Chasing Amelia Earhart: A Tour Through the Relics of the Lost Pilot
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra, the plane she was flying when she disappeared in July 1937 (via Smithsonian Institution)
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, and later disappeared mysteriously that same month in 1937. In her lifetime she became the first woman, and second pilot, to fly solo over the Atlantic, and it was while trying for a circumnavigation of the earth that she vanished.
Yet earlier this year some researchers reported that they may have found her wreckage on a sonar image of Nikumaroro Island, where she may have been a castaway, and more photos have surfaced from a 1938 survey of the island that may offer even more clues. Is the mystery of the lost aviatrix finally going to be solved? However the historic hunt turns out, there are still numerous places in which to discover the life, and disappearance, of the intrepid pilot. Here are our favorites:
AMELIA EARHART BIRTHPLACE MUSEUM
Amelia Earhart’s childhood home (via Wikimedia)
To start, there’s no better place to begin than the home where she was born in 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. The charming cottage is now a museum, with exhibitions related to her life both growing up in Kansas and her aviation career.
AMELIA EARHART EARTHWORKS
Flying view of the Amelia Earhart Earthworks (via getruralkansas.com)
Another tribute in her hometown that is much more monumental is the Amelia Earhart Earthworks. Created in 1997 by Kansas artist Stan Herd, the 42,000 square foot portrait of the aviator made from plants and earth is, appropriately, best viewed from the sky.
EARHART’S LOCKHEED VEGA
Earhart’s plane in the Smithsonian (via Wikimedia)
The Lockheed Vega made famous along with its pilot on that 1932 transatlantic flight is now in the Smtihsonian Institution. She donated it when she got a new plane, but the bright red plane that she called her “Little Red Bus” remains one of the most iconic symbol of her flights.
THE EARHART LIGHT
The Earhart Light in 2008 (via Wikimedia)
The plane she was flying in 1937 may as yet still be missing, but the lighthouse that awaited her arrival that never came is visibly crumbling on Howland Island out in a remote area of the Pacific between Hawaii and Australia. The Earhart Light stands as a beacon on the island where she was expected to refuel on July 2, and although her radio transmissions reached its shores, she and her co-pilot Fred Noonan never did.
The island where Earhart may have been a castaway (via Google Maps)
So where did they go? Some suspect Nikumaroro Island. Although the United States launched what was the most expensive and thorough search mission up to that point in history, no signs of her airplane ever turned up. However, since 1988 four different expeditions have combed the shores of the Pacific island and found improvised tools, objects that seem like plane wreckage, and a woman’s heel. A skeleton of a woman was also reportedly found in the 1940s, but it has long since become as lost as the plane. While all of this seems like convincing evidence, the fact there was a significant 1929 shipwreck where passengers were also marooned complicates the search.
MUSEUM OF WOMEN PILOTS
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Lock of Amelia Earhart’s hair in the Museum of Women Pilots (photograph by the author)
Many relics of Amelia Earhart are preserved in the Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City, which is run by the 99s International Organization of Women Pilots, of which she was the first president. This includes a lock of her hair she once left at the White House during one of her visits, as well as her goggles, a metal case with her initials, and a five dollar bill that was on one of her flights that she signed. There are also her lucky objects that she never flew without: her scarf and elephant hoof bracelet. Yet for reasons unknown, she left these with her mother prior to her final flight. However, she did get to take one more flight through these posessions in a way, as astronaut Randy Bresnik, whose grandfather was Earhart’s authorized photographer, took the scarf abord the space shuttle Atlantis in November of 2009.
AMELIA EARHART BIRTHPLACE MUSEUM, Atchison, Kansas
AMELIA EARHART EARTHWORKS, Atchison, Kansas
EARHART’S LOCKHEED VEGA, Washington, DC
THE EARHART LIGHT, Howland Island
NIKUMARORO ISLAND, Nikumaroro, Kiribati
MUSEUM OF WOMEN PILOTS, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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