‘We have found Amelia Earhart’ says TV show
She was a pilot. A pioneer. A fashion icon. And her disappearance was one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century. Now, a new photo may finally prove what happened to Amelia Earhart…
“We must be on you but cannot see you,” Amelia Earhart said into her radio as she was flying somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. “Gas is running low.”
It was July 2nd 1937 and the most famous female pilot in the world was trying to find Howland Island — a tiny speck of land that was supposed to be one of her last stops on a historic flight around the globe. But she could not see it. Her voice was increasingly frantic.
She gave a rough location to the boat that was supposed to be guiding her landing. But soon her transmissions stopped. The boat, the Itasca, started an immediate rescue operation. In the weeks that followed, the US government spent millions searching for her.
But she, her plane, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, have never been found. In 1939 she was declared dead. The official conclusion was that the plane simply ran out of fuel, crashed into the sea, and was lost.
However, a new History Channel show — which will be broadcast in the USA on Sunday — says it has found evidence that proves a different theory. Its team believes that she and Noonan landed on the Marshall Islands, controlled by Japan at the time, and died as prisoners of war.
Their evidence is a photograph, above, which was recently found in the US National Archives. It shows a white man and woman on a dock on one of the islands.
Experts say that the man’s distinctive hairline matches Noonan’s, and that the woman’s body type, short hair and trousers are similar to Earhart’s.
The woman is looking to the right, where a blurry shape is being towed by a Japanese ship. The shape is roughly 38-feet long — the same length as Earhart’s plane.
“This absolutely changes history,” said Shawn Henry, a former executive assistant director for the FBI and the show’s lead investigator. “We proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she survived her flight and was held prisoner by the Japanese on the island of Saipan, where she eventually died.”
Flights of fancy?
Earhart fans and conspiracy theorists are enthralled by this new evidence. It matches the stories from local islanders, who have often said that they saw Earhart land nearby. Fragments of metal have been found which supposedly match planes from the 1930s. Finally, after 80 years, this mystery has been solved.
“Not so fast,” say sceptics. The photograph is very blurry. Its “Earhart” is not even facing the camera. And we know that the Itasca was hundreds of miles away from the Marshall Islands when it picked up her final radio messages; the captain even went outside to look for her. It is simply not possible that she landed so far away. Without a body, conspiracy theories have thrived for years — but sometimes the simplest answer is true.
- What do you think happened to Amelia Earhart?
- Why are people still fascinated by an 80-year-old mystery?
- Consider the photograph and the evidence above. Then write five questions which you think should be answered next.
- Split the class into three. Each team should research one of the three Earhart theories outlined in the National Geographic piece under Become An Expert. They should then take it in turns to argue each case. At the end of the lesson, vote on which theory you think is true.
Some People Say...
“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”Amelia Earhart
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Earhart’s radio messages were received by the Itasca around 20 hours after she and Noonan took off from Lae, New Guinea. The Itasca attempted to respond, but soon realised that she was not receiving its signals. She said she was flying along the sun line 157–337 (imagine the line from north-northwest and south-southeast on a compass) but did not say which direction she was going.
- What do we not know?
- What happened next. There are three theories: that she crashed and the plane was lost. That she was captured in the Marshall Islands. Or that she and Noonan ended up castaways on the island Nikumaroro, southwest of Howland. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has been investigating this idea for years, and are currently using sniffer dogs to find her body.
- Amelia Earhart
- In 1932, Earhart became the first woman — and the second person — to fly solo across the Atlantic. The trip made her world famous. Over the next five years she broke several more aviation records.
- Historic flight
- She was attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world. She and Noonan had already spent a month flying from the USA to South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. They took off on the final flight from Lae, New Guinea.
- The government — led by Earhart’s friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt — spent $4 million looking for her, the biggest search and rescue operation ever at the time.
- Marshall Islands
- The Marshall Islands were occupied by Japan during the first world war, then conquered by the USA during the second. They are now independent.
- It is thought that the photograph was taken by a US spy, which is why it was not made public at the time.
- In 2015, Earhart enthusiast Dick Spink said locals had told him: “She landed at Mili. Our uncles and aunts, our parents, and our grandparents know she landed here.”