Nearly 80 years after her final flight, the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance endures.
Recently discovered footage showing Earhart preparing for one of her last flights is going viral online, reigniting interest in the woman who was first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
The grainy film, believed to have been shot in May 1937, shows Earhart posing for photographer Albert Bresnik, climbing into the cockpit of her twin-engine Electra and walking on a tarmac in California. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took their final flight on July 2 of that year from New Guinea, as part of an attempt to fly around the world.
Found by Bresnik’s nephew, the film had sat on his father’s shelf for more than 50 years. It accompanies a new e-book published by The Paragon Agency called “Amelia Earhart’s Last Photo Shoot.” We talked to the author, Nicole Swinford, about what this footage means for the Earhart enigma.
Does this footage offer anything new for our understanding of Earhart's Amelia’s last flight?
You do notice differences in this moment at the beginning of the flight versus photos that we see throughout the [final] flight with the plane. You start to notice that she had been making changes specifically to radio equipment in the antennas. And you ask, why did she do these things? Because looking back, we see that these choices inhibited her communication ability. It significantly shortened the range that she was able to communicate with. It could have been the difference between a success and failure.
What sets this film apart from other footage we’ve seen of her?
It’s very personal. You’re right there with her walking around the plane. The wind is blowing in her hair, and she’s got this big smile on her face as she’s about to go off on this great adventure. We know her as this tough adventurous woman, but here we see her posing for the cameras. We see her feminine side.
When did you get interested in Earhart?
I grew up hearing the stories of Amelia Earhart and her disappearance. It was always so captivating—this mystery that still wasn’t solved over so many years. And she’s such an inspiring figure for women. She’s always been with me as this mysterious, amazing figure that I wanted to discover more about. And that’s what this video does—it opens up possibilities.
What kind of possibilities?
Something that’s so unique about the film is that unlike all the other Earhart discoveries and searches that we do today, this doesn’t come from her end. It comes from the beginning of the endeavor. We are always so intrigued with what happened to her and what happened in the disappearance that we want to narrow our focus right there on that spot in the Pacific Ocean. I thought we have to start asking new questions and we have to broaden our scope.
Why are we still so interested in Earhart today?
A big part of it is the mystery. People love mysteries, but more than that, we love to solve mysteries. We want to make sense of what happened to her, because she is this heroine and larger than life figure.
Amelia Earhart poses at the door of a Lockheed Electra L-10E in May 1937, two months before she vanished during her attempt to cross the Pacific.
Follow Greta Weber on Twitter.