The photograph that served as the flagship piece of evidence for a recent History Channel documentary, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” and its theory on the fate of the famed pilot, has been discredited by a Japanese blogger.
The highly circulated image purported to show what could be Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, sitting and standing amidst a crowd of people on a dock in the Jaluit Atoll. Analysis from the History Channel’s experts claimed the photograph to be untouched, prompting many to extrapolate that Earhart and Noonan must have survived their descent, only to be captured by the Japanese military soon thereafter.
The documentary and accompanying press releases claimed the photograph may have been taken by U.S. spies monitoring Japanese military expansion in the Pacific in 1937 – more specifically, it was claimed the photograph was taken weeks after Earhart’s disappearance from radar screens.
However, Japanese military history blogger Kota Yamano was not convinced by the History Channel’s claims. That skepticism led him to the Japanese National Library where he conducted his search using only the term “Jaluit Atoll,” or the location the photograph was supposedly taken. Soon, he came across a Japanese-language travelogue about islands in the South Pacific that contained the very picture he sought… that just so happened to be published two years before Earhart’s disappearance.
“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”
Page 44 of the book entitled, “The Ocean’s Lifeline: The Condition of Our South Seas,” featured the photo the History Channel, and former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry, claimed showed Earhart. The translated caption described a lively port that was often the setting for schooner races. On page 135, the book indicates that it was published in October of 1935, a full two years prior to the famed aviator’s disappearance.
Worse still, Yamano’s damning evidence wasn’t even that hard to come by. According to the blogger, his investigation lasted all of thirty minutes in the National Library before debunking the photograph. It is worth noting that the photograph was not the only piece of evidence the History Channel documentary presented, but it was certainly the most profound. Residents of the Marshall Islands have long claimed that Earhart was captured by the Japanese as the show claimed, though there is very little evidence to support the theory.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Kent Gibson, the facial-recognition expert that the History Channel hired to analyze the photograph for the show. “I don’t have an explanation for why [the photograph] would show up two years early.”
In the show, Gibson claimed that based on his analysis of the photograph, it was “very likely” that it depicted Earhart and Noonan.
The History Channel took to Twitter to claim that their team of investigators were “exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart,” and promised to reveal their findings.
“Ultimately historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers,” the channel said.
Image courtesy of Japan’s Diet National Library