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Tag: national archives

Photo bomb: That wasn’t Amelia Earhart, after all; so, doggonit, the mystery lives on

notearhart

Two of the biggest news stories of the week — or at least the two most shouted about by the news media — were new evidence surfacing regarding Trump’s ties to Russia and new evidence surfacing in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Revelations that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting during the campaign with a Russian who promised some dirt on Hillary Clinton were called a “nothing burger” by Trump supporters. But, as the week progressed, it all started looking pretty meaty.

The other so-called investigative breakthrough — “experts” saying they found a photo that shows Earhart and her navigator in the custody of the Japanese on the Marshall Islands after their crash and disappearance in 1937 — turned out to be a totally meatless whopper.

apearhartBy which we don’t mean a lie — just a tremendously lazy mistake. The photo in question, it turns out, originally appeared in a travel book published two years before Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan even began the journey they wouldn’t return from.

The photo was the basis of an hour-long History Channel special Monday — one that was widely promoted in news programs as a possible solution to an 80-year old mystery.

Instead, the whole theory ended up holding about as much as (sorry, Geraldo) Al Capone’s vault.

It’s all just more proof that, when it comes to truth, when it comes to uncovering things, when it comes to unburying treasures, we’re better off putting our faith in dogs. Dogs aren’t concerned with making money, or getting famous, or one-upping, or getting in the last word, or getting interviewed by Matt Lauer.

We talked about the “Earhart photo” in a post earlier this week, but that post pertained more to another, less publicized effort to get to the bottom of the Earhart mystery, and how it had turned to some “bone sniffing dogs” in an attempt to find Earhart’s bones.

Operating on an alternate theory, and not buying the “photographic evidence,” a Pennsylvania-based group called The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sent four border collies to a site they have been focusing on — a small coral atoll about 400 miles south of Howland Island.

Four dogs alerted to a spot in the area, and excavation ensued, but no bones were found.

They had hoped to find bones and, through DNA testing, link them to Earhart. Some small glimmers of hope remain. Dirt from the site has been sent to a lab though to see if any traces of human DNA remain in it, and there’s a possibility that human DNA could be found in crabs that scavenged on any bones.

nothing burgerThat quest could turn out to be a “nothing burger,” too, but even so it won’t be as embarrassing as the efforts of Les Kinney, the former treasury agent who came across a photo in the National Archives that he and others were highly convinced depicted Earhart and her navigator in Japanese custody.

That led to History Channel documentary, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” which aired Sunday and concluded that, based on the photo and other evidence, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan ended up in Japanese custody on the Marshall Islands after they survived a crash landing.

The documentary touted the image as “the key to solving one of history’s all-time greatest mysteries.”

Many a news organization billed the photo that way, too, until Wednesday, when they all started backtracking after learning a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of Japan’s national library. It had appeared in a book — published in 1935.

Kota Yamano, a military history blogger, ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long time frame starting in 1930.

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said, along with its source — a travel book published two years before Earhart began the attempted around the world journey in 1937.

The Internet search took all of 30 minutes, he said.

“I was really happy when I saw it, Yamano said. “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.”

Major news media didn’t do that, either, opting to put more effort into hyping the story than doing a little digging of their own.

So thanks to Koto Yamano for letting us know the “Earhart photo” was a “nothing burger.” (Maybe we should have him figure out this whole Russia and Trump thing.)

According to the website knowyourmeme.com — if we are to believe it — the earliest known usage of the term “nothing burger” was by Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons. She used it in reference to actor Farley Granger, whose acting chops she apparently questioned.

When the actor was released from his contract with Samuel Goldwyn’s studio, MGM, in 1953, she wrote “After all, if it hadn’t been for Sam Goldwyn Farley might very well be a nothing burger.”

The concept — though the term wasn’t used — was pretty much the basis of Wendy’s old “Where’s the beef?” advertising campaign, and the phrase itself has enjoyed a revival this year, thanks mainly to politics, and the presidential campaign, and the Internet, where we don’t seem to agree on anything except what cool-sounding phrase we all want to use, be it “game changer” or “nothing burger.”

If the Amelia Earhart mystery ever is solved, I suspect dogs will be part of that resolution, probably DNA, too — but not emails, not quickie documentary makers trying to sell a story, and definitely not politicians.

(Photos: At top, the photo some investigators said included Earhart, after her plane crashed, as it appeared in Umi no seimeisen : Waga nannyou no sugata, a photo book in Japan’s national library published in 1935; below, the actual Earhart in an Associated Press photo; at bottom, an actual nothing burger)

Dogs are on the trail of Amelia Earhart, too

kayle

You’ve probably heard about the guy who thinks an enlarged and grainy photo he stumbled across at the National Archives may solve the mystery of what became of Amelia Earhart.

But you might not have heard that some dogs are on the case as well.

While the photo, unearthed by former U.S. Treasury agent Les Kinney, is grabbing headlines, four dogs retained by a group with a different theory on Earhart’s death have been trying to sniff out the pioneering aviator’s remains at a location hundreds of miles away.

Kinney is convinced the photo shows Earhart (with her back to the camera) and her navigator Fred Noonan some years after they disappeared.

The dogs are looking for something a little more concrete — namely Earhart’s bones.

There are competing theories on what became of Earhart — with some arguing her plane crashed and sank into the ocean, others suspecting she and Noonan survived after crashing on a remote island and others believing they ended up in the custody of the Japanese in the Marshall Islands or on Saipan.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has focused its recent investigation on Nikumaroro Island, nearly 1,000 miles from the Marshall Islands.

The group sent four border collies — named Marcy, Piper, Kayle, and Berkeley — to the island on June 30 as part of an expedition sponsored by TIGHAR and the National Geographic Society.

According to National Geographic, TIGHAR researchers had previously visited the island and narrowed their search to a clearing they call the Seven Site, where a British official reported finding bones in 1940.

In 2001 searchers located unearthed possible signs of an American castaway at the site, including the remains of campfires, and several U.S.-made items including a jackknife, a woman’s compact.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared on July 2, 1937, on their way to a refueling stop at Howland Island, about 350 nautical miles northeast of Nikumaroro.

TIGHAR’s theory is that, when the aviators couldn’t find Howland, they landed on Nikumaroro’s reef during low tide.

The bone-sniffing dogs were brought to the island in hopes of finding proof that their remains were on Nikumaroro.

All four dogs alerted to a particular spot, indicating they had detected the scent of human remains, and excavation began on July 2, the 80th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance.

dnaNo bones have been found, but TIGHAR researchers collected soil samples, which have been sent to a lab for DNA testing.

If she were buried there, the soil could still contain traces of Earhart’s DNA.

Kinney’s counter theory, meanwhile is that the aviator and her navigator ended up in Japanese custody, which, he says, the photo seems to support.

Kent Gibson, a forensic analyst who specializes in facial recognition, said it was ‘very likely’ the individuals in the photo are Earhart and Noonan, according to NPR.

amelia

Under Kinney’s theory, when Earhart couldn’t find Howland Island she turned back westward and landed on Mili Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands.

Kinney suspects Earhart and Noonan were rescued after the crash and taken to Jaluit Island, and later taken to a Japanese prison on the island of Saipan.

(Photo: At top, forensic dog Kayle sits on a spot where she alerted to the scent of human bones; lower, the excavation for bones begins; both photos by by Rachel Shea / National Geographic; at bottom, the photo some suspect shows Earhart (seated at the center) and Noonan (standing at the far left), from the National Archives)