Reactions to a disappearance say as much about the world left behind as about the person who vanished.
Library of Congress
Seventy-five years ago, Amelia Earhart sent her last radio communication during her attempt to cross the Pacific. She was running low on fuel and unable to find Howland Island, where she was supposed to land. "We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait." These communications, received by the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Itasca, became her final recorded words: "We are running on line north and south."
Over the last three quarters of a century, the Earhart disappearance has attracted disproportionate interest, with an organization even now focused on searching for her. Newly discovered "clues" to her fate still make the news media. Other long-distance aviators of the period also vanished, so hers was hardly an isolated incident, but they have not remained as vivid as the Earhart case: the disappearance of "Lady Lindy." After World War II, the discovery of Japanese soldiers on various Pacific atolls, unaware the war was over, gave some hope that that Earhart was out there too, surviving on some tropical outpost, waiting to be rescued. The image of her, Crusoe-like, fills the seekers' accounts. They are not looking for wreckage but for signs of her survival.