The Mystery Behind Amelia Earhart's Disappearance
The Mystery Behind Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance

The Mystery Behind Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance

Larry Holzwarth - March 19, 2020

The Mystery Behind Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance
Australian aviation pioneer Charles Ulm and Amelia Earhart in December 1934. Ulm disappeared over the Pacific the same month. Wikimedia

25. So what happened to Amelia Earhart?

The short answer is that Amelia Earhart and her companion on the fateful flight, Fred Noonan, vanished without a trace. If Earhart was flying the course she radioed to Itasca at the time of her disappearance, she was on a line which missed Howland Island by more than five miles. The chart used by Noonan misplaced the tiny Howland Island by that distance. In the visual conditions at the time the island would not have been seen. Though a remote possibility the Electra could reach Gardner Island exists, it is mathematically unlikely. The most rational explanation is the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific, where it sank. No trace of wreckage or oil slick was ever found.

That explanation remains unsatisfactory for those who admire Earhart’s flying skills (which are exaggerated). The theories touched on here are but a few of many involving conspiracies among the high command of the American Pacific military forces, the War Department and subsequent Department of Defense, and the White House. Earhart’s final radio transmissions indicated she knew she was in trouble, in an unknown position, and running perilously low on fuel. There was no call of an emergency, no notification the airplane was about to ditch in the sea. Nor was there notice of an attempt to land on an unknown island or coral reef. She simply flew into history.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Will the Search for Amelia Earhart Ever End?” Jerry Adler, Smithsonian Magazine. January, 2015

“Amelia Earhart”. Debra Michaels, National Women’s History Museum. 2015

“Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker. September 14, 2009

“Finding Amelia Earhart’s Plane Seemed Impossible. Then Came a Startling Clue”. Julie Cohn, New York Times Magazine. August 12, 2019

“Famed Scientist Searching for Amelia Earhart Wreckage”. Video report, ABC News. August 13, 2019. Online

“Amelia Earhart: Theories on her disappearance still fuel mystery”. Elinor Aspegren, USA Today. July 19, 2019

“Amelia Earhart Was Declared Dead 80 Years Ago. Here’s What to Know About What Actually Happened to Her”. Olivia Waxman, TIME Magazine. January 4, 2019

“The Search for Amelia Earhart”. Fred Goerner. 1966

“Amelia Earhart mystery: How Britain missed simple chance to solve disappearance”. Josh Saunders, The Express. March 1, 2020

“Amelia Earhart: Island bones ‘likely’ belonged to famous pilot”. BBC World News. March 8, 2018

“Smithsonian Curator Weighs In on Photo That Allegedly Shows Amelia Earhart in Japanese Captivity”. Brigit Katz, July 5, 2017. Online

“Why Amelia Earhart Still Matters”. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics. August 23, 2017

“Amelia Earhart case “closed” after analysis of her distress signals, researcher says”. Report, CBS News. July 28, 2018. Online

“After 75 Years, the Amelia Earhart Search Begins Anew”. Amy Shira Teitel, Vice. May 21, 2012