Thursday, July 28, 2016

Amelia Earhart: The Mystery SolvedAmelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved by Marie K. Long

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been on an Amelia Earhart kick lately ever since I read Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming. Here I thought that I had learned everything that there was to know about this brilliant flyer by reading lots of biographies of her as a child. She is definitely a person that people use with children to celebrate all kinds of different values.

But Candace Fleming and also the Longs' book paints a somewhat different picture and more complex picture of the woman. After reading both, there is little doubt in my mind that she was incredibly brave and an amazing risk taker and definitely knew how to fly a plane long distances. One of the more challenging aspects of long distance flying was figuring out how to make the fuel last and there were things that a pilot could do to "lean" the mixture and she seemed quite adept at that.

This book by Marie K. Long and Elgen Long, who was a former flyer who often had to fly over Howland Island when he was in the Navy, reveals something that I think is shocking.

She didn't know Morse code. And her navigator didn't either!

Maybe that isn't so shocking to you. After all, Earhart had a radio and did communicate with ground radio stations using her voice almost all the way around the world. But here's the problem. The Itasca, which was the Naval ship tasked with helping her to find and land on Howland Island, her two-mile wide Pacific Island refueling stop, assumed that she did and they had a plan to help her use her radio detection finder to locate it using a Morse code frequency. Even days after she disappeared, many people in the Navy still tried to communicate with her using Morse code.

In this book, Elgen and Marie Long have come up with a solution to the mystery of Amelia's disappearance that makes sense to them based on what they know about her radio, her fuel reserves, and the weather on that day and they make a very compelling scientific argument about where we can find Amelia today.

The book was published several years ago and, so far, no one seems to have taken them up on looking for her in the place where her plane might be.

The book was sometimes a bit of a slog because of the amount of technical information that has to be shared in order for the final solution to make sense but I was immersed in it, especially learning more about how challenging it was to attempt to fly in and out of all the different countries that she had to visit. There were times when she had to be concerned with outrunning a typhoon or how soggy a landing strip was. There were times when she had to be concerned with how to get a part to fix her plane before she could take off again.

Adventurous and will shine a light on the real Amelia Earhart, who might be a bit different from the Earhart that we think we know.

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