The eye is keen. The mind is thoroughly grounded. The goal is to maintain a sense of intellectual honesty while exploring the culture of criticism and evaluating creativity in all its glory.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Extraordinarily Ordinary

There are names that always stir the imagination. Zorro brings visions of a black mask, cape, horse, and dashing sword-play. Neil Armstrong perpetually gives us one giant leap for mankind, and Kermit keeps insisting that it’s not easy being green. For me, there are dozens and dozens of names that trigger cogitation on a wide variety of subjects, revolving around a broad collection of people who inspired a little girl from the west. When a name from my inspiration-list appears anywhere, I stop and read or look and learn some more. Recently, the name Amelia has come two fold.

We all know who Amelia Earhart was; the female champion who flew far and wide to show the world that girls could tame distance just as well as the boys. Her story is the legendary tale of record breaking, cutting edge technology, tough as nails and still as pretty, love and dreams and tragedy kind of thing. I ate that up as a little girl. I wanted to be Amelia. Well, I didn’t want to fly, but I wanted the courage to do what I dreamed of doing; to go beyond being just a girl; to find the bravery to look a challenge in the eye and spit on it.

Young women today may not really comprehend how significant those rebellious thoughts of mine were. Just consider, for a moment, that when Amelia was hired to be the first woman to ‘fly’ across the Atlantic in 1928, she was not allowed to control the plane. She sat in the back and looked out the window. Though she had her pilot’s license, the idea of a female having the stamina to perform a trans-Atlantic flight was incomprehensible. Amelia was distressed by the attention she got for just sitting there:

"I was a passenger on the journey...just a passenger. Everything that was done to bring us across was done by Wilmer Stultz and Slim Gordon. Any praise I can give them they ought to have...I do not believe that women lack the stamina to do a solo trip across the Atlantic, but it would be a matter of learning the arts of flying by instruments only, an art which few men pilots know perfectly now..."

Do you hear that?  She believed a woman could learn the art of flying better than few men pilots knew how. When I was a little girl women still had very few opportunities to pursue any dream that existed outside of the prescribed idea of the perfect woman’s world. She was the first person who helped me understand that in order to play with the boys I would have to be many times better just to receive half the recognition. And, living like that as a girl was possible to achieve.

When I first heard her name she’d been missing for 30 or so years and was still very much an enigma. I loved her ... her tomboyishness, her fashion sense, the truth that she was as ordinary looking as anyone else in the world. And, I loved the idea that she found a man who supported her ambition and was seemingly fine living in her shadow of fame and popularity. Yes, Amelia gave hope to little girls who would rather play with a frog than a doll.

So, as I grew I always acknowledged any new information about Amelia. We all know her Electra disappeared as she attempted to fly more than 7,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. She had already flown 22,000 miles and this part of the journey would take her to Hawaii, and then to California where she would be praised for two major firsts...she would be the first woman, and she would travel the longest possible distance, circumnavigating the globe at its waist.

But, she never landed for refuel on Howland Island. The world has since asked, “Amelia, where are you?” Several theories continue to circulate:

• Amelia was on a spy mission for President Roosevelt, was captured by the Japanese and forced to broadcast to American GI’s as “Tokyo Rose” during World War II.

• She purposely drove her plane into the Pacific.

• She lived for years on an island in the South Pacific with a native fisherman.

• In 1961 it was thought that the bones of Amelia and her navigator had been found in Saipan, but the bones turned out to be those of Saipan natives.

• Amelia secretly finished the mission then moved to New Jersey, assumed a new name, married a different fellow, and lived out her life.

• And, the most exhaustive inquiry into Earhart’s fate since the US Navy’s 1937 original search has been (and is continuing to be) by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), who are attempting to conclusively solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance with investigation procedures that employ rigorous standards of evidence and documented facts. They are focusing on a remote, uninhabited Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island, which is where garbled transmissions believed to be from the electra happened for 4 days after she failed to find Howland Island) and have recovered physical evidence that suggests the Earhart flight may have landed there on July 2, 1937. In 1940 a partial skeleton and an old fashioned sextant box were found under a tree on the island’s southeast corner. The skeleton was eventually lost in Fiji sometime after 1941, but detailed measurements of the bones indicate that they belonged to a “tall white female of European ancestry”. Other artifacts include improvised tools, an aluminum panel (possibly from and Electra), an oddly cut piece of clear Plexiglas which is the exact thickness and curvature of an Electra window, and a size 9 Cat’s Paw heel dating from the 1930’s, which resembles Earhart’s footwear in world flight photos.  In 2007 TIGHAR performed another high-profile expedition where they were reported to have found additional artifacts, including bronze bearings which may have belonged to the aircraft, and a zipper pull which might have come from her flight suit. All this evidence is circumstantial, but quite interesting when you consider the island is uninhabited.

Today, there is continuing promise with TIGHAR’s research.  That is part one of the two fold that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. TIGHAR’s team will be on the island until June 14, 2010 and they are releasing new finds continually. I encourage you to follow TIGHAR’s 2010: Niku VI Expedition updates, and to read this Discovery News article that was released on June 3, 2010.

New hard truths about the real Amelia continue to tickle our hopes that someday, and maybe soon, we'll know for sure if she was a castaway on Gardner Island. This moment reminds me of the days right before they found the remains of the Titanic ...

(Part two, of my two fold story, will be coming next posting)


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. you definitely do your homework. In your spare time, when you;re not saving stunned goldfinches....

Irelock said...

Well, I read a lot, and I've been following anything Amelia since I was a little girl. Some people may call it homework ... I'm just a very curious person with a pretty good memory. My mother used to call me a walking encyclopedia because I could spew stuff out, in what seemed like random moments to her. However it comes, Amelia is surely an inspiration .... at least to me.

savagegoldie said...

stunned goldfinch? Did Sammy get a bird? Yep Amelia is such an inspiration for all girls that aren't into being "girly" girls :-)

Irelock said...

Hey, Savagegoldie ... I have no idea about the stunned goldfinch remark, just as I have no idea who Anonymous is. I'm scratching my head like you!! Sammy has not managed to snag a bird yet, but did proudly bring in a clump of grass/dirt last week.

Hummingbird Arts said...

I just love this post on Amelia. I have always admired her and even had a T-Shirt with her picture that I wore for a long time. What an inspiration she is to women who want to break the mold and be freer spirits from the norm. Thanks so much for all you put into writing this. Inspiring!

Irelock said...

Thanks, Hummingbird ... stay tuned for part two!

Anonymous said...

good on you olivia!!! this was a wonderfull read , informative , with a freshness to it, rock on girl, cant wait to see where you take me next, keep it up!!!!

courdeleon said...

I hope this doesn't end up here twice-it said I published my comment but it isn't here!
I said I loved this post. I also have thougth of Amelia as one of my "sheros"! I heard once on npr about a young girl who heard possible her last radio transmisson and it seemed it did not support her going down into the Pacific.
This is an interesting site too: http://www.ameliaearhartmovie.com/viewfromnikumaroro.html
I am anxious to read Part 2:)
I also liked Kermit. My Mom would quote him" It isn't easy being green" to me because I was never the "norm" either!

Irelock said...

Anonymous, thank you very much. I love stories like Amelia's, so much so that I had to split it into two parts! I'm thrilled to discover that folks are finding this informative ... I thought we all knew these things about Amelia ... perhaps we just needed a little reminding. For sure, it's been interesting to follow her story for all of my life, and I do hope I'm around if they ever can conclusively prove Earhart was a castaway.
Olivie (IrelocK)

Irelock said...

Hi, Courdeleon!
It only ended up on here once and I'm grateful you took the time. I am also delighted to hear you loved this post.

More than one person heard those transmissions and those reports are part of the circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that Amelia did not ditch it into the ocean. Unfortunately, all the transmissions for the four days after her disappearance were garbled and too hard to prove from Amelia. Do check out the links I provided ... there are many things that really lead one to believe she survived for at least a little while.

And, thank you for catching exactly why I included Kermit ... one day I'll speak of the time when I was a very little girl and I sat on Jim Henson's lap and talk directly to Kermit. He gave me advice about following my dream ... that green little frog ... who wasn't really a frog, but I didn't care Kermit was very important to me, just like Amelia.

Thanks again, and part two will be coming soon.
Olivia (Irelock)

courdeleon said...

Wow that was interesting about really talking to Kermit. We must hear that story too.

I was also a fan of Grover. I once wrote to Frank Oz (Grover as well as Miss Piggy!) when Chantek, the orangutan I was working with, had a favorite toy puppet of Grover. He wrote me back with a signed photo of Grover...a real treasure for me:)
I have looked at the Amelia sites (thanks!). I truely believe she did not die in the ocean!

Irelock said...

I will do a post story on my Kermit conversation soon. That moment was another thing that inspired me beyond words. I watched everything muppety until Jim Hensen died ... it has not been the same without him and I refuse to support it anymore. But the old days of Kermit and Grover and Cookie Monster ... those were the best of times.

Isn't the Amelia story really amazing? I've finished writing part two and will try to edit it this evening and post before I go to bed. I've given my sum-up regarding Amelia, too.

And, hey ... one day we should write about Chantek and all that you've been through with that ... talk about amazing stories, people, there is one here ... if you have a web site or such that discusses your work from those days, go a head and post it here. If I can get an angle going maybe we can drive some traffic your way.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne! I do appreciate the time you are giving.

courdeleon said...

Thanks Olivia! I do have a website that I have not kept up with
www.kinshipwithanimals.com But hope to have a new one when my book comes out "From Gorillas to Squirrels"!! You know how hard it is to FINISH a book:)
I was also inspired by Gonzo when he sang his song in the first Muppet movie!

Irelock said...

I didn't know you were writing a book. By the title I'd say it's going to be a great and educational read! Do let me know when it's available ... Like I said before, I know your story would make an interesting post. Perhaps once your book is done and I can read what you've got, we'll see what we can review here? That sounds good to me ...

And, Gonzo was the bomb!