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911 in St. Petersburg, Florida
Time Machine
Posted: April 20, 2018

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The summer the Electra disappears, Betty Klenck is 15 years old. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. On a July afternoon, Betty sits at home in front of the family shortwave radio. As she listens, she writes and draws in her notebook. Suddenly, Betty’s radio picks up a distress call:

“This is Amelia Earhart. This is Amelia Earhart. Help me!”

Betty listens close. She writes everything she hears in her notebook. When she can’t understand the words, she makes her best guess. If you read Betty’s notes out loud, they sound just like a 911 call. Someone who sounds like Amelia Earhart is begging for help. A man—presumably Electra’s navigator, Fred Noonan—seems to have hurt his head. The plane is getting hot. But outside the plane, water is rising. Betty takes notes for about three hours. Her father reports what she hears to the local Coast Guard station. But no one pays attention to Betty’s report for many, many years. Might people have found the Electra if they had listened sooner?

Is Betty’s report even true? We don’t have any real way of knowing. When it comes to the Earhart mystery, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. For a long time, people thought the Electra simply crashed into the ocean because it ran out of gas. But some believe debris found on Papua New Guinea belongs to the plane. Locals of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands will tell you something else. They say Ms. Earhart crashed on one of their islands. According to them, the Japanese took Ms. Earhart and Mr. Noonan prisoner. They say the two died in Japan. Others say President Roosevelt hired Ms. Earhart as a spy. They think she was held captive by the Japanese for years then returned to the United States. They claim she took on a new name: Irene Craigmile Bolam. Mrs. Bolam worked as a banker in New York and died in 1982.