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The Amelia Earhart Mystery

How many people watched the documentary about Amelia Earhart's disappearance that aired on History Channel on Sunday?

I did. In fact, I also DVR'd it.

This 80-year-old mystery has such a hold on me, and the International community for that matter. Earhart was a pioneering aviator, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic; however, it was her ill-fated attempt at becoming the first female pilot to fly around the world that sealed her notoriety.

Even my 9-year-old son knows who she is, knows of her fateful journey, and knows no one ever heard from her again. For years experts and amateurs alike have searched, speculated and theorized what happened to her with little proof of the answer.

Then, a blurry picture surfaced.

And with it, are claims that this proves Amelia Earhart not only survived but was taken prisoner by the Japanese when she crash-landed on the Marshall Islands in 1937.

Now, while I'm intrigued by the possibility and anything that incites a reaction of "maybe" is enough for me to dig a little deeper, I cannot be certain of anything. Experts claim Earhart is the woman seated on the dock with her back turned.

And the reasoning behind this claim is the male subject, who is standing and facing the camera, bears a strong resemblance to Earhart's flight navigator, Fred Noonan.

The photograph was recently discovered by former US Treasury Agent Les Kinney in the National Archives. A facial recognition expert examined the photograph, focusing on the male subject. He said the hairline of the man matches that of Noonan, while the torso measurements and short hair of the female matches that of Earhart.

The expert further alleges that the blurry image of Earhart's crashed airplane is seen off to the right behind the ship that's docked.

The documentary that aired on the History Channel focuses on the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed into the Marshall Islands and were taken prisoner by the Japanese military. This means the pair could have died on the island of Saipan, rather than the crash, which corroborates eyewitness accounts of seeing them in custody. This theory also supports the speculation surrounding pieces of metal found in 2014 that reportedly came from Earhart's plane, the Electra.

But other experts remain unconvinced. Even the Smithsonian's position aligns the long-held belief that the pair had communication problems and couldn't find Howland Island. They then ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939.

What is agreed upon, is that the photo is definitely interesting, but I do not think it's definitive proof of much more than sparking increased interest. The entire world was following her, then she seemingly fell off the face of the Earth. It's only natural to wonder what happened, even generations after the fact.

Other Theories:
- That she died as a castaway; Earhart and Noonan landed safely on a reef and tried unsuccessfully to radio for help.
- That Earhart was a spy; They were shot or forced down and this theory was given attention by the 1943 fictional movie "Flight for Freedom," which was loosely based on her story.
- That Earhart survived, returned to the U.S. in 1945 and lived out the rest of her days as a New Jersey housewife named Irene Bolam until her death in 1982. Bolam had in fact sued the book publisher of this account for $1.5 million, and had the evidence from the 1930s to prove it. The book was withdrawn, but the theory has stuck.

Update: News reports surfaced that the photo-in-question was taken in 1935 and was published in a Japanese coffee table book titled, "Naval life line; the view of our South Pacific: Photo album of Southern Pacific Islands." Was this whole theory just debunked?!

What do you think?

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