Digging History

Bogus Earhart photo? Japanese blogger questions new theory about Amelia's fate

A Japanese blogger has questioned the timeline of a newly discovered photo that was touted as providing a vital clue to Amelia Earhart's fate.

Earhart, who was attempting to fly around the world, disappeared on July 2, 1937 during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific. Researchers have claimed that new evidence from U.S. government archives may finally solve the mystery of what happened to the record-breaking pilot.

However, a Japanese blogger claims that the photo was actually first published in a travelogue in 1935, well before Earhart’s disappearance. “So the photograph was taken at least two years before Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937 and a person on the photo was not her,” explains the blogger. The photograph, the blogger says, was first published in the Pacific island of Palau in a photo book called “Motoaki Nishin."

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The blogger, who tweets as @baron_yamaneko, was identified as Kota Yamano by the Guardian. Yamano unearthed the photo from the archives of Japan’s National Diet Library, the Guardian reports.

The photograph, which purportedly shows Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan and their ill-fated plane after the crash, was presented as a critical piece of evidence in a History channel documentary that aired July 9. The photo shows a group of people on a dock and is captioned “PL-MARSHALL ISLANDS, JALUIT ATOLL, JALUIT ISLAND. JALUIT HARBOR. ONI #14381.”

The image, which has generated widespread attention, was said to show Earhart with her back to the camera.

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Some investigators involved in the documentary used the photo to support the theory that Earhart survived her final flight after crash-landing in the Marshall Islands. The aviator, they argue, was then captured by the Japanese military and died in their custody on the island of Saipan.

The History Channel said that it is looking into Yamano’s claims. “HISTORY has a team of investigators exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart and we will be transparent in our findings,” it said in a statement sent to Fox News. “Ultimately, historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers.”

The documentary also focused on plane parts found on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands that are said to be consistent with the aircraft Earhart was flying in 1937.

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The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart was one of the most famous people at the time of her disappearance. A number of theories have emerged about her fate.

One well-publicized theory is that Earhart died a castaway after landing her plane on the remote island of Nikumaroro, a coral atoll some 1,200 miles from the Marshall Islands.  Some 13 human bones were found on Nikumaroro, which is also known as Gardner Island, three years after Earhart’s disappearance. The bones, however, were subsequently lost.  

Four bone-sniffing dogs were recently brought to Nikumaroro as part of an expedition sponsored by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and the National Geographic Society. National Geographic reported July 7 that the dogs have located the spot where Earhart may have died. No bones, however, were found although plans have been made to send soil samples from the spot for DNA analysis in Germany.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers