Thursday, June 7, 2012

Off The Wagon And Into The Plane

Seventy-five years ago this date Amelia Earhart left South America at 3:15 AM and headed east to Africa.  Unable - because of weather - to use the longer, lighted runway, she was forced to take off in darkness from a shorter, grassy strip.  The early morning was so dark, she reports, that she and Fred had difficulty even finding it.  And so we " ... tramped its length with flashlights to learn what we could and establish something in the way of guiding landmarks, however shadowy."  To further complicate matters, indications are Fred Noonan started drinking heavily with his old Pan Am buddies and observers at Natal sensed a growing tension between pilot and navigator.  They flew across the Atlantic in rains described by Amelia as " ... the heaviest rain I ever saw.  Tons of water descended, a buffeting weight bearing so heavily on the ship I could almost feel it."  They reached the coast of West Africa in thick haze and were unable to visually determine their location.  Perhaps as a sign of the growing tension or distrust between them, when the navigator said they should go right Amelia went left.  Already about 80 miles north of their destination, Amelia's decision sent them further off course and a half hour later they landed at St. Louis, Senegal -- not their intended destination.  After flying for thirteen hours and twelve minutes, Amelia decided to stay where she was even though it wasn't where she intended to be.
Before she left South America, Amelia made this entry in her log:  "As I write this, looking out the window I can see two children playing in the sand.  I would like to play too, or at least sun bake beside them."  In But This Is Different, Amelia will have forty years to play with the children on Nani while she waits to keep a promise.

June 7, 1937

Natal, Brazil, June 7 -- Amelia Earhart headed over the South Atlantic in a light rain today for Daka, Senegal, her goal on the African continent in her intended flight around the world.
She left here on the 1,900 mile flight at 12:16 a. m. Central Standard Time and radioed more than four hours later that "everything is going fine." -- from the Atchison Daily Globe

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