Monday, 2 April 2012

They don't make 'em like that any more.


Are there any female pioneers these days? If there are then I am sure somebody will tell me, but as it sit here typing I can't think of any.

I was five years old at the time of Amelia Earhart - and she was the talk of every household. I don't remember my parents talking about her, but I do remember my sister and her husband being fascinated by the story.

There is an interesting story about her in the Times today - because there is hopefully going to be an expedition in the Summer which will try to establish once and for all what happened to her and her plane.

Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2nd 1937, when they were on their epic journey around the world. There was absolutely no navigational equipment at that time - they navigated by the stars and the sun. Earhart was pretty useless at this, which is why she took Noonan along. She also never managed to learn to perfect her communication skills with the (by our standards) primitive radios of the time.

Her aircraft was called the Electra and she and Noonan took off from New Guinea for the twenty hour flight to the tiny Howland Island (now part of Micronesia). Weather conditions were bad
and her last call told listeners that they were flying low - below 1000 feet - and searching for the island, which is flat and measures only half a mile by a mile. They were running out of fuel.

The crew of the ship Itasca could hear her clearly but she seems not to have heard them at all.. There have been all kinds of theories about her disappearance (aren't there always in these cases), but a lady's powder compact and bits of clothing were found on the island years ago, suggesting that somehow they reached the island but died after getting there - probably of starvation or lack of water.

Now Robert Ballard, the man who found the Titanic in 1985, is advising an expedition in the US which will set off in July to search for the plane. As it says in the Times, the key to this is that in 1937 a military survey photographed something sticking up out of the water near to the island which could be a bit of the undercarriage from the Electra.

That seems to have been the age of pioneers. I find it all so exciting. As I was typing this I was reminded of the moon landing. We were en route to my parents in Lincolnshire for the day with our son, Dominic, and we were hell bent on getting there in time for the televised landing.
We pulled up outside the house, rushed in, expecting my parents to have the TV on. Mother was getting the lunch, Father was out in the garden - 'what would you want to watch that for?' was their comment as we dashed over and switched the TV on.

For someone like me, who has lived through all these amazing changes, things like sat-nav, tele-communications and the like, are just amazing. To those born only, say, twenty years ago - all these things are taken forgranted. I wonder, will the next generation be the same?

13 comments:

jeanette from everton terrace said...

These things happened before my time but I'm still quite interested in all of them and what it must have been like.
Am going to go check out that article. I've always been fascinated with her. Thanks for the heads up.

Heather said...

It would be good to have the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earheart solved - she was a brave woman.
I love your parents response to the Moon landing. I must say that while acknowledging an achievement of such magnitude, I couldn't help thinking that there were many important things that needed vast sums of money spent on them here on Earth.

Pondside said...

I don't know that there are pioneers anymore like there used to be. The physical challengers just aren't around, or perhaps, as visible. I remember the first moon landing - I was working in a remote northern village with neither power nor piped water. In the early morning, as I went to the lake to fill a bucket with water, I looked at the moon and marveled that someone was walking up there, while whole communities still lived without the basic comforts.

Gwil W said...

The other day I was thinking that we can put a man on the moon but we can't design an umbrella.

Carolyn H said...

I suppose it depends on what you mean by the word pioneer. What about the first woman to run the Iditarod or the first woman to win? What about Anne Labastille who lived a self-sufficient life in a cabin she built herself in the Adirondacks? Those were all pioneering accomplishments.

Irene said...

I think we need to look for pioneering women in other walks of life nowadays. There's no room for the kind of foolhardy things that Amelia Earhart did. We need wiser women now.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Carolyn's comments are interesting aren't they? I suppose it does really all come down to what we mean by pioneering. Thank you for commenting.

MorningAJ said...

It's funny how memories work. Your mum wasn't likely to have been making lunch because the moon landing happened at around 8pm and the first walk was at 3am. (I remember because my mum wouldn't let me stay up to watch it......)

We never really cared much about Amelia Earhart because she was American. We had our own home-grown aviation pioneer in the form of Amy Johnson (from Hull) who died while she was working as a pilot in WWII. She was my heroine when I was growing up.

H said...

To be honest, I think it's harder for anyone to be a pioneer these days; so much of the world has been explored and the challenges are different. I do find Carolyn's comment very interesting.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I shall spend half an hour looking up Carolyn's reference and then get back to you all.

Carolyn H said...

I'll save you a bit of trouble. Mary Shields was the first woman to run the Iditarod. Libby Riddles was the first woman to win. Susan Butcher won four times and is credited with changing the race to the kind of race it is today. She was very methodical and planned her race and her equipment, so that the Iditarod was less a long run to Nome and more like the professional race it is today. Anne Labastille wrote Woodswoman (among other books) chronicling her life and her homebuilt cabin in New York's Adirondacks.

Bovey Belle said...

Amelia Earhart had connections with Carmarthenshire too as she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and landed in Burry Port, a little village on the coast near Llanelli in June 1928. The flight (from Newfoundland to Wales) took 21 hours.

My childhood heroine was Pat Smythe . . .

Dominic Rivron said...

Age of pioneers... Astronauts... Astronauts are the pioneers of today, if you ask me. Yuri Gagarin perhaps most of all. And there are women - starting with Valentina Tereshkova.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_astronauts

Sadly, none of them have walked on the moon.