1932 Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to make solo, nonstop transatlantic flight Five years to the day that American aviator Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot to accomplish a solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, female aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first pilot to repeat the feat, landing her plane in Ireland after flying across the North Atlantic. Earhart traveled over 2,000 miles from Newfoundland in just under 15 hours. Unlike Charles Lindbergh, Earhart was well known to the public before her solo transatlantic flight. In 1928, as a member of a three-person crew, she had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an aircraft. Although her only function during the crossing was to keep the plane’s log, the event won her national fame, and Americans were enamored with the daring and modest young pilot. For her solo transatlantic crossing in 1932, she was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress. In 1935, in the first flight of its kind, she flew solo from Wheeler Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California, winning a $10,000 award posted by Hawaiian commercial interests. Two years later, she attempted, along with copilot Frederick J. Noonan, to fly around the world, but her plane disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific on July 2, 1937. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca picked up radio messages that she was lost and low in fuel–the last the world ever heard from Amelia Earhart. 1542 Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto dies in American wilderness On the banks of the Mississippi River in present-day Louisiana, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto dies, ending a three-year journey for gold that took him halfway across what is now the United States. In order that Indians would not learn of his death, and thus disprove de Soto’s claims of divinity, his men buried his body in the Mississippi River. In late May 1539, de Soto landed on the west coast of Florida with 600 troops, servants, and staff, 200 horses, and a pack of bloodhounds. From there, the army set about subduing the natives, seizing any valuables they stumbled upon, and preparing the region for eventual Spanish colonization. Traveling through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, across the Appalachians, and back to Alabama, de Soto failed to find the gold and silver he desired, but he did seize a valuable collection of pearls at Cofitachequi, in present-day South Carolina. Decisive conquest also eluded the Spaniards, as what would become the United States lacked the large, centralized civilizations of Mexico and Peru. As was the method of Spanish conquest elsewhere in the Americas, de Soto mistreated and enslaved the natives he encountered. For the most part, the Indian warriors they encountered were intimidated by the Spanish horsemen and kept their distance. In October 1540, however, the tables were turned when a confederation of Indians attacked the Spaniards at the fortified Indian town of Mabila, near present-day Mobile, Alabama. All the Indians were killed, along with 20 of de Soto’s men. Several hundred Spaniards were wounded. In addition, the Indian conscripts they had come to depend on to bear their supplies had all fled with baggage. De Soto could have marched south to reconvene with his ships along the Gulf Coast, but instead he ordered his expedition north-westward in search of America’s elusive riches. In May 1541, the army reached and crossed the Mississippi River, probably the first Europeans ever to do so. From there, they traveled through Arkansas and Louisiana, still with few material gains to show for their efforts. Turning back to the Mississippi, de Soto died of a fever on its banks on May 21, 1542. The Spaniards, now under the command of Luis de Moscoso Alvarado, traveled west again, crossing into north Texas before returning to the Mississippi. With nearly half of the original expedition dead, the Spaniards built rafts and traveled down the river to the sea, and then made their way down the Texas coast to New Spain, finally reaching Veracruz, Mexico, in late 1543. 1539 Black Spanish explorer Estevan is reported killed Word reaches Fray Marcos that Indians have killed his guide Estevan, a black slave who was the first non-Indian to visit the pueblo lands of the American Southwest. Thought to have been born sometime around 1500 on the west coast of Morocco, Estevan was sold to the Spanish as a slave. He ended up in the hands of Andres Dorantes de Carranza, who took him on an ill-fated expedition to Florida in 1527. A series of disasters reduced the original exploratory party of 300 to four men: Estevan, Dorantes de Carranza, Cabeza de Vaca, and Alonso del Castillo. The four survivors lived with Indians on the Gulf of Mexico for several years before finally heading west in hopes of reaching Mexico City. With the assistance of Spanish slave hunters they encountered, they finally made it to Mexico City in 1536, where their amazing story of survival caused a sensation. Intrigued by reports by the four men of rich cities of gold to the north, the Spanish Viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, immediately began to plan an expedition. The three white men, however, wished only to return to Spain and refused to serve as guides. As a slave, Estevan had no choice in the matter and he was sold to the viceroy. In 1539, the viceroy ordered Estevan to lead the Catholic friar and explorer Fray Marcos de Niza on a preliminary mission to investigate the rumors of cities of gold. Setting out on March 7, 1539, the two men and a party of retainers headed north into the modern-day states of Arizona and New Mexico. On March 21, Marcos sent Estevan ahead to scout the territory, in part because the pious Marcos had become annoyed with Estevan’s penchant for collecting turquoise and his too-evident enjoyment of the native women. Six days later, Estevan sent back word to Marcos that he had encountered Indians who had told him spectacular places lay ahead. Marcos took this to mean that Estevan had heard reports of one of the fabulous golden cities. The two travelers trudged on through the hot desert sands, with Estevan traveling ahead by several days and periodically sending Indian messengers back to the friar with reports. By mid-May, they were nearing the White Mountains of Arizona. On this day in 1539, another messenger came riding from the north to tell Marcos that Estevan was dead. From the messenger, Marcos learned that Estevan had made contact with a band of Pueblo Indians. In his earlier transcontinental trek, the black man had acquired a sacred rattle used by the Plains Indian tribes. Estevan had previously found that the gourd filled with pebbles worked wonders in gaining the trust and respect of certain Indians. The Pueblo people, however, deeply feared anyone using the paraphernalia of a Plains Indian medicine man. Estevan may have also further alienated the Pueblo Indians by demanding women and treasure. After keeping him for three days, the Indians killed Estevan near the modern-day Arizona border southwest of Zuni, New Mexico. Upon hearing this frightening news, Marcos immediately returned to Mexico City. Based on the third or fourth-hand reports from Estevan of spectacular places ahead, Marcos told the viceroy the rumored golden cities of the north might actually exist. Encouraged by the friar’s tales, the explorer Coronado headed north a year later, confidently promising to return with hordes of gold. Like Estevan and Marcos, he found no gold but he did return with a wealth of useful knowledge about the geography and people of the Southwest. However, it was the black slave Estevan, not the white nobleman Coronado, who was the first non-Indian to penetrate the southwest territory.