Newly Revealed Distress Calls Reveal The Final, Desperate Days Of Amelia Earhart

Published July 25, 2018
Updated July 26, 2018

For 80 years, the disappearance of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart has fascinated the public. New research believes it's solved what exactly happened in her final days.

Amelia Earhart Plane Cockpit

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection/Library of CongressAmelia Earhart sitting in the cockpit of an Electra plane

Since she disappeared over the Pacific in 1937, Amelia Earhart’s death has captivated the public. The story’s unanswered questions have kept people wondering how one of the most accomplished female pilots met her untimely demise, but now a new report analyzing her final distress calls claims to have solved the mystery.

In the report, researchers Richard Gillespie and Robert Brandenburg analyzed over 100 distress calls (57 of those deemed credible) made by Earhart to theorize that her and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died several days after their plane crashed on Gardner’s Island in the Western Pacific.

During her final trip, Earhart was attempting to be the first woman to circumnavigate the world. However, her trip took a turn when her plane the Electra, according to the U.S. Navy, went down over the Pacific Ocean. On the evening on July 2, 1937 the U.S. Navy sent out an “all ship all stations” bulletin alerting everyone to pay close attention to her frequencies in hope of catching a potential signal from Earhart.

Amelia Earhart Distress Calls

A multitude of sources ended up catching snippets of information from Earhart during the week after her crash.

First, two Naval stations in Hawaii heard what they believed to be Earhart’s voice but could not make out the words. Later that same day, a clearer message was received by a more unlikely source. Mabel Larremore in Amarillo, Texas was scanning through her home radio when she heard Earhart call out, “Plane down on an uncharted island. Small, uninhabited.”

Another message was received the next day on July 3 by Nina Paxton in Ashland, Kentucky who picked up several phrases from Earhart including “down in ocean,” “our plane about out of gas. Water all around. Very dark,” “Will have to get out of here,” and “We can’t stay here long.”

Finally, the last credible reception received from Earhart occurred on July 7 when Thelma Lovelace of St. Johns, New Brunswick heard, “Can you read me? Can you read me? This is Amelia Earhart. This is Amelia Earhart. Please come in.” Earhart continued her message, saying, “we have taken in water, my navigator is badly hurt; we are in need of medical care and must have help; we can’t hold on much longer.” And then there was silence.

Gillespie has been attempting to debunk the U.S. Navy’s conclusion about what happened to Earhart for decades and believes that his analysis of the distress calls received by members of the military and civilians concludes that she and Noonan did not die when their plane hit the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they both lived out their final days on Gardner Island.

Gillespie states that one of the best arguments to support his theory is the time in which Earhart made the calls. The calls could only be made at time where the tides were low enough to not flood the engines, typically from the late night to the early morning, which matches up the times Earhart’s calls were made.

“These active versus silent periods and the fact that the message changes on July 5 and starts being worried about water and then is consistently worried about water after that – there’s a story there,” Gillespie told The Washington Post. “We’re feeding it to the public in bite-sized chunks. I’m hoping that people will smack their foreheads like I did.”

Next, learn more about an unearthed photo of Earhart could prove she survived. Then, check out the fascinating facts about Amelia Earhart.

Caroline Redmond
Caroline is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's in science from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in People, Yahoo, Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, and The Boston Herald.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Redmond, Caroline. "Newly Revealed Distress Calls Reveal The Final, Desperate Days Of Amelia Earhart.", July 25, 2018, Accessed May 28, 2024.