Mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance may be solved by newly discovered photo

National Archives

Buried in the National Archives for almost 80 years, a newly rediscovered photo may hold the key to solving one of history's all-time greatest mysteries. It depicts the Marshall Islands and shows what is believed to be a Japanese ship, the Koshu.

The grainy black and white snap showing a group of people standing by a harbour in the South Pacific is believed to have been taken the same year Earhart disappeared.

The photo found in the National Archives that some investigators say shows Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in Japanese custody in 1937. Most experts, including the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, believe Earhart likely ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The photo came from a top secret Navy file, according to a new History channel special "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence". She has a haircut that's "too long for a man but too short for a native woman" and she's wearing trousers. NBC News reports that independent analysts have told History the photo seems legitimate and untampered.

The History Channel's special will air on July 9.

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Kinney argues the photo must have been taken before 1943, as USA air forces conducted more than 30 bombing runs on Jaluit in 1943-44. He argues that the Japanese may have thought the aviators were spies, and since American searchers weren't allowed into the Marshall Islands, they never found a trace of the plane. According to Ken Gibson, a facial recognition expert, Noonan's hairline was very distinct, as was his nose.

Further evidence that the photo shows Earhart and Noonan is what appears in the background of the photo to be the Koshu, a Japanese navy ship, towing a barge carrying an object that could have been Earhart's plane.

"The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic". For one, it's still not determined how Amelia Earheart died or when she died.

In 1928, Earhart captured the public's imagination and earned its respect by being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. "We don't know when".

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Now, 80 years later, a photograph is raising new questions about her disappearance.

"There's nothing that points me in another direction", says Gibson, who adds that the figure believed to be Earhart has the "same prominent, athletic shoulders as Amelia" and the same "short, bobbed hair".

However, documents from that time were destroyed in World War II, and no officials who lived then are alive now.

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