The descent of the History Channel continues

I’m sure that by now most of you have seen The Photo that the History Channel purports supports a hypothesis that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese navy in 1937. I hope you will all join me in a resounding chorus of “BULLSHIT!”

This is a blow up of the relevant portion of the photo. The person seated with their back turned to us is supposed to be Earhart.

Can you tell? It looks just like her! Right. Looks like bullshit to me.

Not only is that supposed to be a photo of Earhart, but the ‘investigators’ can detect her mood.

They obviously believe that they’ve been rescued, Gary Tarpinian, the show’s executive producer, tells NPR. However, the word came back from Tokyo that … we can’t let her go. I’m not sure why. Did she see something she shouldn’t have seen? Did they think she was spying? Who knows? We can only speculate. But somewhere between when she thought she was rescued and after that photo, she was held captive and she was brought to Saipan.

How can they infer all this? Somehow, I think their analysis consisted of scanning the photo into a computer and shouting “ENHANCE” at it. All bullshit.

Here’s a good debunking of this stupid hypothesis. It’s not bullshit.

Just remember: friends don’t let friends watch the History Channel.


  1. brett says

    Given the History Channel, I suppose we ought to be grateful they didn’t say she was abducted by Aliens! looking for their missing Sea Pyramid.

  2. weylguy says

    Hey guys, this is just infotainment at its smarmiest, so let’s not get carried away here. Who really gives a crap whether Earhart and Noonan were killed outright, captured and later killed by the imperial Japanese army or abducted by space aliens from the planet Skyron? I sure don’t. But I’ll take a story on the verified discovery of Richard III’s body any day.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    According to the History Channel, Earhart was captured and taken aboard the Koshu Maru. This is false. She was actually rescued and taken aboard the Kobayashi Maru, captained by one James T. Kirk, then warped into the future.
    Dibs on the movie rights.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Their “forensic photo expert” identified one of the faces, the one in side profile, wearing a hat, as certainly the companion of Earhart on her flight. So therefore the person crouching in the background, “must be Earhardt”. QED.
    thus the “discovery” is interesting how it can be interpreted as “evidence” of Earhardt’s fate that remains a “mystery”, even after this analysis is offered.

  5. says

    I used to get upset about the “History” channel’s name until I accepted that a name doesn’t make it so (Fox “News”, anyone)

    I’ve also attempted to pass this attitude on to my young (and sometimes otherwise) friends and relatives.

    Full disclosure: I rather enjoy Alone and Forged In Fire. Quelle Surprise, the backpacking blacksmith likes those two.

  6. anthrosciguy says

    Damn! If they’d just enhanced that photo a touch more, we could tell what size shoes she’s wearing. That’d nail it!

    We could also know what she’s had for breakfast that day.

  7. busterggi says

    I tried to watch even though I knew it was shit but I couldn’t take more than a few minutes. George Tsakamacallit – where are you?

  8. says

    slithey tove @5

    The reports I saw said that the man looking at the camera, on our left when viewing the photo, was Fred Noonan.

    I admit the comparisons looked similar, but you can probably get that from lots of photos where the distant heads are little more than a collection of dark blobs.

  9. says

    @4, Reginald Selkirk

    …She was actually rescued and taken aboard the Kobayashi Maru, captained by one James T. Kirk, then warped into the future.
    Dibs on the movie rights.

    I suggest you first look at the Star Trek: Voyager episode titled “The 37’s” before you get too wrapped up in that script.

  10. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Is there really any possible descent left? I thought the History Channel was a running gag for years already. To be fair, most of my contact with it is indirect, like via WKUK, but still…

  11. secondtofirstworld says

    @weylguy #3:

    If there would be any credence to this story, the ones to capture her would not have been the IJA, but the IJN, more specifically the lesser known Tonketai.

    What these fame seekers choose to ignore willfully is, that by the beginning of the Showa era (as in 1926), the Japanese had a vast network of intelligence, including who travels to and from and through their sphere of influence. Unlike Americans, who did not even see them as humans, the Japanese were right on the money, that based on American culture, the possibility of entrusting a highly confidential mission to a woman was zero to none, and they had no intel on Nonnan suggesting he was OSS or military intelligence, so they did not treat them as suspects.

    As for the History Channel, they’d be better off with making a documentary on the merchant marines who did get into Japanese captivity before Pearl Harbor, as it’s criminally under reported.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    RE #11.
    Hmm. I will just state that their promotion of time travel technology undercuts their claim to prior art.

  13. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Re 10:
    Correct! That is what I was fumbling trying to recollect. The face on the left looks too distorted to have been used, when I was trying to remember the story, so I fell back to the closest face as a good approximation.
    Thanks for the refresher

  14. says

    The obvious problem with the Japanese capture Earhart story is the lack of a paper trail. It’s hard to imagine the Japanese capturing supposed spies without a lot of paperwork resulting. Especially when one of the supposed spies was an international celebrity. There would be no value in letting her die, versus either rescuing her, generating excellent publicity for Imperial Japan, or publicly charging her as a spy, in the hope of somehow taking advantage of it.

  15. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Richar of the Guru, #7:

    But you must admit it IS a person … probably.

    I ran it past my photo enhancement expert, who too a digital picture of the photo and then ran it through several image filters. Eventually it became indisputably clear that your assertion is well evidenced. The filter showed That only 2 of the people on the left of the photo are Reptilians and only one is a humanoid robot. The one in back is undoubtedly a human – and one who pilots aircraft for long periods of times, based on the inferred tanning patterns of the human’s invisible left side.

    Unfortunately, it’s not immediately clear that the tanning patterns are specific to sitting in the pilot seat of a Lockheed Electra 10E, so my expert is planning on studying weather data on Earhart’s flight path to determine the amount of deviation expects from tanning patterns without clouds present to tanning patterns given the weather on Earhart’s course and actual altitude.

    With only US$5 million in funding, I’m sure that I can get even more conclusive evidence to be presented in another TV special later.

  16. says

    Just look at a map. Howland Island is way past the Marshalls. No way even that flying gas tank (a Lockheed model 10E Electra) had enough fuel to get anywhere Howland and then turn around to anywhere in the Marshall Islands. Also noted in that Daily Beast article is a mention that Earhart was a good pilot, but not a really great pilot. She got lost flying from New Orleans to Mexico City in her previous plane, a Lockheed Vega.

  17. chuckonpiggott says

    Recall back in 90s when Newt wanted to defund the CPB he held up the history channel as an alternative.

  18. WhiteHatLurker says

    #11 @drksky – Bravo! Bravo! Amelia was on Voyager, but it was the Briori that “rescued” her and Noonan.

  19. microraptor says

    secondtofirstworld @13:

    As for the History Channel, they’d be better off with making a documentary on the merchant marines who did get into Japanese captivity before Pearl Harbor, as it’s criminally under reported.

    They’d never do something like that. That would require them to actually do work.

    Man, the last time I even thought about the History Channel was back when they had that reality show about the logging company on. I actually live in a timber community and know a lot of retired loggers, so I asked them what they thought. The results were unanimous: they hated the show because none of the people on it acted in a safe or responsible manner, they were too busy showing off for the camera and in the logging outfits that the people I knew had worked in, such behavior would have gotten them fired the first day.

  20. blf says

    The photograph itself has been found in a book published in 1935, two years before Ms Earhart and Mr Noonan vanished, Blogger discredits claim Amelia Earhart was taken prisoner by Japan:

    Documentary [sic] claimed photo showed aviator on Japanese-held Marshall Islands in 1937, but image was found in book published two years earlier


    Claims […] the pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart crash-landed on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean and was taken prisoner by the Japanese appear to have been proved false by a photograph unearthed in a travel book.


    [… S]erious doubts now surround the film’s premise after a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of the National Diet Library, Japan’s national library.

    The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared. Page 113 states the book was published in Japanese-held Palau on 10 October 1935.


    Kota Yamano, a military history blogger [Japanese, shorter English version –blf] who unearthed the Japanese photograph, said it took him just 30 minutes to effectively debunk the […] claim.

    “I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself,” Yamano told the Guardian. “I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan.”

    Yamano ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long timeframe starting in 1930.

    “The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said. “I was really happy when I saw it. 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.”


    Also (from Newly discovered photo reignites Amelia Earhart conspiracy theory): “[Mr] Gillespie notes […] the woman’s hair is far too long to be that of Earhart, of whom pictures exist from just a few days earlier.” Ric Gillespie is the executive director of the The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar), who, as far as I know, is a reasonably legit group. Mr Gillespie himself is a Earhart fanatic, and one of the main proponents of the dubious Kiribati (Nikumaroro) hypothesis, albeit in this case he does seem to have a plausible point about the hair length.

  21. tacitus says

    Ha ha! (points finger)

    And in the wake of Yamano’s evidence, the History Channel and the documentary’s on-screen personalities have expressed various forms of concern and disbelief.

    “I don’t know what to say,” says Kent Gibson, the facial-recognition expert that the History Channel hired to analyze the photograph for Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence. “I don’t have an explanation for why [the photograph] would show up two years early.”

    I think the explanation he was looking for was “Oops.”

    And kudos to National Geographic for letting him dig his hole a little deeper before springing the surprise:

    In a phone interview with National Geographic, Gibson added that since the documentary filmed, he has acquired new facial-recognition software that signals a match between the photograph’s Caucasian man and Fred Noonan. His previous software had indicated that there were too few pixels in the photograph to successfully perform the analysis. (In a follow-up email, Gibson declined additional comment.)

    You don’t say…