The latest striking headlines about giant coconut crabs likely devouring or taking the remains of the great woman aviator Amelia Earhart who in 1916 attended the nearby Ogontz School for Girls before she possibly became marooned two decades later after crash landing a twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane on July 2, 1937 near the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro while circling the globe, aren’t the first such reports about her possible fate.
The article, “Coconut Crabs Eat Everything from Kittens to, Maybe, Amelia Earhart,” was written by Rachel Nuwer for Smithsonian.com and published nearly six years ago on December 26, 2013, indicating that some folks “believe” the creatures’ “excellent sense of smell” led them “to a dead or dying Amelia Earhart.”
Other reports speculate that her navigator Fred Noonan, while dead or alive, may have also been overtaken by the creatures that “can grow up to three feet across and weigh nine pounds,” as well as climb quite high to dislodge coconuts and snatch unsuspecting birds perching in the genus Cocos’ trees.
Quite skilled at cracking and devouring exceptionally hard coconuts, the crabs even recently dispatched the remains of a pig, dragging some leftovers to their burrows in the ground, according to experimenting researchers, leading them to believe that Earhart and Noonan’s skeletal remains could be in their lairs.
But, even though such speculation might have some scientific value, I can’t help but be bothered by how it shields the daring essence of a trailblazing woman who defied the odds and set many aviation records, despite her modest beginning before landing at the elite Ogontz School for Girls that was originally located along Old York Rd. in Cheltenham before relocating to Rydal where Penn State’s Abington campus is situated today.
Born July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Mary Earhart’s father was a “railroad lawyer,” according to Britannica.com, who suffered from alcoholism, causing his family severe financial stress that required them to move quite often.
However, following the death of Amelia’s grandparents when “her mother received her inheritance, Earhart was able to attend the Ogontz School” that had formerly been the estate of Jay Cooke, the great financier of Union forces during the Civil War.
Cooke rented his home to the school, according to my 2009 book, "Remembering Cheltenham Township," after he “departed the residence to live with his daughter and son-in-law, Charles Barney, co-founder of the venerable financial services firm, Smith Barney Co.”
While at Ogontz, Earhart, who attended service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Old York Rd. in Cheltenham, was said to be quite colorful and outspoken, even criticizing classmates that she perceived to be elitist and was known to even go toe-to-toe with the school’s headmistress, Abby Sutherland, who eventually acquired the Ogontz estate.
Before long, though, the school’s growth required Sutherland to “search for another school site, which she found in nearby Abington. The school survived for decades at its new location in Rydal, but the property and all its facilities were passed on to Penn State by Sutherland in 1950.”
After leaving Ogontz, by 1918, Earhart moved to Canada with her sister where she became a nurse’s aide, caring for wounded World War 1 soldiers before joining the pre-med program at Columbia University, says Biography.com.
And although Earhart could not finish her studies because her parents “insisted” that she move to California to live with them, it was there where she “went on her first airplane ride in 1920, an experience that prompted her to take flying lessons,” purchase an airplane and eventually rise to become one of the greatest aviators and women’s rights’ advocates in American history.
Her feats ranged from becoming “the first person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City” to the first woman to soar across the Atlantic Ocean by herself before attempting the world flight with Noonan in 1937.
“After completing 22,000 miles, Amelia and her navigator … lost radio contact with U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca while en route to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean,” says Ameliaearhart.net, then disappeared, later being declared legally dead in 1939, further feeding speculation about the aviator’s fate.
However, although we haven’t precisely determined the whereabouts of her physical remains, perhaps it’s much more important to honor Amelia Earhart’s tremendous legacy of inspiring us to courageously pursue our dreams and stand up for just causes.
By the way, if you’re ever unfortunate enough to get marooned or crash land on or near a remote Pacific island, it’s not the crabs or sharks that would be the greatest threat to your mortality, according to cuisine.com. “Falling coconuts kill 150 people every year – 10 times the number of people killed by sharks” with humans, according to researchers, very rarely attacked by giant crabs.