In 1937, Amelia Earhart was one of the most famous women in the world — a record-setting aviator with a goal to circumnavigate the globe in her Lockheed Electra plane. But on July 2, she went missing a month into her historic flight, never to be seen or heard from again. Now, reports the Associated Press’ John Rogers, rare footage of Earhart before her final journey is being released after sitting on a shelf for decades.
The 16-millimeter footage was taken in spring 1937 before Earhart undertook her second attempt to complete the flight, writes Rogers. It was taken by John Bresnik, whose brother was Earhart’s personal photographer. Rogers reports that Bresnik kept the footage on a shelf in his California office for 50 years and his son stowed it away for another 20 after his father’s death.
The circumstances surrounding Earhart’s disappearance have always been laced with controversy, and so is the film. The Guardian’s Alan Yuhas reports that though it certainly looks authentic, some experts are questioning when exactly it was taken. Richard Gillespie, who has spent decades hunting for Earhart’s plane and remains through The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, tells Yuhas that despite claims it was taken in May 1937 before Earhart’s final flight, he believes it was taken months earlier, before the first circumnavigation attempt that famously failed in a crash on Hawaii’s Ford Island.
Despite questions as to the flight’s exact date, it provides a unique glimpse at a groundbreaking aviator whose career would soon come to a tragic end.