and her Lockheed Electra might soon come to an end
Lady Lindy always knew how to captivate a crowd. And today was no different. She, famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart—nicknamed for her comparable achievements to another celebrated aviator, Charles Lindbergh—stood in front of her airplane amidst a throng of people who were eager to witness her attempt at yet another record-breaking flight—to become the first person to fly around the world at its widest route, near the equator. Earhart and expert celestial aerial navigator Fred Noonan will take what she calls her “flying laboratory,” a twin-engine Lockheed Electra L-10, and attempt to cross 29,000 miles of land and sea.
The journey would prove to be a monumental challenge. And nobody at that moment, it seems, knew this better than Earhart herself.
“I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system,” confides Earhart to the crowd before stepping on board the Electra. “And I hope this trip is it.”
There was no way that anybody at the time could have realized just how eerie those words would become. On July 2, 1937, a month after Earhart uttered that statement, she and Noonan departed from Lae, Papua New Guinea, and headed for Howland Island, a mere speck in the mid-Pacific that measured one-and-a-half miles long and a half-mile wide. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca was stationed off its waters to act as the Electra’s radio contact. In the hours that followed, Earhart sent eight transmissions to the Itasca, most of which indicated she was lost and having radio problems. At 8:22 a.m., Earhart contacted the Itasca for the last time. What happened next is—quite literally—anybody’s guess.
Running On Empty
David Jourdan is no stranger to finding lost treasures. His deep-ocean exploration search firm, Nauticos, which boasts a Titanic discovery team member on its roster, has a long list of credits to its name, including the underwater discoveries of the I-52 Japanese submarine, the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga and the Israeli submarine Dakar.
So it was only natural that Jourdan meet his match—the missing Electra. The opportunity presented itself when he met Elgen Long, a longtime pilot and author of Amelia Earhart: Mystery Solved. Long subscribes to the theory that the Electra simply ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean. He took an accident investigator’s approach to the Earhart disappearance and collected reams of materials that included interviews with the people who listened to her final transmissions to the Itasca. He theorized that radio propagation analyses, combined with navigational and fuel consumption analyses, will reveal the Electra’s final resting place—in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
“If you look at the map of the South Pacific,” clarifies Jourdan, “the amount of land, compared to the amount of water, is a small percentage. She’d be much more likely to end up in the water than on land if she was lost.”
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