Amelia decided since the next attempt would be later in the year, that it would be safer to reverse the original flight plan and fly eastwards due to weather conditions in the Caribbean and Africa.

After delivery of the rebuilt Electra, Amelia departed from Los Angeles, California for Florida on May 21, 1937.

"I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance "stunt" flying."

On June 1, 1937 Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan departed Miami, Florida bound for California by traveling around the world. The first destination was San Juan, Puerto Rico...from there skirting the northeast edge of South America and then on to Africa and the Red Sea.

The flight to Karachi was another first...no one had previously flown non-stop from the Red Sea to India before. From Karachi the Electra flew to Calcutta on June 17... from there, on to Rangoon, Bangkok, Singapore and Bandoeng.

Monsoon weather prevented departure from Bandoeng for several days. Repairs were made on some of the "long distance" instruments which had given trouble previously. During this time Amelia had become ill with dysentery that lasted for several days.

It was June 27 before Amelia and Noonan were able to leave Bandoeng for Port Darwin, Australia. At Darwin the direction finder was repaired, and the parachutes were packed and shipped home...they would be of no value over the Pacific.

Amelia reached Lae in New Guinea on June 29. At this point they had flown 22,000 miles and there were 7,000 more to go...all over the Pacific. Amelia cabled her last commissioned article to the Herald Tribune. Photos show her looking very tired and ill during her time at Lae.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca had been standing off Howland Island for some days to act as a radio contact for Amelia. Radio communications in the area were very poor and the Itasca was overwhelmed with commercial radio traffic that the flight had generated.

Amelia left Lae at precisely 00:00 hours Greenwich Mean Time on July 2. It is believed that the Electra was loaded with 1,000 gallons of fuel, allowing for 20-21 hours of flying.

At 07:20 hours GMT Amelia provided a positon report placing the Electra on course at some 20 miles southwest of the Nukumanu Islands. The last weather report Amelia was known to have received was before take-off. The head wind speed had increased by 10-12 mph, but it is not known if she ever received the report.

At 08:00 GMT Amelia made her last radio contact with Lae. She reported being on course for Howland Island at 12,000 feet. There is no real evidence as to the precise track of the aircraft after Nukumanu. No one saw or heard the plane fly over.

Several short transmission were received by the Itasca with varying signal strengths but they were unable to get a fix on her location because they were too brief. At 19:30 GMT the following transmission was received from the Electra at maximum strength...

"KHAQQ calling Itasca. We must be on you but cannot see you...gas is running low..."

At 20:14 GMT the Itasca received the last voice transmission from Amelia giving positioning data. The Itasca continued to transmit on all frequencies until 21:30 hours GMT when they determined that Amelia must have ditched at sea and began to implement search procedures.

It has been determined that the plane went down some 35-100 miles off the coast of Howland Island. A life raft was stowed on board but no trace has ever been found the raft. Some experts felt that the empty fuel tanks could keep the plane afloat for a period of time.

President Roosevelt authorized a search of 9 naval ships and 66 aircraft at an estimated cost of over $4 million. On July 18 the search was abandoned by ships in the Howland area. George continued to seek help in the search, but by October he too abandoned all hope of finding them alive.

Amelia regularly sent letters to George at stops along her route. These were published in the book "Last Flight". On an endpiece of the book is a note from her to George...

"Please know I am quite aware of the hazards...I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others."

AMELIA WHERE ARE YOU?

Over the years many unconfirmed sightings have been reported...and many theories abound. Among those theories:

  • Amelia was on a spy mission authorized by President Roosevelt and was captured
  • She purposely dove her plane into the Pacific
  • She was captured by the Japanese and forced to broadcast to American GI's as "Tokyo Rose" during World War II
  • She lived for years on an island in the South Pacific with a native fisherman

  • In 1961 it was thought that the bones of Amelia and Noonan had been found on Saipan but they turned out to be those of Saipan natives.


  • The "Earhart Project" is an investigation launched in 1988 by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) to conclusively solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance.

    Now in its tenth year, the project has made use of the non-profit foundation's worldwide network of researchers to uncover numerous new historical documents relating to the case. By far the most exhaustive inquiry into Earhart's fate since the U.S. Navy's failed search in 1937, TIGHAR's investigation employs rigorous standards of evidence to replace long-standing myth and speculation with documented facts.

    Four archaeological expeditions to a remote, uninhabited Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island) have recovered physical evidence that the Earhart flight may have landed there on July 2, 1937, after failing to find Howland Island.

    For more information visit the TIGHAR website.

    or contact:
    Richard E. Gillespie
    Executive Director
    TIGHAR
    2812 Fawkes Drive
    Wilmington, DE 19808
    email: TIGHAR1@AOL.com
    phone: (302) 994-4410... fax: (302) 994-7945

FILMS

  • Flight for Freedom - 1943, starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray...this film did much to promote the theory that Amelia was on a spy mission for the government
  • Amelia Earhart - 1976 (TV Movie), starring Susan Clark, John Forsythe
  • Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight - 1994 (TV Movie), starring Diane Keaton and Bruce Dern
LINKS

REFERENCES

  • The Sound of Wings, by Mary S. Lowell, 1989, Century Hutchinson Ltd., ISBN 0-09-173596-3
  • Last Flight, by Amelia Earhart (arranged by George Palmer Puttman from correspondence), 1988, Crown Publishers, ISBN 0-517-56794-6
  • The Epic of Flight: Women Aloft, by Valerie Moolman, Time/Life Books, ISBN 0-8094-3289-7
  • Biography: Amelia Earhart, by Blythe Randolph, 1987, Franklin Watts Publisher, ISBN 0-531-10331-5