Leading a life of courage, vision and groundbreaking achievements, American aviator Amelia Earhart became a pioneering figure and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. 85 years ago on July 2 1937, Amelia’s plane lost contact while she was attempting to fly around the world. Her whereabouts has been a mystery ever since.
An ambitious child
Growing up as a tomboy, Amelia was often met with strong challenges and prejudice, but she was always determined to succeed against all odds. On December 28, 1920, Amelia was taken for a flight by pilot Frank Hawks, which changed her life forever.
After falling in love with flying, Amelia went against the grain and took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921. Six months later, she had managed to save enough money to buy her first plane, a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow. Amelia nicknamed it “The Canary”, and used it to set her first women’s record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet.
Amelia didn’t strive to become a typical pilot – she wanted to break records. That’s why, when she received a call in 1928 to fly across the Atlantic – making her the first woman to do so – she snapped up the opportunity immediately.
Over the course of her life, Amelia continued to break boundaries. For example, she set an altitude record for autogyros of 18,415 feet that stood for years, and became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland, California.
As Amelia turned 40, she was ready for her final and monumental challenge; she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world.
Setting off on June 1, Amelia embarked on her 29,000-mile journey from Miami to New Guinea – only 2,556 miles short of completing her trip. Although she faced a number of challenges, Amelia persisted. The next day, she took off, but ran into difficulty, and was unable to contact help.
Amelia was last heard from at 7:42 am on June 2. Rescue attempts were immediately put in place, becoming the most extensive air and sea search in naval history, costing US$4mn. In 1939, a lighthouse on Howland Island was constructed in her memory.