History Channel Investigating Disputed Evidence in Amelia Earhart Documentary

Courtesy of Les Kinney/U.S. National Archives
'Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence' introduced the above photo as new evidence that Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crash-landed in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.

A Japanese blogger has undermined a theory posed by 'Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,' which centered on an unearthed photo that now appears to have been taken before her disappearance — not after.

A Japanese military history buff has apparently undermined a new theory that Amelia Earhart survived a crash-landing in the Pacific Ocean during her historic attempted round-the-world flight in 1937.

The history blogger posted the same photograph that formed the backbone of a History channel documentary, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which aired on Sunday and which argued that Earhart was alive in July 1937 — but the book the photo was in apparently was published two years before the famed aviator disappeared. The History channel is looking into the matter but stands behind its documentary.

The undated black-and-white photo is of a group of people standing on a dock on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. One of the people seems to be a slim woman with her back to the camera.

The documentary argued that it proved Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, landed in 1937 in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, where they were picked up by the Japanese military and held prisoner. The two-hour show drew a strong 4.32 million viewers, the biggest audience on cable for the week, according to The Nielsen Company.

Kota Yamano, the military history blogger who unearthed the Japanese photograph, told The Guardian, "I find it strange that the documentary makers didn't confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That's the first thing they should have done."

The History channel said Tuesday its investigators are "exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart and we will be transparent in our findings." Adding, "Ultimately, historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers."

In the documentary, the photo is subjected to facial-recognition and other forensic testing, such as torso measurements. Experts on the show claimed the subjects are likely Earhart and Noonan.

A retired federal agent said he discovered the image in 2012 in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

The blogger said he found the same image digitized in Japan's National Diet Library, but it has not been authenticated.

The disappearance of Earhart and Noonan on July 2, 1937, in the Western Pacific Ocean has been the subject of continuing searches, research and debate.

A longstanding theory is that the famed pilot ran out of gas and crashed into deep ocean waters northwest of Howland Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific that she and Noonan missed.