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The Odd Vanishing Of Amelia Earhart

"The Babe of the Sky."

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On July 2, 1937, famed pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared along with her navigator, Fred Noonan. Although people have come up with various theories in the past 80 years about what could have happened to them, there has yet to be a definitive answer:

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On Aug. 24, 1932, Earhart flew from LA to Newark, setting a record (at that time) for the longest distance flown without refueling.

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She also became the first female pilot to complete a nonstop transcontinental flight and was known as the "first lady of the sky."

In 1937, Earhart set her sights on circling the globe. She would zigzag along the equator requiring long hauls over water. The journey would be 29,000 miles and take roughly 40 days, starting and ending in California, with stops in San Juan, Calcutta, and Bangkok.

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On July 2, 1937, 42 days into their journey, they prepared to leave Lae, New Guinea. The Electra was fully loaded, and they were roughly 22,000 miles into the trip and had about another 7,000 miles to go before returning to California.

Soon after Earhart's plane took off, Balfour noted that the headwinds were stronger than anticipated and sent transmissions to Earhart to warn her, but Earhart did not seem to get them.

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High headwinds could affect plane speed, gas consumption, and the length of flight.

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A little over an hour later, her next transmission stated that she had climbed to 10,000 feet. This may have been uneconomical for fuel usage, and it was unclear why she had made this climb.

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Author and veteran pilot Elgen Long suspected that it was to avoid clouds or mountains.

The Coast Guard's Itasca, located off the coast of Howland Island, was to provide communications and weather for Earhart. It is thought that Earhart's plane must have been fairly close to the island, because the Itasca did hear her transmissions.

And at 8:43 a.m., her last transmission was:

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While there are conflicting reports, the transmission may have also included: "We are running north and south." It is also said that in her final transmissions Earhart sounded frantic.

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When Earhart's plane never arrived, the Itasca searched the waters northwest of Howland Island. Five days later, the US battleship Colorado begin to search the waters southeast of the Island. An aircraft carrier, the Lexington, arrived soon after from its base in San Diego.

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But Earhart, Noonan, and their plane were never found. It didn't stop the world from speculating what happened. Here are some theories:

But skeptics have pointed out that an Electra with that amount of fuel should have lasted 24 hours rather than 20 as Earhart's plane did. Analysis by the Jet Propulsion Center at Caltech concluded that with the headwinds and the10,000-foot climb Earhart had to make earlier in the flight, her plane would have been out of fuel when she disappeared.

Near Howland Island, the ocean is about 18,000 feet deep. From 2002 to 2017, a company called Nauticos teamed up with other groups to search a 2,000-square-mile area where Earhart's Electra may have sunk.

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They used sonar mapping to search the seafloor but found no evidence of the fuselage.

The second theory is that Earhart became a castaway on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro. Roughly 350 miles south of Howland Island, the island is along the line Earhart last reported flying along.

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Two to three years later, British colonial officer Gerald Gallagher found the remains of a campsite along with a box for a sextant. He also found a partial human skeleton as well as 12 other bones.

The bones were analyzed by a physician, D.W. Hoodless, who was working in a medical school in Fiji. He determined the bones belonged to a man who was short, stocky, and of European descent and could not be Earhart or Noonan.

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Unfortunately, after this conclusion, Hoodless discarded the bones preventing anyone from future DNA analysis.

However, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery used Hoodless's original measurements of the bones and today's updated database to determine that the bones could have also belonged to a tall woman of European descent.

According to TIGHAR's director, Ric Gillespie, the explanation for why only partial bones were found on the island was because of the coconut crabs that live there. He suggests they carried the bones off into burrows and/or may have eaten them.

There were also several possible transmissions from Earhart herself throughout the week following her disappearance. Betty Klenck claimed that via her shortwave radio, she heard a female voice saying:

Klenck listened to the voice for three hours and recorded what she heard in a notebook. Klenck's father reported his daughter's findings to the Coast Guard, who did not seem to take the claim seriously because there were dozens of reports of messages from Earhart around the world days after her disappearance.

...the sole was from the same type of shoe Earhart is seen wearing in a photo days before her disappearance. However, the sole belonged to a size 9 shoe, which would have been too big for Earhart.

This theory seems to be improbable though, and Bolam sued the publisher of a book that speculated this. Also, according to TIGHAR, they did not resemble each other when their photos were compared.

The photo was analyzed by various experts who were optimistic that it was the missing Earhart and Noonan. Unfortunately, the photo was debunked when two bloggers found the photo in a Japanese book published in 1935, two years before Earhart disappeared.

In the end though, most people believe that Earhart simply crashed and died on impact but still there's no way of telling if these alternate theories could be true. But until there is a body and plane recovered the mystery remains unsolved.

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