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Last journey: Rare photograph of Amelia Earhart in Lae


Amelia Earhart, at Lae, on her last day - 2 July 1937

THIS IS MY LATE DAD’S previously unpublished photograph of pilot Amelia Earhart, at her pre-flight briefing in Lae, on her last day alive - 2 July 1937 - before disappearing over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

The photo, which shows Amelia discussing her flight plans and fuel needs, was taken in the final hours of daylight before she departed at midnight. On the back of the photo my dad has written ‘last photo of Emilia Earhart (but who can tell?)’.

Also pictured is her navigator Fred Noonan [partly obscured] and to her left is my father Frank Howard, who was manager of Vacuum Oil Company PNG [later Mobil].

Amelia Mary Earhart [24 July 1897 – July 1937?] was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. She was the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean during an attempt to make a circumnavigation of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra.

Amelia had married George P Putnam, in 1931. They had no children.

On 2 July, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in the heavily loaded Electra. Their intended destination was Howland Island, 4,113 km away. After contact was lost with Howland Island, attempts were made to reach the flyers with both voice and Morse code transmissions. Two-way radio contact was never established. The aviators and their aircraft had disappeared.

Frank Nelson Howard (1911 – 63) later became an Australian army artillery sergeant in Papua New Guinea during World War II. In 1944 he married Meredith Neil Iredale.

For further information about the photo, email Cliff Howard here.

Additional information:


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William Dunlop

James, Knew your father Jimmy Birrel well at Century! Motors, I think his Business was called before he sold out to Repco !.

Edward McLaughlin

In the Jaluit Dock photo the woman who is perhaps Amelia is wearing a light coloured top and dark pants. Fred is in light top and pants. Is this what they wore at the takeoff on Lae?

I'd also love to know what the sailboat beside her was called and what all it's pennants mean.

If you have any ideas let me know please. Thank you.

James Moresby Birrell

Earhart and Noonan were both met at the airport on arrival at Lae by the Shell manager, Fred Cooke refueller, Ma Stewart, my Nana, and Ela Birrell, my mother.

Later after photos of the group were taken and baggage and equipment sorted, they both stayed at the Cecil Hotel which was owned by Ma Stewart.

Solange Metta

Am very interested in Frank Howard's history. Is he the same man who was an administrator in Malalaua, Gulf Province?

Benjamin Allen

The photograph was taken on Tuesday 29 June 1937, the afternoon Earhart and Noonan arrived at Lae. The clothes she's wearing are the same clothes she's wearing in photographs of her coming down off the wing after landing at the airfield at 3:02PM.

She wore a different outfit when she departed Lae for Howland Island on Friday 2 July 1937 at 10:00AM. The takeoff from Lae was recorded on film and shows Earhart and Noonan boarding the Electra wearing solid colors rather than plaid. (Sidenote: 14 hours into the flight the clock struck midnight making it Saturday 3 July, but they crossed the International Date Line some 4 hours later which pushed the date back to Friday 2 July again.)

Also, none of the men in the photograph are Fred Noonan.

Nevertheless this is indeed a rare photograph which helps chronicle an important and historic moment in aviation history, and I appreciate your generosity in sharing it.

Kevin Williams

"Also pictured is her navigator Fred Noonan [partly obscured]"

FYI: Fred Noonan is not in this photo. Fred was wearing dark clothes that day and he did not wear glasses.

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