Almost 80 years after her disappearance, the fate of Amelia Earhart remains a mystery.
But thanks to a recent discovery, viewers can now see her preparing for that final trip — in film footage that had been lost since 1937.
The footage is being released in conjunction with a new e-book, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Photo Shoot,” with text by Nicole Swinford.
Swinford believes the footage was taken at Burbank Airport (now Bob Hope Airport) in May 1937, though others believe the footage dates from March 1937.
Photographer Albert Bresnik was on hand to take photographs of Earhart at Burbank, preparing for the around-the-world flight. The shooter of the film footage remains unknown. The film was discovered by Bresnik’s nephew, John Bresnik, who had inherited it from his father, Bresnik’s brother.
Regardless of when the film was shot, the footage and photos show a personal side to Earhart often overshadowed by her public image.
In the movie, Earhart is seen posing for photographs, climbing in the cockpit of her Lockheed Electra L-10E and walking on the tarmac. Also visible: Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, and her navigator, Fred Noonan.
Earhart and Noonan left for their journey from Oakland a few days later. The pair, along with two others, had attempted the around-the-world trip from Burbank in March, but had to abandon the attempt when their plane had an accident in Hawaii.
Swinford notes that changes to the plane since the March attempt may have hindered Earhart’s ability to communicate. A trailing antenna had been removed, she writes, and “could very well have been the difference between success and failure for (the) last leg of the flight — the flight to Howland Island.”
Without the antenna, the plane’s signal wasn’t as strong, she writes, and operators at Howland may have had a harder time picking up her position.
From Oakland, Earhart and Noonan flew back to Burbank, then across the United States with stops in Arizona, New Orleans and Miami. On July 2, 1937, after more than 20,000 miles, the pair departed New Guinea for Howland Island. They never made it.
“After she disappeared, Albert’s Earhart photos and all his negatives were stored away for five decades,” writes Swinford.