On July 2, 1937, aviator Amelia Earhart climbed into her Lockheed 10E Electra only days away from the goal of circling the globe for the first time. It was a hot day in the Lae, Paupa New Guinea, as Fred Noonan, her navigator, took his position in the back of the plane behind the six fuel tanks that had been installed where the seats of the plane once were. It was the most fuel ever load on the plane and calculated to be sufficient for the 2,500 mile trip – the longest leg of the journey. Amelia called her tight cockpit her “cubbyhole.”
Noonan’s navigation station in the rear of the plane had a clear window installed to enable him to see the stars and take readings along the way. His experience surveying the Pacific for Pan American Airways was asset for this long Pacific Ocean crossing. To communicate in the noisy plane, pilot and navigator passed notes written in pencil, delivered clipped to a fishing line on a bamboo fishing pole.
In the previous six weeks, they had flown 20,000 miles in similar circumstances. This leg had the heaviest load of fuel ever loaded on the Electra and proved to be a hazardous, tough take off and slow climb after dropping at takeoff very close to the ocean waves, but it was reported that Amelia slowly climbed into the sky and out of sight.
That message and others were sent from Lae ground support alerted those waiting far across the Pacific at Howland Island – a speck of land one mile wide, two miles long with only a 20-foot elevation. And, where a newly built runway awaited the arrival of the Electra and the famous aviator Amelia Earhart and Navigator Fred Noonan.
Standing by near Howland Island aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Itasca, Commander Warren K. Thompson was new in this region. The Itasca began its voyage weeks before the flight from the US West Coast to Honolulu and then to Howland. This was the Commander’s first visit to Howland. His orders were to provide communications and other services for Earhart. There was great excitement among his crew when they began to receive radio transmissions from Amelia, but the plane did not arrive, and was quickly reported missing.
The unprecedented search that followed found nothing at all. Many false reports were received and new theories and stories continue in the 21st Century.
In 2017 we will mark the 80th year since the plane and its intrepid explorers vanished. The intervening years produced many theories and many stories of what had happened, but none of these has been found to be an answer with evidential integrity.
Among those who wished to solve the mystery in a more fact based investigative way was Elgen Long.
Like Amelia Earhart, Elgen is a career aviator with over 40,000 hours of worldwide flying. He began in World War II in Navy patrol flights. These often took him over Howland Island.
Among his many achievements was his own record breaking global circle that took him over the two polar regions. With support from his wife, Marie Long, who was a public relations consultant, this comprehensive research and analysis was published in their book, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved in 1999.
Soon after, the book was read by David Jourdan, President of Nauticos, an ocean exploration company in Maine. David is a US Navy veteran with many academic credentials and an impressive record leading successful exploration expeditions. Credited with many finds in the ocean, including some that had been sought for long periods of time, Jourdan approached Elgen Long to work together to seek and find the Electra.
Since their meeting, Jourdan and Long assembled an impressive group of engineers, analysts, researchers, sponsors and investors to begin the most extensive high-resolution mapping of the deep ocean floor in history. Tom Dettweiler, former science officer on Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso and operations manager for the discovery of Titanic, has been an integral asset to that team.
Jourdan’s team launched two seven-week expeditions in 2002 and 2006 in a quest to find Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed. A third expedition in 2017 will mark the 80th anniversary of the loss of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan and the plane. The latest expedition, the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition, is sponsored by Alan Eustace, whose jump from near the top of the stratosphere set a new aviation record in 2014. David Jourdan lead the recovery team for Eustace’s jump – and the beginning of a new opportunity for more collaboration.
This latest expedition by these two successful exploration leaders is joined by many of the same team from 2002 and 2006. They are building on past work, continuing the search for the plane in the deep, remote area of the Central Pacific Ocean. Follow the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition online at Nauticos.com.
The Final Flight