Did Amelia Earhart Survive?

by Hannah Rose

As soon as I saw the headline that Amelia Earhart, America’s most popular female aviator, may have survived after her plane disappeared in 1937, I was fucking stoked. Although I wasn’t yet aware of feminism when I learned about her in the 3rd grade, I now consider Amelia Earhart to be my first feminist role model. She was fearless and determined to be great, even if she was hustling in the dangerous, traditionally-men’s field of aviation. And surrounding this bad bitch was a national mystery. . . during a 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe (accompanied by navigator Fred Noonan), her Electra aircraft disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. No trace of Earhart, Noonan, or the aircraft were ever unequivocally found, leaving the world wondering – to this day – WTF happened.

Last Sunday was the 80th anniversary of their disappearance, and imagine my excitement when HISTORY (the artist formerly known as The History Channel) announced that they may have found photographic proof that Earhart survived. Their investigative special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” (which also debuted last Sunday), follows Shawn Henry, a former FBI assistant executive director, who received a photo that retired federal agent Les Kinney found buried in the National Archives for almost 80 years. Experts (with superb facial recognition skills, apparently) believe the picture could be of Earhart seated with her back to the camera and Fred Noonan on a dock in the Marshall Islands, and maybe even the Electra aircraft on a barge – potential proof that they survived the crash. Oh hell yeah, right? Well, maybe not.

Also pictured in the photo is the Japanese military vessel Koshu Maru, which led the researchers to believe that (if it is Earhart and Noonan in the pic) they were likely captured by the Japanese military and died while being held prisoner on the Island of Saipan. This theory first surfaced in the 1960s after Marshall Islanders reported that they saw the Electra aircraft land and also witnessed Earhart and Noonan in Japanese custody. Bless their hearts, they survived a plane crash only to die as P.O.W.s? But it turns out that, like every great national mystery, not everyone agrees with this theory.

07xp amelia2 master768Photo found by Les Miller in the National Archives. It could picture Amelia Earhart seated with her back to the camera, Fred Noonan (her navigator), and possibly the Electra aircraft on the Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands after their disappearance on July 2, 1937; Amelia Earhart, 1927


National Geographic also recently announced that they were sending a team of researchers – including four border collies trained to trained to sniff out chemicals left by decaying human remains – to a remote atoll (formerly Gardner Island, now named Nikumaroro) to find the duo’s remains. The team is led by Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (a nonprofit that’s spent decades search for Earhart), who theorizes that Earhart and Noonan crashed on this island, then died as castaways, supported by evidence like pieces of airplane metal, American-manufactured jars from the 1930s, 47 distress calls allegedly made by Earhart, improvised tools, and a skeleton possibly belonging to a tall woman of European descent. The Washington Post reported that when the dogs arrived on June 30th, they alerted researchers to a spot that they sensed contained the human-remains chemicals. The area did not contain visible remains, but soil samples are being sent to a lab for DNA testing.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s official version (supported by the Smithsonian) is that Earhart’s plane plunged into the ocean after she ran out of gas trying to reach Howland Island for a pitstop. “She says she is getting low on fuel, then calls 45 minutes later with a worried tone saying she is running the line on which she hoped to cross over Howland Island,” Dorothy Cochrane, a Smithsonian curator, said, according to The New York Times. “But she doesn’t. She doesn’t say she’s departing the area, nor does she call Mayday.”

However, no airplane has been found near Howland Island despite millions of dollars spent to explore the surrounding ocean floor. . . So the mystery continues, and I am here. for. it.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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