Amelia Earhart: The Historical and Mythological Landscape

by Matthew Arnold


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With the assistance of the funds raised here I will begin a new photographic landscape project documenting the distant and almost mythical islands that pilot, Amelia Earhart is thought to have landed or crashed upon during her heroic but ill-fated attempt to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. I will travel to a few uninhabited islands in the Phoenix Island Group, called Nikumaroro, Howland and McKean, to photograph their long-held history and legends. 

Nikumaroro Island, for instance, was colonized in 1938 in an effort to bleed off surplus population from the southern Gilbert Islands into economically self-sufficient coconut plantations in the mostly uninhabited Phoenix group. A village was founded near the north end of the island, but the colony only lasted until 1963 when it succumbed to drought conditions. I will photograph this “ghostly” village where it is said many bits of aluminum and rivets from a plane of similar type to Earhart’s have been found. I will photograph the reef where an historical image of a tail-section of a plane was taken as well as document the sites where it is surmised she and her navigator, Fred Noonan survived and lived off birds and turtles. Like the great adventurer Earhart and her navigator Noonan, the island will most likely suffer the same fate of being lost at sea, as it is to become the first casualty of global warming with this archipelago being swallowed by the sea and as such needs to be documented.

These funds will allow me to tell the story of these islands and in the future, other islands, in a new context, from a new perspective, and bring this history to a new generation of Americans. It will allow me to enlarge the themes of my earlier bodies of work that visually connect topography, personal space and experience. All of the funds raised will go to the cost of the expedition vessel and crew that will get me to these distant islands in the South Pacific. It will require traveling over open-ocean for 4 days just to reach the distant archipelago where the islands reside. EYOS Expeditions, with their expertise in implementing campaigns of this difficulty, has donated their time to finding a crew capable of this travel. Any funds raised beyond the set goal will be used to cover my out-of-pocket costs to the expedition and will support the printing of the work produced during this travel.

I thank you very much for taking the time to read my proposal and hope that you will help me to create this important body of work by donating to this project. And remember, all of the donations to this project are tax-deductible.

Disclaimer: This is the beginning of an artistic endeavor to examine how the multiple hypotheses of an heroic historical figure's unknown fate in a very distant and foreign land lends itself to create an almost mythological landscape. The description above describes one hypothesis of many. I hope to eventually document as many of these theories as possible and to show the range of ideas and landscapes involved.Thank you for your support. 

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