On This Day: Amelia Earhart goes missing while flying around the world

Amelia Earhart was most known for becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic among other aviation records she broke.

 Amelia Earhart (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Amelia Earhart
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On July 2, 1937, famed aviator Amelia Earhart disappeared near Howland Island during a flight around the world with Fred Noonan in one of the 20th century's most famous mysteries.

After going on her first airplane ride at the age of 23, Earhart was inspired to take flying lessons and buy her first plane - a Kinner Airster. She earned her pilot's license three years later in 1923.

Breaking records

In 1928, Earhart found fame after she became the first woman to ever fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart took off from Newfoundland, Canada on June 18 and landed in Wales the next day after a 20 hour and 40 minutes flight.

That year, she broke another record, piloting an autogiro to 5,613 meters which was a record-breaking altitude.

Four years later in 1932, Earhart repeated the Atlantic-crossing flight, this time in 14 hours and 56 minutes, breaking another record for the fastest flight across the Atlantic. She achieved this despite mechanical difficulties and bad weather that forced her to change her destination from Paris to Ireland.

 Amelia Earhart memorial (credit: FLICKR) Amelia Earhart memorial (credit: FLICKR)

In 1935, Earhart once again made history when she flew the first solo flight from Hawaii to California and the first solo flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City.

Earhart's last flight

On June 1, 1937, Earhart set out to fly around the world with her navigator Fred Noonan. The two made multiple stops to refuel with their last known stop in New Guinea on June 29. They took off again on July 2, heading for Howland Island.

This leg of the journey was expected to be difficult, so two US ships marked the route to help with navigation, and Earhart and Noonan remained in radio contact with a US Coast Guard cutter Itsaca.

At some point, Earhart reported that they were running out of fuel. An hour after that report, she announced in the last known radio transmission that "we are running north and south." That was the last time anyone ever heard from either Earhart or Noonan.

"We are running north and south."

Amelia Earharts last radio transmission

Extensive searches were conducted in the area the plane was believed to be lost, but no trace of the plane or its passengers has ever been found, and Earhart and Noonan were declared lost at sea.

Theories

Theories of what happened to Earhart and Noonan vary. Some believe that they veered off course, making it difficult to identify the spot where they crashed.

Another theory that was supported by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) posits that they crash-landed on Gardner Island and died a few days later. 

A number of TIGHAR-led expeditions claimed to find evidence that people had been there including Plexiglas, a 1930's woman's shoe, a jar of cosmetics and bones. An extensive search of the island, however, did not reveal any human remains or DNA, and the plane was not found in any dives around the island.

Other theories include the Japanese capturing and executing Earhart and Noonan and the two being US spies, but none of the theories have ever turned up any real evidence and the case remains one of the world's biggest unsolved mysteries.