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?