Amelia Earhart’s corner of Wyoming: Pilot planned log cabin near Meeteetse

2012-07-07T21:30:00Z Amelia Earhart’s corner of Wyoming: Pilot planned log cabin near MeeteetseBy MARGARET MATRAY Casper Star-Tribune missoulian.com

MEETEETSE — The dot of land deep in the woods, dozens of miles from any town, would have been perfect.

To get there, she would have had to pack in. The first car to drive even close came through just 12 years earlier.

That’s why Amelia Earhart picked it.

The famed aviatrix would have gone unnoticed and unbothered.

Mount Sniffel to the south would have cast long shadows in the summer afternoon, enveloping her cabin in cool.

Below, Wood River would have whispered the only sound.

Yes, it would have been perfect. The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic asked friend and Meeteetse rancher Carl Dunrud to build her a summer home on the spot. He cut logs and laid the beginnings of walls in 1936.

One year later, Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10 Electra disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during her attempted around-the-world flight, and Dunrud stopped building.

July 2 marked 75 years since Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan went missing. Researchers with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery return to the Pacific atoll Nikumaroro this week with sonar and robots to try, once and for all, to find Earhart’s plane. A 1937 photograph discovered earlier this year shows what could be a landing gear sticking out of the Pacific.

Had history gone much differently — had potentially credible radio signals gone noticed, had Navy ships and planes found clues in the ocean — Earhart would have come here, to the Wyoming quiet, to get away.

***

The remnants of Earhart’s cabin have endured more than seven decades of wind and winter on the Shoshone National Forest. Two walls have been weathered away completely, evergreen trees growing in their place. What’s left are four logs splintering and sinking into the soil.

Earhart’s connection to northwestern Wyoming began with her husband, publisher George Putnam.

Putnam, his son and first wife, Dorothy, took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1921. Carl Dunrud, a packer for tourists in the park, led the Putnams on their trip. A few years later, George Putnam came back.

Years later, Dunrud purchased the ghost town of Kirwin — a remote mining camp dead since 1907 — and ran the nearby Double Dee Ranch outside of Meeteetse.

Putnam wanted his second wife, Amelia Earhart, to camp and experience the Wyoming he had in the ’20s. They planned a trip to the Dunruds’ ranch for July 1934.

Earhart arrived first. She drove cross country in her air-cooled Franklin and went unrecognized until she reached Douglas. Dunrud had to adjust her carburetor to the 8,200-foot altitude so she could make it to the Double Dee, said Jim Dunrud, Carl’s son.

During Earhart’s stay, photographer Charles Belden snapped images of her sitting on the corral and joking with Carl Dunrud as he pretended to cut her hair with sheep shears.

Earhart liked the sound of the stream at night; it put her to sleep, Jim Dunrud said.

Carl Dunrud led the couple on a two-week pack trip through the mountains. Before they left Wyoming, Earhart filed on a mining claim one mile upstream from Kirwin.

***

Prior to her final flight, Earhart sent some of her things to the Double Dee Ranch to be stored until her cabin was finished, including a flight jacket and a buffalo coat given to her by actor William S. Hart.

Joan Dunrud said Carl likely harvested timber on the spot to construct the cabin. He wrote in his book that four walls had been built about halfway up by July 2, 1937.

By the 1970s, the cabin had begun to rot. Carl Dunrud wanted the community to remember her, so he had a small stone monument erected in Meeteetse.

A photograph from 1984 shows four walls — only a few logs high — and a door frame.

Last week, Jim and Joan Dunrud went back to the cabin to show two journalists the site. They hadn’t visited in a couple years.

The door frame is gone. The remnants of only two walls are left.

“Boy, it is really melting away,” Joan Dunrud said.

Any human remains out in the Pacific would be long gone. Pieces of plane would be deep on the ocean floor.

Earhart’s cabin, too, will soon crumble away, leaving no traces behind.

“To be out in the weather that long,” Joan Dunrud said, “it probably stands to reason we’d all deteriorate.”

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(1) Comments

  1. Douglas Westfall
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    Douglas Westfall - July 10, 2012 12:45 pm
    Amelia Earhart's Radio had been modified in Miami during the flight. This reduced her transmission range from 2,000 miles to only 200. She could not have been heard outside that range.

    Paul Rafford, Jr, Flight Radio Officer at Pan Am in 1940 said: "Using the Electra's fixed antenna on 3105 khz. (her day frequency), greatly reduced its effectiveness. It was like covering a 50 watt light bulb with a lamp shade so that it emits no more light than a small flashlight bulb."

    Amelia's Lockheed Electra was within 75 miles of her target Howland Island when her radio cut out. Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts 30, said: "Her voice was loud and clear; sounded frantic on her last transmission. Then it cut off."

    Nikumaroro is 350 miles south-east of Howland and at a right angle to her flight path -- and she didn't have charts for those islands.

    Airman Richard Beckham 22, from the USS Colorado, flew over Nikumaroro (Gardner) seven days later and said: "We altered course to Gardner Island ... we always went low over the islands at 100 feet ... we couldn't see anyone, and we always scanned the beaches."

    The US sent nine ships, 66 aircraft, and well over 3,000 sailors and airmen who covered well over 250,000 sq. miles of open sea and every island within a 650 mile radius of Howland.

    Cleveland S. Edwards 19, was a Fireman 3rd Class on the USS Lexington. He said: "Our squadrons now are continually looking from dawn to dusk, flying three to four hour shifts."

    Taken from, The Hunt For Amelia Earhart
    Douglas Westfall, historic publisher, Specialbooks.com
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