A new photograph was recently unearthed that has some convinced that Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were captured by the Japanese and held on the Marshall Islands. Ric Gillespie, a decades-long Earhart researcher, remains unconvinced.


With the help of his group, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), Gillespie has set out to prove his theory – that Earhart and Noonan crash landed on a desolate island and died there weeks later.

Last week, the History Channel showed the newly found photo, which shows a woman sitting on a dock with a similar haircut and build as Earhart as well as a man resembling Noonan, surrounded by Japanese soldiers. A barge with a plane sits in Jaluit Harbor in the background. The network will be airing a special about the photo and its possible meanings soon.

Gillespie fully believes that the photograph does not picture the famous aviator. “This is something that’s going to be put out to millions of people,” he said. “I wish the History Channel would just air Ancient Aliens. It would be more credible.”

TIGHAR recently did its own expedition, in which they hired four border collies trained to smell human remains. They brought the dogs to the supposed island that Earhart crash-landed on. Some background: a skeleton was found on the island three years after Earhart disappeared. The physician who studied the bones determined the skeleton to belong to a short, stocky, European man. Gillespie, however, thinks he was mistaken, and that the bones belonged to a taller-than-average woman of European descent – such as Earhart.

All four dogs alerted their handlers to the same spot, under a ren tree. Gillespie believes this is where either Earhart or Noonan took her/his last breath. No bones were uncovered, but the sand was taken to a lab for testing.

Amelia Earhart has been Gillespie’s passion for more than three decades. “When I’m totally scientific, I say all of the available evidence points to this conclusion,” he says. “But after a while, you look at a stack of supposed coincidences a mile high and it’s clear … I don’t think I’m different from any scientist that’s working on a case like this. You maintain your objectivity, but it’s hard not to get excited.”

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