June 25, 2012

75 Years Ago in News History: Amelia Earhart Disappears

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The July 2, 1937, edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin described Amelia Earhart's urgent message of "low gas!" (Newseum collection)

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Boston's Daily Record boldly announced Amelia Earhart's disappearance in the July 3, 1937, edition. (Newseum collection)

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The Los Angeles Examiner reported on a distress call radioed by Amelia Earhart in the July 3, 1937, edition. (Newseum collection)

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The July 3, 1937, edition of The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., reported on the search for Amelia Earhart. (Newseum collection)

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Speculation about shark-infested waters was the top headline in the July 3, 1937, edition of The Baltimore News-Post. (Newseum collection)

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In its July 5, 1937, edition, the Reading Eagle of Reading, Pa., reported on a weak radio signal in the search for Amelia Earhart. (Newseum collection)

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The July 5, 1937, edition of The Atlanta Constitution reported on "mysterious radio signals" keeping the search alive for Amelia Earhart. (Newseum collection)

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The Honolulu Star-Bulletin covered the conclusion of the search for Amelia Earhart in the July 17, 1937, edition.

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to fly around the world.

Earhart and the plane's navigator, Fred Noonan, left Miami on June 1 for their global trip. They stopped in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. The last stop before the plane disappeared was Lae, Papua New Guinea.

On July 2, Earhart and Noonan left Lae expecting to land on Howland Island, located approximately 2,500 miles away. In Earhart's final radio message, she said fuel was running low and that she was unable to locate the island.

Soon after Earhart's disappearance, The Atlanta Constitution questioned whether faint radio signals were coming from Earhart's plane. The Syracuse Post-Standard also believed Earhart "overshot" Howland Island and ran out of fuel.

"Walter McMenamy, amateur radio operator, said he picked up Amelia Earhart's call letters, 'KHAQQ,' at 5 a.m. (7 a.m. Atlantic time) today," reported The Atlanta Constitution. "He said the call was in voice, but was 'too faint to tell definitely if actually from Miss Earhart.'"

The Baltimore News-Post wrote in its headline that Earhart was "believed to be adrift in shark-infested waters." The U.S. Coast Guard deployed search ships, but Earhart, Noonan and the plane were never found.

Earhart's disappearance remains one of the great mysteries of the 20th century, prompting many theories about her fate. The most commonly accepted theory is that she and Noonan died when their plane crashed into the Pacific. However, recently discovered evidence on Nikumaroro Island, 300 miles southeast of Howland, suggests that Earhart and Noonan may have landed the plane and survived for a few days as castaways on the then-uninhabited island. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will soon conduct an expedition to Nikumaroro Island to search for debris from Earhart's plane.

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