For more than 80 years the world has wondered what happened to pilot Amelia Earhart. On an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the South Pacific.
“Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” a History Channel documentary that aired last night, suggests an answer to that question. Les Kinney, a retired Treasury Department official, found this photo in the National Archives. He believes it shows Earhart and Noonan as captives of the Japanese in the Marshall Islands.
A video clip from”Today” shows a little of how it was analyzed.
An Amelia Earhart Photo Mystery
A man thought to be Noonan stands on the left and the person thought to be Earhart sits on a dock, back to the camera, with the side of her face visible. Photo analyst Kent Gibson used software to compare known images of Noonan and Earhart with the people in the picture. He concluded it’s “very likely” this depicts the duo.
The image also shows a Japanese ship towing an object whose shape and calculated measurements mean it could have been Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E.
All mystery photo investigations rely on more than the evidence in the picture. It takes painstaking historical research.
Amelia Earhart in 1928 (Library of Congress).
Kinney has researched Earhart for more than a dozen years. This photo is just part of the puzzle. In the lead-up to World War II, the Japanese had banned Americans from the Marshall Islands. The two Caucasians in the photo are out of place.
(The documentary suggests international tensions are the reason evidence of Earhart’s capture was covered up.)
Historical accounts from residents of the Marshall Islands at the time indicate they saw the Japanese tow away a plane. In 1987, the Republic of the Marshall Islands even issued a series of postage stamps depicting their stories of Earhart’s landing and capture.
The documentary presents additional evidence, such as metal parts that could be from a Lockheed Electra discovered where the plane is said to have been dragged from the beach Earhart landed on to a waiting Japanese barge.
The evidence is pretty convincing. I’d also like to know what’s in the Japanese archives. There are a lot of theories about Earhart—this might just be another one or it could solve the mystery.
So the coolest part of the video above is when Gibson compares their faces, right?
Using Facial Identification Software
You’re thinking. Wait! I want to do that with my photos. Guess what? You can. Faceoff, Visual Face Recognition is software on the market that allows you to overlay one face on another. It costs $29.95.
Bear in mind:
- The two faces you’re comparing must be the same view (straight on, profile, etc.)
- Glasses, shadows and even hair on the face can confuse the viewer
- It’s up to you to determine if you have two images of the same person, but make sure you’ve done your homework about where the person lived and whether it’s possible the photos might show the same person before you jump to a conclusion.
Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:
- Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
- Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
- Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
- Hairstyles 1840-1900
- Photo-Organizing Practices
- Preserving Your Family Photographs
- Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now