Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have left
fields of destruction on their paths from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of Texas, islands in the Caribbean,
especially Puerto Rico, and Florida in the first weeks of September.
The eye of a hurricane: https://youtu.be/v6vypwhluEg
have been devastated. It will take months to rebuild Barbuda, Puerto Rico, and parts of the Virgin Islands. Sadly, residents
of many small islands in the Caribbean, like Domenica, have lost their homes, electricity, water, trees, fruitful gardens,
schools and churches, as well as hotels and restaurants getting ready for the important winter tourist season.
At this writing, volunteer agencies ask individuals eager to volunteer
not to come alone. Join a group, many of which are listed with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, VOAD,
which acts as a clearing house of current knowledge and best recovery efforts for helping specific areas. Money donations
are always welcome, as needs in each locale may differ. See: https://www.nvoad.org/ .
French, Dutch, British, and American
disaster relief personnel are supplying basics to their respective islands. But the disasters demand some time just to get
your head around them. "It came out of the ocean screaming like a woman in childbirth," said a resident about Maria
in Puerto Rico.
If you plan
to vacation in a few months, check out some of the hardest hit: the Florida Keys, Miami, Naples, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin
Islands, the Bahamas, Cuba, St Martin, St Barts, Guadaloupe, Antigua, the British
Virgin Islands, especially Tortola, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, and above all, Barbuda which was levelled. As a tourist, you
can help by enjoying what they offer as their best.
WHAT HAPPENED TO AMELIA EARHART?
When a person disappears, a hundred theories spring into action. When a famous adventurous and courageous woman -- the
first aviator to cross the Atlantic in 1928, and to do it alone in 1930 -- disappears, it's not enough to accept the fact
that she missed her mid-Pacific island destination in 1937 and fell 300 meters
to the bottom of the sea, or that she and her navigator died trying to survive on an uninhabited coral reef known as Nikumaroro,
located at 4.41° S by 174.3°W.
We need proof.
So far, the theory is that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, on almost the last leg of a circumnavigation of the earth at the Equator, headed for Howland Island, instead deviated from the path and went south a bit to uninhabited Nikumaroro,
for reasons unknown, and landed on a reef where their plane was ultimately sunk by waves. They, the theory goes, survived
on fish and birds and rain water for as long as they could. Traces of Noonan have never been found. For a good account of
finding things on the island on previous trips, see a TIGHAR video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZDWOqPZ23A
See Betchart's previous successful expedition in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h8DXqmzEPY
LATEST EXPEDITION TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
Nikumaroro is not that big. It's basically a coral reef with some dense growth surrounding
a lagoon. It's big enough for a plane to have landed there in 1937, but a lot has happened in 80 years in addition to tides, storms, and natural erosion.
Great Britain settled a number of colonists (mostly men) there in 1938, preparatory to World War II. Some of them remained
until 1964. At one end of the island was the stationary British tramp steamer, SS City of Norwich, which ran aground in 1927
and was left to decay.
On the 2017 Betchart expedition, the National Geographic provided the use of four border
collies, all forensic dogs, well-trained in finding prior human habitation, and sturdy enough to survive the long plane and
boat trip to get to the site with their handlers. Their site was a largely never-inhabited part of the island where unexplained
(or poorly explained-- was the partial skeleton male or female?) bones have been found in the past.
This was also near the area where a glass jar of skincream and a bottle
of body lotion, popular among women in the 1930s, were found with what looked like a survivor's attempt to stay alive in a
makeshift camp: small bird and fish bones, cooking fires and possible makeshift utensils.
Individually and separately
each dog stopped at one spot under one tree and lay down, looking at the trainer, as they were taught to signal human evidence.
The team dug at the site hoping for bones but found nothing. Instead, and just as good as evidence, they took sandy soil samples
and sent them to a lab for DNA analysis. Results are expected in a few weeks.
For a day-by-day description of the team's most
recent three weeks, see: "Dogs, Dives, and DNA" https://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Niku9/dailies/niku9dailies.html
For more on this and a summary of the dogs' activities, see http://news.nationalgeographic.com/amelia-earhart-search
On July 9 a History Channel documentary examined the possibility that Earhart and Noonan were spies captured
by the Japanese, and held in detention on Saipan, Japan until they were executed. An Office of Naval Intelligence
picture taken by an "American spy," currently in the National Archives, was verified to show Earhart, Noonan, and
their plane on a dock on a nearby Marshall Island atoll. Earhart's story, according to the documentary, was classified,
and therefore suppressed. Within weeks, however, Japanese Archives published the same photo with the date of 1935, two years before Earhart's world trip.
For a critique, see: https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/251977-new-photo-incorrectly-claims-amelia-earhart-captured-japanese-executed-spy
Earhart put out an SOS shortly after she landed
on the atoll ; for some [reenacted] faint distress calls, listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GTQG3PELsI
TIGHAR interviewed one of the listeners who caught Earhart's distress calls in July 1937.
She kept a record of what she was able to hear: https://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Notebook/notebook.html
If you really want to get into the controversy over whether she was a spy, and for a discussion about
her distressed radio signals, see
Earhart was a celebrity in her time, with an emphasis on the equality of women, proving that she could do what Charles
Lindbergh had done a few years before. In 1943 in the middle of World War II, six years after Earhart's disappearance, Hollywood's
RKO Studio produced Flight for Freedom, a film starring Roslind Russell as an Amelia figure who is enlisted by Naval
Intelligence to deliberately fly over islands mandated to Japan. Her end came when she flew into the ocean. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_for_Freedom
But her story was already in
the air. Earlier in 1933, three years before her apparently fatal round-the-world trek, RKO released Christopher Strong,
a film starring Katherine Hepburn as the strong woman flier who, involved in a love triangle with a member of the British
parliament, insisted on breaking aviation records until she plunged into the ocean.
June 28, 1937,
a week before she disappeared: loading gear with navigator Fred Noonan in Darwin, Australia. (Photo©wikicommons)
Amelia Earhart, about 30 years old. (photo©wikicommons)
Nikumaroro, from space. The reef fringes
a lagoon, but boats do not fit the opening. Dense forest borders the sandy beach.
Earhart with President Edward Elliott of Purdue University, the benefactor
of the Lockheed Electra she flew on her last flight. Earhart was a consultant on aeronautics at Purdue. (Photoc©wikicommons)
The dock in question. (recommended:
view a MUCH larger photo): Earhart is straight ahead, sitting on the edge of the dock;
Noonan is a tall figure on the left almost completely obscured by others.
On the coral beach at Nikumaroro. (Photo©Janis Carty 2015)
airplanes, including this snappy Lockheed Vega 5B currently on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.