A Google Doodle depicting Amelia Earhart climbing aboard a Lockheed Vega 5B monoplane marks the aviation heroines 115th birthday.
The doodle – which is an alteration of the Google image – is regularly used to “celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists”, says the search engine giant, and is further proof that interest in her life and disappearance remains as prevalent and as endearing today as it did when she vanished 75 years ago this month.
The plane depicted in the doodle is the same model she flew in 1932 when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record, went on to write best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of ‘The Ninety Nines’, an organization for female pilots.
In 1937, she attempted to circumnavigate the globe with flight navigator Fred Noonan. After a failed attempt at take off from Honolulu, Hawaii, due to the Lockheed Model 10 Electra’s right tyre blowing and the right landing gear collapsing, they eventually took off from Lae, New Guinea, with the intended destination being Howland Island.
Due to a series of misunderstandings or complications regarding radio navigation on their journey to Howland Island, along with adverse weather conditions, neither reached their destination and disappeared somewhere over the Central Pacific Ocean.
After an extensive search, Noonan was declared legally dead in June 1938 and Earhart a year later.
Many theories have been proffered to explain the tragedy, some bordering on the ludicrous, others provoking fresh searches.
One theory is that her disappearance was hoaxed so that she could spy on the Japanese in the Pacific at the request of the Franklin Roosevelt administration. In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired an episode which featured a claim that Earhart survived the world flight, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried and became Irene Craigmile Bolam.
One of the more well supported theories however is that the duo crash landed on a reef on Gardner Island (also known as Nikumaroro). In 1940, a skeleton along with an old-fashioned sextant box was found under a tree on the island’s southeast corner. British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones and concluded they were from a male about 5 ft 5 in tall, however, in 1998, further analysis of the measurement data by forensic anthropologists indicated the skeleton had belonged to a “tall white female of northern European ancestry.”
Extraordinarily, but typical of the mystery shrouding the case, the bones themselves were misplaced in Fiji long ago and have not been found since.
The search for Amelia Earhart has never ceased. Just today, A $2.2 million expedition that had hoped to find wreckage from the final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain. Though the latest search has failed, the group leading the search are planning a voyage for next year to scour Gardner Island for new clues thanks largely to the Gardner Island Hypothesis put forward at the time.
Earhart was a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime. The fact that she was the first women in history to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, along with her goal-oriented career have been written as a motivational tale, especially for girls – Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon. Of course, along with the circumstances of her disappearance at an early age, fascination and intrigue will always abide – as with any unsolved mystery.
Perhaps one day the 75 year search will bear the fruit of discovery, and put to an end once and for all the seven-decade-old question:
“What happened to Amelia Earhart?”