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Questions Raised Over Unearthed 'Amelia Earhart' Photo

The History Channel is investigating a photo used in a special suggesting that Amelia Earhart survived after a blogger says it was taken before she vanished.
Image: A photo discovered in the National Archives shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands
A photo discovered in the National Archives shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands.National Archives

Last week, the History cable channel revealed a photograph said to possibly show the vanished aviator Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands after she disappeared, possibly clearing up one of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries. On Tuesday, however, a Japanese blogger wrote that the photo was taken two years before she went missing and isn't Earhart.

Now, the History channel says it is conducting an investigation to look into the blogger's claims.

"We will be transparent in our findings," the channel said in a statement Tuesday following the blog post. "Ultimately historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers."

The channel aired a two-hour special, "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence," on Sunday using what it said was a hidden and mislabeled photograph in the U.S. National Archives to suggest that Earhart may have survived her attempted round-the-world flight in 1937.

The photo purported to show a woman who resembles Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan, on a dock in the Marshall Islands.

Image: Marshall Islands
A woman thought by the History Channel to resemble Amelia Earhart, is circled in red at center, and a man who appeared to be her navigator, Fred Noonan, is at left.National Archives

But the Japanese blogger said in post on Tuesday that the same photo appears in a Japanese travel book on the Pacific Islands in 1935 — two years before Earhart and Noonan went missing in July 1937. Japan's national library website also lists the publication date as 1935.

The post said that the original caption of the photo says in Japanese that it was taken in the town of Jabor in Jaluit Atoll, which is in the Marshall Islands. The post says the photo shows a Japanese steam ship that later was used in the search for the pair but that also arrived there sometime in 1935.

According to a translation by NBC News, the caption on the photo mentions Jabor in Japanese as being an exceptionally good port that becomes quite lively when large ships arrive carrying goods from the mainland.

"So we're going to continue to investigate this," History channel investigator Shawn Henry told NBC News. "The accuracy is obviously important. We want to follow the facts where they lead, and we're certainly going to do that."

Image: National Archives archives
The photo of people on a dock in the Marshall Islands was discovered in the National Archives. National Archives

Theories have been proposed that Earhart and Noonan crash landed and were captured by the Japanese military, eventually dying in captivity. Some locals have said that they saw Earhart's plane crash land and that they both were captured and taken away.

Gary Tarpinian, executive producer of the History special, has said its investigators believe Earhart was taken by the Japanese to Saipan where she died. The Japanese government has always maintained that it has no documents suggesting Earhart was ever in its custody.

Image: Amelia Earhart Question
This photo from Japan's national library's website, which appears similar to one from the U.S. National Archives, is listed as being published in 1935. Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937.National Diet Library Digital Collections

Despite the controversy, Henry said, "I think the evidence that we've collected thus far in totality says that Noonan and Earhart landed in the Marshall Islands. I think that that's true."

Earhart was last heard from on July 2, 1937. Earhart was officially declared dead in 1939 after the U.S. government concluded that she crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Her remains were never found.

Earhart was trying to become the first female aviator to circumnavigate the globe when she vanished.