Previously Unknown Map of the Search for Amelia Earhart

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Note: Map scanned prior to restoration.

18. [AVIATION: AMELIA MARY EARHART]. SWARTZ, Fred Charles (1896-1969).“The route the U.S.S. Colorado took on the hunt for Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. Commenced July 6, 1837 ended July 11, 1937.” [Aboard the USS Colorado, 1937]. Manuscript map on paper in typewriter, ink, and pencil. One leaf, folio (33 x20.2 cm). Key at lower right “Planes Route” and “U.S.S. Colorado’s Route.” Ship’s route shown in wide, dark pencil line; plane search patterns and other comments shown in lighter pencil with directional arrows; latitude, longitude, islands searched, and other comments in typewriter ink; ship’s headings in ink. Creased where formerly folded, left edge slightly uneven, split vertically and with some horizontal fold splits (professionally repaired with minor losses to blank areas). An excellent contemporary map documenting the futile search for Earhart.

     The map shows the ship entering the search area at 3° north latitude, crossing the equator and proceeding in a generally southern direction before turning east, after which it sails north and the search is ended just west of Canton Island (“End Search”). Four successive plane launches, recoveries, and search patterns are shown. In all thirteen islands were searched in sorties on July 8, July 9 (two), and July 10. A note at top indicates that the ship refueled the destroyers Drayton, Cushing, and Lamson, which were also part of the search, and elsewhere on the map it is noted that the Itasca and Swan were also refueled. A note at lower right reads, “Planes landed on Hull Is. Talked with Natives. Some see their first plane.”

     This map both agrees and differs from two other accounts—the July 13, 1937, report of Captain Wilhelm Friedell (USS Colorado captain) and the July 16, 1937, report of Lt. John Lambrecht (USS Colorado senior aviator), which includes a similar map. The present map covers a somewhat larger area than Lambrecht’s, starting just north of the point that the Itasca was refueled, which is noted. The present map shows an air search of both Howland and Baker islands, although the other two reports do not mention this leg and state that on July 7, the planes searched for an unknown “reef and sand bar” and “Winslow Reef”; according to the present map, that leg was conducted the next day. The searches of the southernmost islands comport on all three documents. The final search shown on the present map indicates that the search leg was done all in one flight, whereas the other two documents agree that Canton Island was the object of an entirely separate search that occurred after the Swan was refueled, which is noted herein. No obvious explanation for those discrepancies is apparent.

     Provenance: This map is descended in the family of the maker, who was an officer aboard the USS Colorado during the Earhart search, being on the lead ship in the so-called Lexington Group that searched the Phoenix Islands. It is a completely new addition to the materials concerning the efforts to find the aviator, who disappeared seventy-five years ago and will be the object of a new search in 2012 centering on Nikiumaroro (Gardner Island on the present map). Documents concerning the Earhart mystery, including those mentioned above, may be found at the web site of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery.


Sold. Hammer: $950.00; Price Realized: $1,163.75.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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