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Newly Discovered Photograph Suggests Amelia Earhart May Have Survived Crash Landing

In what is rousing inquiring minds, a newly found photograph suggests renowned aviator, Amelia Earhart who vanished 80 years ago this week while on a round-the-world flight, might have survived a crash-landing in the Marshall Islands.

The photograph, featured in a new History Channel documentary, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence that airs Sunday, shows a woman who resembles Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan on the dock of the island in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines.

Former executive assistant director for the FBI analyst, Shawn Henry, tells NBC News he studied the photograph and feels confident the legitimate and undoctored photograph shows the famed pilot and her navigator.

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“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that's Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” Henry said.

Earhart, 39 at the time, was last heard from on July 2, 1937. She attempted to become the first female pilot to circle the globe. But after she lost contact with the coast guard, she went missing and was declared dead two years later, though her remains were never found. The United States concluded she had crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

But this week, the evidence is sparking a conversation online about her possible whereabouts and if in fact, she was still alive when she crash landed. Investigators now believe Earhart and Noonan were blown off course, but survived and ended up in the hands of the Japanese military.

History channel’s investigative team suggests the photograph may have been taken by someone spying for the U.S. on the Japanese military activities while in the Pacific, with retired government agent, Les Kinney suggesting that the photo “clearly indicates” she was captured.

However, upon further inquiry by NBC News, Japanese authorities reported that there was no record of Earhart being in their custody.

Marked as “Jaluit Atoll” and snapped sometime in 1937, the black and white candid shows a short-haired woman, possibly Earhart, on a dock with her back to the camera, while standing near a man who looks like Noonan. Though blurry, facial recognition expert, Ken Gibson says the resemblance of Noonan is down to the hairline.

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“The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic,” Gibson said of the convincing evidence. “It’s a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent.”

While it is evidently known through history that no Caucasians were allowed on the Jaluit Atoll, the photograph shows a Japanese ship, known as the Koshu, tugging a barge with something 38-feet-long — approximately the same length as Earhart’s plane, the Electra 10-E.

NBC News reports locals claimed for decades that they had seen Earhart’s plane crash before she and Noonan were taken away, with the documentarys executive producer, Gary Tarpinian, of the History channel special reiterating that thought.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [in the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese," he said. “We don’t know how she died. We don’t know when.”

While it is unclear as to which U.S. government agent shot the photograph at the time, NBC News reports if it was in fact taken by a spy at the time, revealing Noonan and Earhart’s whereabouts could potentially compromise the agent.