Beryl Markham (26 October 1902 – 3 August 1986) was a British-born Kenyan aviatrix, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. During the pioneer days of aviation, she became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She is now primarily remembered as the author of the memoir West with the Night.
Markham is often described as “the first person” to fly the Atlantic east to west in a solo non-stop flight, but that record belongs to Scottish pilot Jim Mollison, who attempted to fly from Dublin, Ireland to New York City in 1932. Low visibility forced Mollison down in New Brunswick, Canada, but he was still able to claim the Atlantic east-to-west record (a westbound flight requires more endurance, fuel and time than the eastward journey because the craft must travel against the prevailing Atlantic winds).
When Markham decided to take on the Atlantic crossing, no pilot had yet flown non-stop from Europe to New York, and no woman had made the westward flight solo, though several had died trying. Markham hoped to claim both records. On September 4, 1936, she took off from Abingdon, England. After a 20-hour flight, her Vega Gull, The Messenger, suffered fuel starvation due to icing of the fuel tank vents, and she crash-landed at Baleine Cove on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (her flight was, in all likelihood, almost identical in length to Mollison’s). In spite of falling short of her goal, Markham had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo, and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop. She was celebrated as an aviation pioneer.
Markham chronicled her many adventures in her memoir, West with the Night, published in 1942. Despite strong reviews in the press, the book sold modestly, and then quickly went out of print. After living for many years in the United States, Markham moved back to Kenya in 1952, becoming for a time the most successful horse trainer in the country.