WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Previous in Blog: Amelia Earhart: Part I   Next in Blog: Ellen Swallow Richards (December 3, 1842 – March 30, 1911)

Amelia Earhart: Part II

Posted March 20, 2007 11:48 AM by t-rex

Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series about Amelia Earhart. Part I ran yesterday.

Over the next several years, Amelia Earhart continued to set aviation records. She became the first person to fly solo over the Pacific Ocean; fly solo from Los Angeles, California to Mexico; and from Mexico to Newark, New Jersey. Earhart also set speed and altitude records in autogiros, aircraft with unpowered rotary wings (precursors to helicopters). In addition to her inflight achievements, Amelia was elected to the FAI and helped establish a new airline - New York, Philadelphia and Washington Airways. She was also elected president of the Ninety Nines, a women's aviation club.

Always looking for a record to break, Amelia Earhart also set her sights on circumnavigating the globe. She equipped her custom-built Lockheed-Electra with additional gas tanks, but failed in her first around-the-world attempt when her plane crashed in Hawaii. After having the plane rebuilt, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan left Miami on June 1, 1937. Their journey would take them on a 29,000 mile trip that would end in tragedy.

Earhart and Noonan completed about 22,000 miles when they landed in Lae, New Guinea. The next leg of their trip would be the longest - 2556 miles - over water to tiny Howland Island. They departed with favorable weather forecasts, but encountered clouds and rain. In their last radio transmissions to a Coast Guard ship, they indicated that although they should be able to see the vessel, they were unable to locate it. Low on fuel, they also stated that they were running north to south looking for the ship. Amelia Earhart made no further contact.

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart triggered the most extensive air and sea search in naval history. Over $4 million was spent scouring over 250,000 miles of ocean during the 16-day mission. The official report concluded that the plane had crashed at sea and sunk without a trace. Search and rescue techniques of the time were sub-par.

There were reports of signals from the plane for four or five days after the disappearance. Some distress calls may have originated in the vicinity of Gardner Island, indicating that Earhart and Noonan could have been on land.

In many ways, Amelia Earhart became more famous for her disappearance than for her accomplishments. Conspiracy theories about the fate of Earhart and Noonan have long circulated among researchers and historians. Some suggest they were captured by the Japanese, and that the around-the-world flight was a cover for a spy mission. The most widely accepted theory, however, is that the plane ran out of fuel and was ditched at sea. Today, the search for Amelia Earhart continues with special interest in the Phoenix Islands, a group of islands which lie on the same line of position as Howland Island.

Before her disappearance, Amelia Earhart wrote several letters to her husband, George Putnam, during stops on the Pacific. In one of her last communications, she wrote: "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards ... Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others." An inspiration to many girls over the years, Amelia Earhart dared to do what no other woman would do. Even today, Amelia's courage, grace and success encourage women to take the world stage.



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The Engineer
Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Physics... United States - Member - NY Popular Science - Genetics - Organic Chemistry... Popular Science - Cosmology - New Member Ingeniería en Español - Nuevo Miembro - New Member

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Re: Amelia Earhart: Part II

03/21/2007 10:15 AM

Great Story. It's funny how she has become such a part of Americana. I think most Americans would recognize her name even if they had no idea what she did.

I get nervous on commercial airliners, I can't imagine getting in a brand new plane and flying it beyond its limits till it crashed, rebuilding it, and then flying it beyond its limits again till it crashed again. She must have had nerves of steel.

If you guys are taking suggestions, I recommend Rosalind Franklin for a future story.

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Previous in Blog: Amelia Earhart: Part I   Next in Blog: Ellen Swallow Richards (December 3, 1842 – March 30, 1911)
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