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Amelia Earhart's disappearance and tragic death have become synonymous with an eerie mystery, yet her life and times offer so much more than what transpired during her final flight.
Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were three days into their cross-continental journey when something went awry. Their Lockheed Electra grounded during takeoff and they were forced to cancel the flight.
Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 to Edwin and Amy Otis Earhart. Her parents divorced when she was six, and the family moved around frequently. She attended several schools as an independent, strong-willed child; particularly good at science and sports despite her father's inability to secure gainful employment. Despite these obstacles, Earhart managed to support herself and her siblings well despite his struggles.
As a child, she developed an interest in aviation. She was mesmerized by stunt flying displays featuring pilots performing spinning and looping maneuvers on planes. Though her father did not support this ambition, he did allow her to take a flight in 1920 on board a small Kinner Airster airplane; this experience inspired her to take flying lessons and eventually purchase her own plane.
Amelia originally enrolled in a premed program at Columbia University in New York City, but she left after one year due to her mother's determination that her daughter remain in California.
Amelia became inspired to help those returning from World War I (1914-18; a conflict between the United States and Germany) when she visited her sister in Toronto, Canada. Seeing these men up close, Amelia developed an immense admiration for them; so much so that she eventually began working as a nurse's aide at a local hospital for wounded veterans.
At this time, she began taking flying lessons at both Boston Aero Club and National Aeronautical Association headquarters in Washington D.C. She also became a member of the American Aeronautical Society in Boston.
She eventually purchased her own plane, the Lockheed Vega, and in 1927 earned her pilot's license. Her accomplishments, such as breaking several women's speed and distance records, earned her international acclaim.
In 1935, she made history by becoming the first solo flight from Hawaii to California - a journey of 2,408 miles. Additionally, she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean and complete a circumnavigation around the globe.
Her success as a pilot and her passion to make a statement about women's rights in aviation earned her an adoring fan base. Throughout her life, she wrote extensively about flying and the value of women in the workplace; remaining as one of history's most renowned woman pilots even after her mysterious disappearance in 1937.
World renowned female aviator Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas to Edwin Otis Earhart and Mary Jo Fogg. When she was 12, her father moved his family to Des Moines, Iowa with his job as a lawyer and railroad engineer; living next to the tracks while Amelia took her first airplane ride at age 12.
Amelia had always had an interest in aviation, yet she didn't earn her pilot's license until 23 years old. To finance lessons, Amelia saved and spent $1,000 to get her certification. Two years after graduation, she bought her first airplane - a Kinner Airster - and went on to fly higher than any woman before her.
In 1928, she made history by becoming the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. For this feat, Congress awarded her with the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as numerous other honors.
She was an advocate for women's rights and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She wrote books about her experiences and gave speeches to promote them.
After her marriage to George Putnam in 1931, Earhart decided to take another trip across the Atlantic and attempt solo flight. She began planning a voyage that would replicate Charles Lindbergh's successful transatlantic voyage.
On May 20, 1932, she took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland aboard a bright red Lockheed Vega plane and headed for Paris, France. It was an adventurous flight due to poor weather and her windshield and wings being covered in ice.
On June 1, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan set off from Oakland, California on an epic 22,000 mile flight around the world. With 7,000 more miles to go before reaching their final destination of Oakland, California, authorities searched for them throughout their journey.
Few days before her flight ended, Noonan and her ship escorting them lost communication with their ship. When they reached Howland Island - an incredibly small island in the Pacific - they sent out distress signals for help.
In 1937, Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman to fly around the world. But her journey had a difficult start when technical problems grounded her Lockheed Electra 10-E aircraft. Captain Harry Manning felt that this flight wouldn't succeed and took a leave of absence from work.
Her crew had difficulty with their radio navigation equipment in the final days of their flight. On Howland Island, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, they were having difficulty communicating. At one point Earhart sent a message to Coast Guard cutter Itasca stationed off Howland Island that was heard by her crew but never reached Earhart again.
After an exhaustive search that covered 250,000 square miles of the Pacific, no trace of Amelia Earhart or her navigator Fred Noonan could be found. The government officially concluded they had run out of fuel and crashed, though there remain several theories as to what caused their disappearance.
Some speculate that Earhart and Noonan landed on an uninhabited island where they both died of starvation and dehydration, while others think she was captured by the Japanese and executed as a prisoner. But one popular theory holds that she and Noonan navigated to Nikumaroro Island 420 miles southeast of Howland Island.
Now, a team of forensic experts believes they have discovered key evidence that may help solve the mystery. They say they reanalyzed a metal panel recovered from Nikumaroro island in 1991 and discovered hidden letters and numbers on it.
At Penn State University's Radiation Science and Engineering Center, re-analysis was performed on Amelia Earhart's aircraft panel using advanced imaging technology. If confirmed, this could provide answers to one of life's greatest mysteries: what happened to her plane?
Amelia Earhart's disappearance in July 1937 remains one of history's greatest mysteries. For decades, people have speculated as to what happened to her and her copilot Fred Noonan, but no definitive answers have ever been provided.
On July 24, 1897, she was born in Atchison, Kansas to newspaper publisher George Putnam who supported her aviation career and encouraged her to embark on a world voyage. They left Lae Airfield in New Guinea with the goal of visiting Howland Island - an island located in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, their flight left with just over 7,000 miles left when something went awry and their aircraft vanished into thin air.
According to the official report, Earhart and Noonan were running out of fuel when they crashed into the ocean a few miles short of their destination. This is what most historians believe happened, but others have proposed various other explanations for Earhart's disappearance and death.
Recently, forensic scientists have uncovered hidden evidence that could provide some insight into what happened to Amelia Earhart. They analyzed an aluminium panel found on Nikumaroro island - approximately 30 miles off the coast from where her plane went missing - which may provide some answers.
Scientists have recently uncovered letters and numbers etched onto the panel that had never before been known to exist. After thoroughly inspecting its surface for signs of damage, a team of scientists discovered these clues.
What they've discovered are a series of dots and dashes that appear to be letters and numbers on an aircraft's airframe. If these marks are indeed from Earhart's crew, they could hold the key to unraveling her mysterious disappearance.
In addition to the marks on the aluminum panel, there is evidence that Earhart was in a life-threatening situation at the time she vanished. On the island where her Electra crashed, rising tides and surf swept it away from the reef edge.