A few days ago, the world was enthralled by the discovery of an old photograph that allegedly showed Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan on a Japanese harbor after their disappearance in 1937. The photo also accompanied an old theory that Earhart and Noonan had been taken captive by the Japanese government and were sent to prison for being spies. This was all explored in a History special called Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, but it seems like some people—particularly some people at History—may have been too quick to trust the stories about the photo.
According to The Guardian, a military history blogger from Tokyo named Kota Yamano didn’t buy that the photo depicted Earhart being captured by the Japanese military, so he decided to see if he could find some record of the same image in Japan’s own archives. He then began the arduous task of identifying the origin of the mysterious photograph, a quest that he must have known would be crushingly difficult if History hadn’t bothered to do it. Only 30 minutes later, he had successfully debunked that Earhart was in the photo.
As it turns out, the image that supposedly depicted Earhart and Noonan being taken captive by the Japanese military in 1937 had been published in a travelogue about the South Seas in 1935. Instead of showing an American hero and navigator being captured, the original caption revealed that it actually depicted a boat race that had become a “bustling spectacle.” In other words, it’s just a photo of some people looking at boats, but that’s not really exciting enough to carry an entire History special.