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“When I go, I would like to go in my plane. Quickly.” Amelia Earhart disappeared almost 82 years ago. Did she get her wish or was she whisked away from her joy and kept hidden from the rest of the world? Many speculations of Earhart’s disappearance have surfaced since her final voyage. The question is: Are any of them true or are they all just conspiracy theories? Some theories seem more plausible than others, but as we unravel the layers what theory will have enough evidence to support itself? In this essay, we will discuss the crucial evidence that proves these theories are the multiple endings to Earhart’s last flight.
In 1937 Amelia Earhart began her flight around the world, but in June that journey was cut short. The U.S. Navy and coast guard launched not only the largest but also the most expensive air and sea search in American history. When they came back empty handed, Earhart’s husband decided to fund his own search. He also came back with no answers to everyone’s question; “How did she just disappear?” no wreckage to indicate a crash, no bodies, no calls for help.
Stated in an official report, the US government came to the conclusion that the two flyers were unable to find their destination, eventually running out of fuel and crashing into the water below them. Many theorists believe that the aviator was a U.S. spy and the official documents stating their conclusion was to put America at ease. The theorists believe Earhart and Noonan were captured by the Japanese. However, how plausible does that sound? Years have passed and no new information on Earhart’s caged life in Japanese jail cells have made it’s way to social media. As widespread as the internet is and as fast as a rumor can travel, we would know by now if that happened to be the truth.
In chapter seven of a book titled “The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart”, they discuss some theories of what may have gone wrong in Earhart’s plane. While most people interested in her disappearance looked at how far the plane could fly with a full tank, few were looking at the radio communication. The communication recorded on that would have details on the flights, fuel, weather, times, and radio compatibilities. The few who were looking into the radio communication decided to reach out to amateur radio operators who may have caught a clip of Earhart’s last words. Unfortunately, the information was too scattered. What people heard was stretched across time zones not to mention the fact that some amateurs were using military time and some civilian time.
Another Example of the communication, or lack thereof, is that Earhart never stated how high she was flying or how fast she was going. Reports show that the Electra’s tank could carry one thousand- one hundred gallons of fuel. With that much fuel, in good weather, a plane the size of the Electra could fly between twenty-four and twenty-seven hours going somewhere between one hundred thirty-five and one hundred-fifty miles per hour. However, the reports of all this information either went unheard or were never voiced, making it impossible to determine when the Electra’s fuel would have run out.
So how could Earhart be so careless? How could she go so long without giving the details of her flight? She knew how dangerous flying was. Or maybe she was giving the information, but no one could hear, and maybe a very important clue was hidden in footage of the Earhart’s final takeoff. The antenna for receiving messages via radio lied on the belly of the plane. Gillespie, who had been observing the footage said, “As the Electra comes back past the camera on its takeoff run, both motion picture and still photography show that the belly antenna is now missing.” And you can see in the footage that it looks as if the antenna had been ripped off. If the evidence was in fact a reality, Earhart would not have been capable of giving or receiving information when using that antenna.
Another piece of evidence found that supports the theory of Earhart and Noonan being captured by the Japanese is a grainy, old, black and white photo. It seems to depict Earhart and Noonan’s back as they face out towards the water where a boat is towing in a plane, believed to be the Electra. Analysts would say this picture changes history. They believed the photo proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that she survived her flight. The photo was unearthed about five years ago by a retired U.S. treasury agent named Les Kinney. When it was revealed for the first time it was stamped with an official ‘Office of Naval Intelligence’ marking that read “Marshall Islands…”
Most Researchers truly believe she ended up a prisoner on Saipan, Controlled by the Japanese. They believe she died there, whether it be of diseases or killed by their captors they aren’t sure, but nearly no one agrees on how she got there. Their belief is supported by around 50 interviews claiming she crash landed in the Marshall Islands, but survived. Lots of theories about the Fate of Earhart and Noonan have been up for debate since her disappearance. Some even believe that she returned to the united states with a different identity. However, as I previously stated, most researchers believe she was captured by the Japanese. Does their word trump any other evidence supporting another theory?
New Evidence, new theory. 57 radio signals, both commercial and government radio operators, speak what is most likely Earhart and Noonan’s last cries for help. All signals are from a few days after Earhart’s disappearances. Recordings were sent in from all kinds of people, teenagers to housewives. The recordings shuttered chilling phrases such as “waters knee deep- let me out.”, “We have taken in water- we can’t hold on much longer.”, and “help us”. Evidence shows that the likelihood of the two crashing offshore of an island, is not just plausible, but the rock-solid truth.
TIGHAR, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, is the organization responsible for this theory. They came to the conclusion that the two sought out for shelter on Gardner Island, known now as Nikumaroro. The island was uninhabited and around 2,600 miles away from the coast of New Zealand. One of their hypotheses is that they crashed so far offshore that their calls for help could be heard in short bursts because when the tide got higher it could flood the engine.
As the group releases more and more information, all of it seems to be adding up. Along with the recordings that take over a span of 6 days, they also found physical evidence on Gardner Island. In the 1940’s they took a trip out and discovered several bones and piece of clothing, such as a woman’s shoe as well as a man’s shoe. The founder of TIGHAR believes that when all the information is released, ‘people will smack their foreheads, like I did’. All this evidence seems to counterclaim the statements put out by the government, that Earhart and Noonan died shortly after their plane crash.
With this next piece of evidence, you’ll be wondering why the case isn’t closed. In 1945 an Australian troop was observing an eastern, Papua New Guinean island. When a group took a short-cut, they ran into a large, metal object. A few edged towards the structure cautiously, once they were close enough to confidently identify it, they realized it was a massive plane engine. “To find crash debris on the ground was not unusual at that time; warplanes often went down and were sometimes not found for weeks, if ever.” Says Sam Buckingham-Jones, author of Plane Sight. Although this was the case, men in the group agreed that this engine seemed to be different, no looks of a military plane and very old. Someone, looking for any marks or numbers, managed to find a metal tag. The information on that tag was copied down on the margins of a map.
Decades after this incident, David Billings would be reading the newspaper article about the possibility of Earhart’s plane being found. When suddenly, he starts remembering certain details about the day when they found the plane engine buried in mud. He reached out to fellow members of the group that was there that day. Finally, one member had the missing puzzle piece. An untouched map sent as a souvenir, unfolded to reveal the letters and number that were on that metal tag.
Those letters and numbers alone meant nothing but to Billings, they were the resolution to an unsolved mystery. Numbers that recorded Earhart’s plane’s horsepower, model, and the construction number assigned specifically to her plane. However, the horsepower on that metal tag eventually came to be the key piece that didn’t fit. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Earhart’s plane was five hundred-fifty horsepower, not in fact, the six hundred horsepower listed. Was there a possible misprint of sloppy handwriting or were Billings and his crew just too excited to solve this mystery?
This last theory seemed to be the least credible for years. A young boy in the late 1930’s claimed to have seen a plane, left-wing ingulfed in flames, crash onto a Papua New Guinean island. After leaving to tell an adult, the tide carried the plane offshore. The plane that now lies underwater, covered in coral may not be just any plane, but Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E (Electra).
William Snavely has been interested in Earhart since he was a kid. Later in life, while studying up on Earhart’s disappearance, it occurred to Snavely that most looking for Earhart and Noonan were searching near their destination. Snavely then took it upon himself to search the beginning portion of Earhart’s last Journey.
In 1995, a man who was free diving for sponges spotted the plane wreckage off the coast of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. The boy who had seen the plane crash onto the island years ago was still alive, and together they concluded that the wreckage the sponge diver found was likely the same plane the boy saw. So, in 2005 Snavely ventured out to the location. Not long after his arrival he ran into a corrections officer at the hotel he was staying at. The officer himself knew some details of the crash. Snavely asked the officer to confirm that the plane found by the sponge diver had five characteristics that were unique to Earhart’s Electra. “Snavely rattled off some features: The plane had a twin-engine, a twin tail, a door on the pilot’s side, a loop on the front of it for navigation purposes and a spar for an antenna. To Snavely’s surprise, the corrections officer later verified that the plane wreckage had all five of the features, Snavely said.’ Was the breakthrough for this theory, written in LiveScience.com by a senior writer, Laura Geggel.
The article talks about other findings from the wreckage such as glass that looks as if it could be the face for a plane light. The shape and diameter showing to be specific for Earhart’s plane. However, Snavely and his followers have decided to remain levelheaded about their findings, and while it’s hard evidence supports itself, they say their priority is to find out who’s life was lost in that wreckage to inform the families.
In conclusion, with all the evidence and theories, Earhart’s fate is as up in the air as she was. Whether her wish was granted, and she really did go down in her plane, or if she was kept captive by America’s enemies is a question that may never be answered. All of the evidence the theories have, tell someone’s story. Earhart’s death was untimely and Americans will always be amazed by her passion and determination and her story will continue to inspire young females across the nation, solved or unsolved.
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