Disappearance of Amelia Earhart is one of the most intriguing mysteries. She was an ambitious woman pilot and a symbol of independent woman. Amelia held many records in flying but her final challenge was circumnavigation of the globe in her specially equipped twin engine plane named Electra. Howland Island which is a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific was her final stop. But Amelia never reached this island. It was on July 2, 1937 that Amelia and her fellow navigator Fred Noonan went missing as they were flying over the Pacific. This was in the last leg of their aerial circumnavigation of the world. The mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart along with her fame led to various theories.
After earning quite fame as an ace navigator and a woman symbol she took the delivery of Lockheed Electra 10E which was financed by the Pardue University. She decided to use this special plane for her world tour. Though this was not the first instance of aerial world navigation but it would be a significant achievement for a woman navigator. She chose Fred Noonan as the second navigator because there were various additional factors to be taken care of while flying around the world. Noonan had significant experience in both marine and flight navigation.
On March 17, 1937 on the holy eve of St. Patrick’s day Amelia during the first leg of her tour flew from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. Due to problems with lubrication and galling in the propeller hubs Electra needed servicing in Hawaii. She resumed her flight three days later.
Amelia was supposed to land in Howland Island, which is tiny coral island in the Pacific. There was a landing strip created especially for landing and radio was used to guide her to the landing strip. The pair took off from Lae, Guinea towards Howland on July 2. Though there were favourable weather reports but Electra flew into cloud cover and intermittent rains did not help. Amelia called the chief radioman at Itasca and asked for location. She did not report about her schedule and the transmissions got faint and irregular. Her last message to Itasca was “We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” The responses from Itasca were not heard by Amelia and her colleague. After about an hour later came her questionable transmission which stated “We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait… We are running on the line north and south.” After this message nothing was ever heard from Amelia Earhart. Though there were many attempts made by Itasca to get some messages across but these could not reach Electra.
Researchers feel that conditions and faulty chart went against the cause of Earhart and Noonan. The islands were marked at 10 kilometres further and this coupled with broken cloud cover led to confusions. Rescue missions were launched immediately. There were air and sea search through the area. Over the next couple of weeks Navy planes searched extensively through the area. One pilot reported that he had seen signs of recent human habitation on Gardner Island (near Phoenix Islands), he tried to aware the inhabitants but was not successful. There were no signs of aircraft wreckage found on the island too. With every passing day the search got more intensive but no trace of Electra or Amelia Earhart was found. Finally the mission was called off on July 19. The US government officially stated that Electra had sunk into the depths of sea without any trace. In 1938 there was a lighthouse created on Howland Island in memory of Amelia Earhart.