Tales from the Morgue: Amelia Earhart is missing!

2012-08-29T10:15:00Z 2013-07-24T14:23:09Z Tales from the Morgue: Amelia Earhart is missing!Johanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 29, 2012 10:15 am  • 

Imagine being inspired by the adventures of Amelia Earhart in a day when women were more often found making beds and dinner than flying around the world.

A young girl might be quite devastated at the news that Earhart's flight didn't make its scheduled stop and was missing. A young woman might realize that this could keep her in the kitchen longer.

This is how many Tucsonans received the news. From the Arizona Daily Star, July 3, 1937:

 

 

AMELIA EARHART IS LOST IN PACIFIC
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FAILS TO LAND ON ISLAND DOT; SEARCH STARTS
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Radio Message Tells How Gas Ran Out Over Ocean Waste
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THEN LONG SILENCE
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Plane May Float On Its Large Gas Tanks Is Belief
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Honolulu, July 2—(AP)— Search for Amelia Earhart and her navigator has begun today by the coast guard cutter Itasca, only vessel within several hundred miles of tiny Howland island, where the aviatrix was long overdue in a daring flight across the south Pacific.

The cutter, stationed at Howland to assist the fliers as they arrived after a 2,570-mile flight from Lae, New Guinea, set out at 2 p.m. (7:30 p.m. EST) to hunt the missing plane, the last message from which, six hours previously, reported only a 30-minute fuel supply.

Coast Guardsmen here have expressed belief that aviation's first lady and her companion had overshot the minute island and landed in the vast mid-pacific region far removed from shipping lanes.

Search Prepared

The cutter prepared to search the little known area northwest of Howland, which is a treeless sand spit only a mile and a half long.

The next nearest land is Baker Island, a similar mid-Pacific dot 40 miles north of Howland. Outside of these virtual sandbars there is nothing but water for hundreds of miles.

Some aviation authorities express belief the twin-motored land plane in which Miss Earhart was flying around the world could survive a sea landing if weather conditions were good.

Paul Mantz, Miss Earhart's aviation adviser in Burbank, Calif, said the plane could float "almost indefinitely" because of six gasoline tanks with a capacity of more than 1,000 gallons.

"I am convinced that she would be able to keep afloat long enough for any vessel within several miles to reach her," Mantz said.

Fuel supply Gone

A message from Miss Earhart's plane at 7:42 a.m. Howland time (1:12 p.m. EST) said that she only had a 30-minute supply of fuel and had not sighted the tiny island.

Prolonged silence after receipt of the message spurred the coast guardsman to the hunt.

Reports preceding the final message indicated the $80,000 "laboratory plane" had been battling headwinds which had drawn heavily upon the fuel supply.

A message at 6:46 a.m., less then an hour before the report telling of the fuel shortage, indicated the plane was 100 miles from Howland .

The cutter said there was "no possibility" that the plane could remain aloft until noon, Howland time, at which time the surface vessel planned to quit the islet station and start this search.

Help Sought

Coast guardsman here consulted army authorities about the possibilities of sending land or sea searching parties form Honolulu. The coast guard command in Washington instructed its officers here to do everything possible.

George Palmer, Miss Earhart's husband, showed grave concern as he waited in Oakland, Calif., for word of the plane. Mrs. Noonan, who also was in Oakland, expressed belief, however, that the the fliers would be saved.

Miss Earhart is no stranger to ocean flying emergencies and Noonan, former navigator of trans-Pacific clippers, is noted for his ability is in that line.

The noted woman flier went through her first flying emergency in 1928 when she and Wilmer Stutz and Lou Gordon flew across the Atlantic through fog clouds and cross winds and landed in Wales.

In 1935 she flew across the Atlantic alone. In January, 1936, she flew solo from Honolulu to Oakland, across 2,400 miles of the Pacific.

Plane Cracks Up

Starting off last spring on her first attempt at a world circling flight in the equatorial regions, Miss Earhart Flew from Oakland to Honolulu but cracked up there in attempt to take off for Howland island, more than 1,500 miles to the south.

As in many previous brushes with potential death, Miss Earhart again escaped injury, shipped her plane back to California and determined to start again.

Once more she left Oakland last May, determined to fly around the world, this time in a easterly direction. On June 1st she left Miami, Fla., flew to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, over Arabia, India and Australia to British New Guinea.

Arriving at Lae, New Guinea, June 28, Miss Earhart and her navigator awaited a favorable opportunity for the attempt to negotiate the unflown 2,570 miles to Howland island, the tiny dot of land which represents the United States frontier in the south Pacific and which is regarded as a potential stepping stone on a air line between the Pacific coast and the Antipodes.

They left Lae at 10 a. m. local time, July 2nd, which was 7 p. m. Thursday, eastern standard time.

Help is offered in Plane Search

Washington, July 2—(AP)— Admiral William D. Leahy chief of naval operations, instructed the commandant of the naval station at Honolulu tonight to render whatever aid he may deem practicable in the search for Amelia Earhart.

Leahy acted after receiving word from the coast guard that Miss Earhart was believed to have been forced down in the the Pacific in the vicinity of Howland Island.

Planes Ready

A number of fast surface vessels, mostly destroyers, are now at Honolulu, as well as more than a score of long-range naval bombing planes.

The commandant at Honolulu has direction to employ planes and ships in the search if weather and other conditions permit.

Honolulu is approximately 1,600 miles from Howland.

The coast guard headquarters have received information that Miss Earhart probably overshot tiny Howland Island because she was blinded by the glare of an ascending sun.

Passes Island

The message from the coast guard cutter Itasca said it was believed Miss Earhart passed Northwest of Howland island about 2:20 p. m. (EST), or about 8 a. m. Howland Island time.

The cutter's skipper expressed belief the Earhart plane had descended into the sea within 100 miles of Howland.

The battle force commander at Pearl Harbor later sent word to the navy department that he was prepared to send a patrol plane to Howland Island to assist in the search.

He said the forecast was for continued fair weather in the vicinity of Howland for the next four days. It would not be practicable, he added, to send more then one plane, because only one can be tendered at Howland.

 

Earhart had trouble even getting started on her journey around the world. Weather delayed the start and mechanical problems delayed her further. She even stopped in Tucson in a trial hop.

From the Star, July 3, 1937:

 

WORLD FLIGHT HAS BAD LUCK
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Several Accidents Give Scare to Participants In Earhart Plans
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San Francisco, July 2.—(AP)— The globe-encircling flight of Amelia Earhart, which apparently ended in disaster today somewhere in the south Pacific, seemed ill-fated from the beginning.

Originally the daring aviatrix had planned to fly around the world in the other direction. For days in early march she waited at Oakland airport for mid-Pacific storms to cease.

Finally a the weather cleared, and March 18 she headed her plane westward toward Honolulu. The next day she landed her ship in perfect condition.

Cracks Up

The day following, however, as she tore down Luke field at 80 miles an hour in a dawn takeoff for Howland Island, on the second leg of her flight, the plane's right tire burst, the under-carriage gave way, and the plane cracked up.

Miss Earhart was unhurt, but the flight had to be postponed. The plane was shipped to Los Angeles and rebuilt.

May 22, Miss Earhart was about ready to hop off once more from Oakland. After a trial spin to Tucson, Ariz., fire broke out in one of the motors, necessitating more repairs.

Finally she got off, at the last minute switching her starting point from Oakland Calif., to Miami, Fla., and June 1 set her ship down at San Juan, P.R., after an 1,181-mile hop from Florida.

More Trouble

Twice in the latter stages if the flight, before today, she experienced trouble. Ten days ago, on a 375-mile hop from Bandoeng, Java, to Soreabaya, in the Dutch East Indies, trouble developed in the ship's electrical equipment.

Later, when she reached Lae, British New Guinea, her fuel line broke and her radio equipment failed to pierce the static.

Lae was her hopping off place on the flight to Howland Island.

 

While she was referred to as "Miss Earhart" in most articles about her, Earhart was married to George Putnam, who, no doubt was quite anxious to hear from his wife.

From the Star of the same date:

 

HUSBAND WORRIED OVER AMELIA'S FLIGHT

Oakland Calif., July 2—(AP)— George Palmer Putnam nervously paced his hotel room today but expressed hope that his wife, Amelia Earhart, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, would be rescued.

Putnam said he believed the coast guard cutter Itasca would reach the couple, whose plane was believed forced down near Howland Island in the South Pacific.

"The plane should float but I couldn't estimate for how long because a Lockheed plane has never been forced down at sea before," Putnam explained.

Tanks May Aid

"The plane's large wing and empty gasoline tanks should provide sufficient buoyancy if it came to rest on the sea without being damaged. "There was a two man rubber lifeboat aboard the plane, together with life belts, flares, a Very pistol and a large yellow signal kite which could be flown above the plane or the life raft."

Putnam said his wife had planned to take emergency food rations and plenty of water on the hazardous flight, the most dangerous on her trip around the world.

 

Of course, we all know the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is still a mystery. Theories have been offered, but it is likely we will never know for sure what happened.

The Morgue Lady must confess that as much as she likes looking into the past, she also likes to look toward the future and is a great science fiction fan.

Any fans of the old TV show "Star Trek: Voyager" will know that Earhart and her co-pilot were kidnapped by aliens and transported — along with others from Earth's past — to a planet far, far away. They were held in some form of suspended animation until they were awakened by Voyager's crew.

Mystery solved. At least, that's what the Morgue Lady would like to think.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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