melia Earhart, the first female pilot to successfully fly solo across the Atlantic, may not have died in a place crash, according to an upcoming documentary.
Mystery has surrounded the revolutionary aviator’s death for decades. Earhart vanished in 1937, while attempting to make history as the first female to circumnavigate the world. She encountered bad weather and seemed to have vanished into thin air.
While much of the world believes Earhart died in a plane crash, a newly found image may indicates that that Earhart might have survived the crash and been held as a possible spy on a Japanese-controlled island.
Researchers believe Earhart died while being held prisoner by the Japanese.
Producers of documentary, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” shared their ideas on NBC‘s Today Wednesday. Investigators have uncovered a photograph that appears to be of Earhart in 1937 in custody of Japanese. They believe she was imprisoned on an island until she died.
After successfully crossing the Atlantic in 1932, the revolutionary aviator wanted one final challenge—to become the first female pilot to fly around the world.
In June of 1937, Earhart attempted this feat. She was last heard from on July, 2 1937, where she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, radioed reports of cloudy weather.
The pair was never heard from again. The U.S. government launched a multi-million dollar search and rescue mission to find the Earhart and Noonan, but never located their remains.
This photograph may explain why.
Retired treasury department investigator Les Kinney uncovered a previously top-secret photograph in the National Archives, which he believes is of Earhart and Noonan.
The photograph was taken in 1937 and marked “Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, Jaluit Island, Jaluit Harbor.” These islands, which dot the Pacific Ocean near the equator, were under Japanese control in the 1930s.
Zoomed in, you can see two people who could be Earhart and Noonan.
The photo shows a woman sitting with her back to the camera. She has short hair and is wearing pants—matching Earhart’s cutting-edge style. A white male is standing off to the left. Recognition experts told NBC that this woman’s body measurements match up with Earhart’s and that the man’s teeth, nose, and hairline all look similar to Noonan’s.
The connections don’t stop there.
The photograph also shows a Japanese ship off in the distance, which is hauling an item on a barge. That item is the same length as Earhart’s plane.
Kinney, who has been digging into Earhart’s disappearance for 15 years, told NBC that the photo “clearly indicates that Earhart was captured by the Japanese.”
But while the researchers are confident in their account of the tale, others remain skeptical.
“People take photos and interpret them, and they’re free to do that,” she said. “[The photograph] has not persuaded me,” Dorothy Cochrane, curator for the Aeronautics Department at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, told CNN. She believes the most popular story of Earhart’s demise—that she died in a plane crash in the ocean.
The Japanese aren’t too sure about it either—with officials telling NBC that they have no records of ever having Earhart or Noonan in custody.
Still, the documentarians are confident in their findings. Shawn Henry, a former executive assistant director for the FBI who worked on the documentary, is all but certain that the image shows Earhart.
“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” Henry told NBC.