I thought we’d go with a different kind of post this week and take a look at a recent update in the classic unsolved mystery of Amelia Earhart.
I’m sure most people reading this blog are familiar with the case, but for those who aren’t, let’s have a quick refresher.
Amelia Earhart was a pilot who went missing in 1937 while on her way to a Howland island (a sort of atoll or coral island in the Pacific Ocean) from Lae in Papua New Guinea, during a circumnavigation expedition around the world. Her unexplained disappearance has captured the imaginations of people everywhere who often chat on various online forums and social media sites in an exchange of theories.
Earhart began planning her trip around the world in 1935 when she garnered funding from Purdue University and had a custom Lockheed Model 10 Electra built for the journey. Apparently it was the world’s first full metal plane. It had a twin engine and a larger fuel tank to aid her on the upcoming journey. Her team originally consisted of navigator Captain Harry Manning and second navigator Fred Noonan but by the time of the departure her already small crew had lost its second navigator and now consisted of just Earhart herself and Fred Noonan.
(This documentary indicates that Manning wasn’t confident in Amelia’s abilities after the plane crashed during their first attempt.)
Despite the issues during her first try, Earhart had the plane repaired and two months later she was off on the adventure of a lifetime.
The pair had successfully flown from California to Hawaii, and according to their flight plan, they were supposed to touch down on Howland Island on July the 2nd, although there is no evidence to show they ever did. With only two days left to complete their mission, Earhart, Noonan and the Lockheed Model 10 Electra were never seen or heard from again.
Some people believe that Earhart simply lost control of the plane the pair crashed and died. Others like to believe that they landed somewhere else and attempted to survive until rescue, but were never located and remained there as castaways.
Let’s say they did land somewhere other than Howland island; where would that be?
This article from the National Geographic website puts forth the idea that since Howland Island could have been difficult to find (due to weather and visibility or just general miscalculation) that Earhart may have landed on the neighboring, slightly larger Nikumaroro Island. The article states that the last confirmed contact Amelia Earhart put out via the planes radio transmission was on the 2nd of July announcing "KHAQQ to Itasca. We are on the line 157 337". Honestly I had no idea what this meant, but apparently “KHAQQ” was the planes call letters used to identify the craft in radio transmissions. “Itcasa” is a ship that was waiting for them with supplies and whatnot and the numbers are basically the planes line of position. There is a lot of debate about when and what were Earhart’s last confirmed words were, but the above message seems to be the transmission people agree on. If you’re really getting into this case you can read in great detail all about the many other possible transmissions here.
So let’s talk about why we’re looking at the 1937 case today. Well a couple of days ago I saw in the news that a photograph had been found suggesting that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were captured and executed by the Japanese. This theory was recently put forward after a photograph was found in the national archives showing a bunch of people standing around on what looks like a dock or jetty on an atoll of the Marshall Islands.
According to reports, this photograph is supposed to be Fred (standing to the left by the pole) and Amelia sitting down with her back to the photographer.
(The photograph in question. Source)
Now I have to admit, that when I first saw the image I couldn’t see where the idea that it showed the missing pilot and her navigator came from. Then I watched the history channel documentary that revealed the image and compare a photograph of Fred and the man from the black and white photo side by side.
Looking at them next to each other I actually can see a resemblance. The receding hairline, the brow bone and the shadows cast under them, the length of the head, the position and shape of the ears and length of the nose. Then again, you can barely see the man in this newly discovered picture and it could be any old bloke. The documentary describes the “Two Caucasians” in the image, but the figure that is supposedly Amelia has her back to us and the man in 50% shadow so what details are they going off here?
The image doesn’t seem to be dated, but you can estimate it’s from around the time the thirties, and yes the Marshall Islands is nearby and they could have landed due to low fuel. Of course the Japanese were holding the islands at the time too, but this just seems to be a photo of some people at a dock with nothing that explicitly makes you think “Amelia Earhart ”.
The image was found along with documents labelled as “U.S naval intelligence” and the original caption was “U.S. National Archives, Records of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Record Group 38, Monograph Files Relating to the Pacific Ocean Area, NAID 68141661”.
The theory is, that this photograph shows Earhart and Noonan after being rescued from a crash, and that the ship in the background is a Japanese boat holding the plane. I don’t know if we’re supposed to be able to see the Electra or not, but I can’t see anything.
This image from the BBC highlights what we’re supposed to be looking at.
Supposedly that’s Amelia watching her plane getting dragged off. Looks like a smaller boat to me, though. What do you think?
They were then supposedly thought to have been carted off to a prison camp where they died, or were executed. Apparently there were inhabitants of the Island who claimed to see this, but they do not seem to be named anywhere.
Even more recently, a blogger from Japan named Kota Yamano posted evidence that the image making the rounds was published in a photo book two years before Amelia Earhart even went missing.
So what do you think became of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan?
Did they crash into the ocean, sink and die?
Did they live as castaways?
Were they captured by the Japanese and killed?Keep an eye out for updates!