A newly-discovered photograph found tucked away in the National Archives may be a breakthrough clue in the mystery of Amelia Earhart's fate.
The famed aviatrix and her navigator Fred Noonan famously vanished while attempting to fly around the world in 1937.
With the 80th anniversary of their disappearance having recently come to pass, a rather remarkable development in the case has just been revealed.
During a search of previously-classified files at the National Archives, Earhart researcher Les Kinney happened upon an intriguing photo believed to be from 1937 and labeled 'Marshall Islands - Jaluit Atoll.'
In the striking image, a pair of Caucasian individuals, a man standing and a woman sitting with her back to the camera, are on a dock with what look to be native residents of the area.
This is noteworthy because the islands were under Japanese control at the time and they had strict restrictions on Westerners visiting the location.
Considering that the timeframe and location match when and where Earhart's plane went missing, the photo raised Kinney's suspicions that the out-of-place people in the photo could be the pilot and her navigator.
A subsequent analysis of the duo featured in the image strengthens the case that they are Earhart and Noonan.
An expert on facial recognition studied the photos and found that several characteristics of Noonan's visage closely resemble those of the man in the photo and the woman in the image looks to sport the same haircut and body shape of Earhart.
Additionally, a Japanese ship can be seen in the background towing an unidentified object that measures the exact length of Earhart's plane.
Taken together, the story told in the photo aligns perfectly with local lore from the island which says that Earhart and Noonan crashed there and were spirited away by a Japanese ship, identified as the Koshu, which is, indeed, the name of the vessel in the image.
Should this actually be the final photograph of Amelia Earhart, it bears a rather tragic and poetic depiction of the pilot as she appears to be looking towards her ill-fated plane being towed away.
For their part, despite decades of speculation and the emergence of this new image, the Japanese government continues to deny any role in Earhart and Noonan's disappearance and claims that they have no records of any capture or imprisonment for the pair.
Nonetheless, the unearthed photograph from 1937 seems to indicate that the theory may very well be what happened and constitutes the best evidence towards solving the Earhart mystery in quite some time.
Source: NBC News