At 7:42 A.M. on July 2, 1937 the Coast Guard cutter Itasca, stationed offshore of Howland Island (an uninhabited coral island halfway between Hawaii and Australia) picked up this message:
“We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” The ship tried to reply, but the plane seemed not to hear. At 8:45 Earhart reported, “We are running north and south.”
Nothing further was heard from Earhart.
There was a girl who heard it happen:
Amelia Earhart calling
on the radio, she and her navigator
alternately cursing and defining their position
by latitude, as best they could read it
in the bellowing wind, and by what
they could surmise of their rate per hour,
last land they’d seen. Stay with me, someone,
and the girl wrote each word
in her composition book, kept the channel
tuned, hunched to the receiver
when static overtook the line.
Why do I think of her?
The coast guard laughed at her father
holding out the schoolgirl scrawl
and sent him home ashamed. A lost woman
is a lost woman, he told her, and the sea
is dark and wide.