20 June 1937: Leg 22. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fly the Electra from Rangoon to Bangkok then on to Singapore.
“Moist clouds were our companions as we left Rangoon the next morning, bound for Bangkok, Siam. First, we crossed the upper reaches of the Gulf of Martaban, flying over Moulmein. . . A great range of mountains extends north and south along the western border of Siam, separating it from the long arm of Burma that reaches down into the Malay Peninsula. Through squally weather we climbed to 8,000 feet and more, topping this mountain barrier. On its eastern flanks the clouds broke and there stretched before us a dark green forest splashed with patches of bright color, cheerful even in the eyes of a pilot who recognized in all the limitless view no landing place. The country fell away gradually to the east, the hills flattening out into heavy jungle. Then we crossed the Mei Khlaung River, with little villages scattered along its banks, the wide expanses of irrigated land burdened with rice crops.
“Bangkok itself lies in a vast plain with mountains in the distant background. . . After refueling at Bangkok (the airport was one of the best we encountered) we started for Singapore, more than 900 miles away. . . Though we did not sight them, there were two transport planes that day on the same route which we flew. The Imperial Airways machine left Rangoon first and the K.L.M. Douglas at daybreak. Our Wasp-motored Lockheed left fifteen minutes later. All stopped at Bangkok, then followed different courses to Singapore. We arrived there first, at 5:25 P.M. local time, because we cut straight and did not stop along the way.” —Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was a beautiful writer. Her notes are full of color and texture. She describes the land and the sea and the sky, the towns and cities and the people. Her descriptions bring all of these to life.
“The next day, June 19, we started again from Akyab, with the hope of getting through to Bangkok, Siam, monsoons permitting. But they did not permit, so the flight ended at Rangoon, only 400 miles away. This short hop produced even worse weather than that which turned us back on the previous day. Then we had tried unsuccessfully to sneak underneath the monsoon. Those tactics again failing, this time we pulled up to 8,000 feet to be sure of missing the mountain ridges, and barged through. After two hours of flying blind in soupy atmosphere we let down and the bright green plains beside the Irrawaddy River smiled up at us. Then we dodged about for fifty miles. . .
“The first sight at Rangoon was the sun touching the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. This great structure stands on a considerable prominence and could be seen for miles while the city was still but a shadow on the horizon, its covering of pure gold a burnished beacon for wayfarers of the air. Shortly after our landing, rain poured down so heavily that it was hazardous to take off for Bankok, so we decided to stay where we were for a time at least.” —Amelia Earhart
18 June 1937: Leg 20. Amelia Earhart departed Calcutta, India enroute to Rangoon, Burma. After a fuel stop at Akyab, she and Fred Noonan continued on their way, but monsoon rains forced them to return to Akyab.
“When we reached the airport at dawn nocturnal rains had soaked it. The ground was thoroughly wet, precarious for a take-off. But meteorologists advised that more rain was coming and that likely we could dodge through the intermittent deluges of the day but that if we remained the field might become waterlogged beyond use. That take-off was precarious, perhaps as risky as any we had. The plane clung for what seemed like ages to the heavy sticky soil before the wheels finally lifted, and we cleared with nothing at all to spare the fringe of trees at the airdrome’s edge. For a time we flew through gray skies crowded with clouds that lowered at us as we passed over the many mouths of the Ganges and Brahmapurra rivers…Much of the way from Calcutta to Akyab we flew very low over endless paddies…Akyab is a picturesque place from the air. Two pagodas, covered with gold leaf, stand out…The airport is a port of call for most pilots passing this way. It has two runways and a large hangar. Imperial Airways and Air France stops regularly, and K.L.M., the Dutch line, when necessary to refuel or on account of the weather. . .
“We did not intend to stay at Akyab overnight. Instead we hoped to reach Rangoon at least, and started off from Akyab after checking the weather and fueling. Once in the air the elements grew progressively hostile. The wind, dead ahead, began to whip furiously. Relentless rain pelted us. The monsoon, I find, lets down more liquid per second that I thought could come out of the skies. Everything was obliterated in the deluge, so savage that is beat off patches of paint along the leading edge of my plane’s wings. Only a flying submarine could have prospered. It was wetter even than it had been in that deluge of the mid-South Atlantic. The heavens unloosed an almost unbroken wall of water which would have drowned us had our cockpit not been secure. After trying to get through for a couple of hours we give up, forced to retreat to Akyab.
“Back-tracking, we headed out to sea, flying just off the surface of the water. We were afraid to come low over land on account of the hills. When it’s impossible to see a few hundred yards ahead through the driving moisture the prospect of suddenly encountering hilltops is not a pleasant one. By uncanny powers, Fred Noonan managed to navigate us back to the airport, without being able to see anything but the waves beneath our plane. His comment was, ‘Two hours and six minutes of going nowhere.’ For my part, I was glad that our landing gear was retractable, lest it be scraped on trees or waves. . . .” —Amelia Earhart