Does newly discovered photo prove Amelia Earhart survived final flight?

Amelia Earhart
Getty Images

The disappearance of pilot Amelia Earhart has intrigued the public and investigators for 80 years. During her attempt to fly around the world in 1937, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared. After countless searches, officials found no sign of the pair or their aircraft.

Many people believed they crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, with one group even using bone-sniffing dogs to search for the pair’s remains on a remote island in the Pacific. However, a new documentary featuring possible photographic evidence claims they survived. And, not only did they live, they were captured by Japanese forces.

Did Amelia Earhart Survive After All?

The History Channel will air “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 9. This documentary focuses on evidence presented by a former FBI official. According to Shawn Henry, who served as FBI Executive Assistant Director, a recently discovered picture from archives shows Earhart and Noonan after they supposedly crash landed.

Learn more about the documentary and the photo in this TODAY clip:

Expert Calls New Earhart Theory ‘Ridiculous’

Not everyone agrees with what the documentary claims. Dorothy Cochrane of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum told she has “never seen any ‘definitive evidence’ to suggest the pair survived their final flight.” In fact, she said the documentary’s claim is “a ridiculous theory.”

“They just want to believe it so desperately, that we can find her,” she said to the New York Times. “I hope we find her some day, but it’s not that important to me. What’s important to me is her legacy.”

Earhart’s Doomed Journey

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. For years, she continued to amaze people with her flying skill and stamina. In 1937, Earhart wanted to achieve the ultimate record: To be the first woman to fly around the world. On June 1, 1937, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Miami, Florida.

The flew successfully for about a month, and with only 7,000 miles to go, the pair took off from Papua New Guinea toward Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. On July 2, 1937, Earhart made final radio contact with a U.S. Coast Guard ship.

“We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”

The ship tried to reply, but it seems they did not receive the transmission.

At 8:45 a.m., Earhart reported, “We are running north and south.”

That was the last time anyone heard from the pilot or the navigator.

Crews conducted a search and rescue for nearly three weeks. On July 19, after finding no trace of the plane, Earhart or Noonan, the U.S. government called off the search.

The Newly Discovered Photo

The picture in question, seen below, has been carefully studied by forensic photographic experts and historians, according to

“I can say with more than 99.7 percent confidence that the photo is authentic and untouched,” computer forensic examiner Doug Carner told People.

Henry claims this discovery “absolutely changes history,” and other pieces of evidence (including possible plane parts and previously top-secret documents) show Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, survived and was then taken prisoner as a possible spy. He alleges she remained a captive for two years until she died from either malaria or dysentery.

These are the persons in question:

Twitter | HISTORY

And it was documented that Amelia’s airplane was 37.8 feet in length. According to image specialists, the object being towed behind this boat appears to be approximately 38 feet in length.

Twitter | HISTORY

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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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