It looks like the mystery of the disappearance of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart will be finally solved. A newly unearthed photo from the US National Archives suggests that the legendary pilot might have died in Japanese custody.
Earhart along with her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared 80 years ago when her plane crashed near Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean and since then there have been several conspiracy theories. One of the theories suggests that she might have died in plane crash in the Pacific.
However, the recently discovered photo claims to provide fresh evidence that Earhart did not die in the crash and might have been taken into custody. The black and white photograph shows a group of people on a dock, a person sitting behind them with her back to the camera and another figure standing behind the group.
The blurry photo, marked "Jaluit Atoll" believed to have been taken in the Marshall Islands in 1937, claims that the person seen sitting in the photo could be Earhart, while another figure could be Noonan.
"The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic," Kent Gibson, a facial recognition expert, who studied the photo, told History Channel. "It's a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent. It's my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan."
The photo has been released by TV network NBC days ahead of History Channel's documentary Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which will be aired on July 9.
Here are a few facts to know about Amelia Earhart and her mysterious disappearance.
First female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
Earhart had shot to fame as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1937. She and Noonan had taken off on July 2, 1937, from Lae Airfield in a heavily loaded Electra.
Author of bestselling books
Apart from being an American aviation pioneer, she was also an author and wrote two books about her flying experiences. She also worked as an aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine for two years starting from 1928.
Vanished into thin air
Earhart's trip was cut short after her plane disappeared. The US Navy and Coast Guard started the largest and most expensive air and sea search in American history to find her and her navigator. However, all efforts went in vain. Later, her husband George Putnam started his own search, but he too failed to find her.
She vanished in 1937 and two years after her disappearance, the US government officially declared her dead on January 5, 1939.
Living her life with another identity
In 2006, National Geographic claimed that Earhart survived the plane crash, moved to New Jersey, changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam and worked as a banker. However, a facial expert hired by National Geographic dismissed the fact that the two people were same.
Secret agent for the US government
Earhart's close friendship with Franklin D Roosevelt and his wife Eleano also gave rise to theories that she worked as a secret agent for the US government.
She died on an island
Last year, another theory surfaced online that claimed that Earhart might have died a castaway on Kiribati's Nikumaroro island. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) said that they discovered the original British files, which were created after a British official named Gerald Gallagher discovered human remains in 1940 on the island and sent that to a British doctor.
Initially, it was said that the bones belonged to a man. However, TIGHAR found out that the "shape of the recovered bones appears consistent with a female of Earhart's height and ethnic origin."