In elementary school, Amelia Earhart despised her name.
The 22-year-old remembers being teased for a part of her family history she didn’t understand and a name that, to her, was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Yeah, I hated it,” she said. “But now it’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Now, as a CU senior and radio traffic broadcaster in Denver, being named after her famous distant cousin is working in Earhart’s favor. This summer, she will be one of two students on a mission to the North Pacific Ocean that will attempt to answer one of aviation’s unsolved mysteries: What happened to the original Amelia Earhart?
Organized by Nauticos, a deep-sea reconnaissance group, the six-week mission will scan 1,000 square miles of ocean, searching as deep as 20,000 feet, looking for the famous pilot’s lost plane. Based on the aviator’s last radio transmissions and flight path from July 2, 1937, the group will focus its search in an area of ocean near Howland Island, between Hawaii and New Guinea.
“I honestly believe Nauticos has it nailed,” Earhart said. “The most viable theory is that she crashed there.”
For Earhart, her distant relative is more like an idea than an actual relation. Though she said she doesn’t feel emotional loss that she’s gone, Earhart is anticipating what it will be like to go looking for her.
“It’s going to be amazing to be going out there were she potentially was,” she said. “It will probably raise feelings I don’t even know I have yet.”
On the mission, Earhart will be helping to keep watch from the giant boat and plans to do as much hands-on work as she can. Though there is no official start date for the expedition, she hopes to be on the water in late summer.
Like her namesake, this Earhart is fascinated by aviation and fuels that curiosity by broadcasting live traffic reports from a helicopter for a handful of Denver radio stations.
Swooping over the jammed freeways and crowded streets, Earhart is carrying on the high-flying traditions of her famous cousin and is gaining experience for what she hopes to do in the future.
“I want to fly helicopters and do reporting from the air,” she said. Earhart also hopes to earn her pilot’s certification and repeat her relative’s flight around the world.
Though she idolizes the historical figure, Earhart said it’s been difficult to balance her ties to the old Amelia Earhart and her identity as her own Amelia Earhart.
“I want to stay really professional in my work (on the radio) so I’m not just a circus act, the girl with the goofy name,” she said.
“It’s difficult to maintain my own identity,” she added. “But if I’m professional, I can be recognized for my own ideas and thoughts, not just my name.”
Still, Earhart can’t help but speculate about what might happen if she does find clues to the mystery of her relative’s disappearance.
“Earhart looking for Earhart is one thing,” she said. “But Earhart finding Earhart, that would be completely another.”