What Do We Think Happened to Amelia Earhart?
It’s been over 80 years since Amelia Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939. But news of the court-ordered announcement didn’t create many waves — after all, Earhart had already been missing for 18 months.
On July 2, 1937, Earhart and her navigator, famed aviation pioneer Fred Noonan, disappeared from radio contact while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Search parties scanned the Pacific for months in hopes of finding evidence of the plane’s remains, or more optimistically, a sign that the world’s most famous female pilot survived.
Earhart’s story has evolved into a legendary tale of exploration and mystery, but people are still hunting for her story’s true final chapter. Did her plane actually crash? Why was the year-and-a-half-long hunt so futile, and will we ever uncover the truth?
Why Didn’t the Search Party Find Her?
Earhart and Noonan were over a month into their historic expedition when tragedy struck. The adventurous aviatrix wanted her final publicity stunt to explore how human beings react under the strain and fatigue of global air travel. It was a lofty goal to achieve in 1937, but the soaring duo lasted a month on their adventure and reported stories from their journey to the U.S. media along the way.
What Theories Have Already Been Ruled Out?
The question of what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan conjured up a lot of theories along the way. Even George Palmer Putnam, Earhart’s husband, didn’t think his wife was lost at sea. He believed they made a safe landing somewhere because he heard amateur radio users received messages from the plane’s radio. However, Navy and Coast Guard officials debunked this idea with their superior technology.
So What Do the Experts Think Happened?
In August 2019, famed explorer Robert Ballard led a multimillion-dollar excavation to solve the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance. Ballard, famous for locating the remains of the Titanic, directed a two-week hunt surrounding Nikumaroro, a reef in the Phoenix Islands. He based his hunt on the Bevington Image, a photograph from 1940 that could contain landing gear from Earhart’s plane. Although they came up empty, Ballard believes we’re getting closer than ever to finding the remains.