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The Whole Story

National Geographic
(September 1932), 358-67.

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Page 1

The Address of Acceptance

Hazards Not Quite So Manifest as Described

Page 2

Menaced by the Dread Ice Hazard

Three Types of Compasses Showed the Way

Page 3
Not Troubled by Drowsiness

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The Society's Special Medal Awarded to Amelia Earhart
By Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor

Amelia Earhart Story Story

Photo by Underwood & Underwood

In the group from left to right are: Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor, President Hoover, Amelia Earhart Putnam, and Mrs. Hoover. In the back row: George Palmer Putnam and Dr. John Oliver La Gorce, Vice-President of The Society.

The Address of Acceptance

In accepting The Society's Special Medal, Amelia [Earhart] Putnam said:

"Mr. President, Dr. Grosvenor, Dr. La Gorce, members of the National Geographic Society, ladies and gentlemen:

"I am deeply grateful for the medal you have bestowed upon me. I have no words in which to express my appreciation to you and to the National Geographic Society. I can but feel it is too great an honor for my exploit.

"I am going to tell you something about the trip, which was simply a personal gesture on my part. Four years ago I went on the Friendship and, as has been said, was simply a passenger. In fact, in England I was referred to as 'a sack of potatoes.' That all too-appropriate appellation, probably as much as any other single factor, inspired me to try going alone. 

"Some features of the flight I fear have been exaggerated. It made a much better story to say I landed with but one gallon of gasoline left. As a matter of fact, I had more than a hundred. The exact quantity I remember because I had to pay a tax for every gallon imported into Ireland!

Hazards Not Quite So Manifest as Described
"I did not land within six feet (2 meters) of a hedge of trees. I taxied to the upper end of a sloping pasture and turned my plane into the shelter of some trees, as a matter of course. It made a much better story the other way, I admit.

"No flames were threatening to burn my plane in the air. I did have some trouble with my exhaust manifold, of which I shall tell you later. There was no extreme hazard from that cause, however.

"I did not kill a cow in landing—unless one died of fright. Of course, I came down in a pasture and I had to circle many other pastures to find the best one. The horses, sheep, and cows in Londonderry were not used to airplanes, and so, as I flew low, they jumped up and down and displayed certain disquiet. I really was afraid that an Irishman would shoot me as I stepped out of the plane, thinking that I was just a 'smart Alec' from some big town come down to scare the cattle.

"To begin at the beginning, I left Harbour Grace at dusk. I preferred to fly all night and land on the other side in daylight rather than leave during the day and run the risk of landing, when daylight was failing, on an unknown shore. I had at least two hours of daylight or two hours when I could see the glow of the setting sun if I looked back.

"I started to keep a log, but it didn't continue very long. On that log I jotted down '8:30—two icebergs,' and a little later I recorded the fact that I had seen a small boat a couple of hours out of Harbour Grace. I was flying at 12,000 feet (4,000 meters) and I blinked my navigation lights, hoping that the vessel would sight me. However, I do not think I was seen because I received no answering signal and probably was too high to be noticed, anyway.

"Two hours after I left the moon came up over a field of little, scattered, woolly clouds. Those little woolly clouds grew compact and finally covered the ocean with their soft whiteness. I flew along with nothing happening until 11:00, when an enormous dark cloud loomed before me, stretching as far as I could see. Behind it I watched the moon finally disappear. It was entirely too high for me to climb over. I could not waste the gasoline, and flying for any length of time at 20,000 feet (4,000 meters), which was approximately the height of the cloud, is too hard on the pilot without special apparatus.

"Two things happened before I struck the storm. One was that my altimeter, the instrument which shows height above a level, had failed me for the first time in 12 years of flying; so that I could not know how high I was above the sea. The other, a weld in my exhaust begun to burn through. I knew after several hours the sections would become loosened and tend to vibrate. It was a heavy manifold and very rigidly attached to the cylinders, so that excessive vibration might have been more or less serious.

"I plunged at 11:30 into the storm cloud and met the roughest air I have ever encountered while flying completely blind. By blind I mean I could not see out of my cockpit at all. I had light there which of course, did not cast much illumination beyond the windowpane, any more than a lamp in a house throws its glow far outside. For about an hour I could not keep my course absolutely. I was tossed about to such an extent that accuracy was impossible.

"I had been told by the Weather Bureau that there were storms south of my course; possibly those storms would come on my course about midnight, but after that I should probably have moonlight and stars.
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