WASHINGTON — The National Portrait Gallery in Washington is exploring the life of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and a new scientific expedition is being launched to find out what happened to her, 75 years after she vanished on her final flight.
The exhibit, which opened last week, covers all aspects of Earhart’s biography, from her flying to her advocacy for women’s rights.
Her story is told through photographs, paintings and drawings, and objects including her pilot’s license and leather flying helmet. The exhibit will run through May 2013.
The expedition to track down the aviator will be launched from Hawaii on Tuesday, 75 years to the day after rescue crews set off to find her after she disappeared during her last flight.
Researchers plan to dive near the uninhabited Pacific island of Nikumaroro looking for clues to her final days. They will use robots equipped with sonar and high-definition cameras.
Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific while attempting to make the first round-the-world flight along the equator. They took off from Papua New Guinea in a Lockheed Electra 10E, destined for Howland Island.
Many researchers believe the plane ran out of fuel over the sea because of a navigational error.
The new $2 million expedition is being led by Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery. Gillespie has adanced an alternative theory.
He suggests that Earhart and Noonan crash-landed on Nikumaroro, where they survived for a time before finally succumbing to hunger, thirst, or injury.
Earlier in her aviation career, Earhart made her first trans-Atlantic flight as a crew member, and quickly became a star, overshadowing the pilots. She would become a columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine and was in demand as a speaker.
In 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She was about three-quarters of the way through the equatorial circumnavigation flight when radio contact with her plane was lost.
Earhart founded an organization for women pilots called The Ninety-Nines and was a faculty member at Purdue University.