A new documentary has made the claim that famed pilot Amelia Earhart survived what is historically thought to be a fatal crash.
Earhart, a pioneer of aviation who was known as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean on her own, is commonly believed to have crashed in the Pacific during a flight in 1937, when she attempted to become the first female pilot to fly around the world, according to NBC.
"Gas is running low," said Earhart in her final radio broadcast with a member of the Coast Guard, People reports. "Have been unable to reach you by radio. We're flying at 1,000 feet."
But a newly emerged photograph, which will be featured in the History Channel's upcoming special titled, "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence," suggests that Earhart may have survived a crash landing in the Marshall Islands.
The photo, which was found in the National Archives, shows a woman who looks like Earhart and a man who may have been her navigator, Fred Noonan, on a dock in the Marshall Islands.
The photo was reportedly within a "top secret" file that had been misfiled.
The photo, believed to have been taken in 1937, shows a Japanese ship, the Koshu, pulling something estimated to be around the size of Earhart's plane. Retired government investigator Les Kinney, who has dedicated over a decade to searching for clues about Earhart's fate, believes that image "clearly indicates that Earhart was captured by the Japanese."
According to Henry, the Japanese may have believed that Earhart and Noonan were spies.
"We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [in the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese," explained the History Channel special's executive producer, Gary Tarpinian.
"We don't know how she died," Tarpinian added. "We don't know when."
Japanese authorities said that they did not have any record of Earhart having been captured.
Ken Gibson, a facial recognition expert, said the man in the image did appear to be the navigator, Noonan.
"The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic," Gibson said. "It's a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent. It's my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan."
According to former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, who led a team of investigators that examined evidence surrounding Earhart's fate, the photo's discovery "absolutely changes history."
"It is not clear why the U.S. [government] might want to cover up what happened to Amelia,” said Henry. "If in fact she was spying on the Japanese, the government may not have wanted the American public to know they put 'America’s sweetheart' in that situation and she was captured."
Sources: NBC, People / Photo credit: Matson Navigation Company Archives via Wikimedia Commons, National Archive via NBC