A photograph discovered in the U.S. National Archives may add weight to the theory that Amelia Earhart survived a landing in the Marshall Islands and was taken captive by the Japanese.
The photo shows a picture of a woman who appears to be Amelia Earhart and a man that looks like her co-pilot, Fred Noonan, after their crash, NBC reported. The photo and other details that point to Earhart’s capture by the Japanese are detailed in a two-hour History Channel special dubbed Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which airs Sunday.
The show features former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry as he investigates evidence supporting the theory that Earhart crash-landed in the Marshall Islands and eventually died in Japanese custody on the island of Saipan.
The photo was likely taken by someone who was spying on the Japanese for the U.S., according to the special.
The show highlights additional evidence, including plane parts found on the Marshall Islands that appear to be like those on the plane Earhart flew in 1937, and an eyewitness who claims to have seen Earhart and Noonan after they supposedly perished.
Japanese authorities told NBC that there are no records indicating that Earhart was in Japanese custody.
The photo shows a woman with short hair, much like Earhart’s cut, sitting on a dock with her back to the camera. A man, who looks like Noonan is standing a short distance behind her.
Ken Gibson, a facial recognition expert, who studied the photo, said its “very convincing evidence” that the photo is of Noonan, NBC reported.
“The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic,” Gibson said. “It’s a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent.”
The theory is far from the only speculation about what happened to Earhart after her disappearance on July 2, 1937.
The History Channel special airs on the heels of another high-profile investigation into Earhart’s demise. A team of researchers is currently using bone-sniffing dogs in hopes of finding Earhart’s remains on a remote Pacific island, where they believe she may have died as a castaway.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) hopes to find bones on the island of Nikumaroro, which could prove whether the castaway theory is correct once and for all. Even if DNA analysis proves their theory is correct, people will likely still hold on to whatever theory they believe about Earhart’s disappearance, according to Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, who wrote Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance.
“It’s such an iconic mystery, and people hold on to that mystery,” he said. “They love the mystery.”