Shocked, I tell you

Amelia Earhart ‘Lost Photograph’ Discredited

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” [Kota Yamano] said in an interview with The Guardian. “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.”

Allow me to postulate: Could it be that they did little research because finding the original source of the photograph carried a high probability of ending their project right quick-like? Maybe better to leave it as a mystery, eh? Or, since this fellow found it in under half an hour, maybe they did find it and, perhaps not being completely familiar with how the internet works, hoped no one else ever would, but this is a horribly cynical view that, in court, I’ll deny I ever had.

Also discredited: The overwhelming majority of media that’s always willing to unquestioningly present every new Earhart theory as near-gospel – National Geographic included. Even now, after the source was found to have been published a full two years before Earhart’s ’round-the-world attempt, NBC News…well, gee, they still aren’t sure: “Questions Raised Over Unearthed ‘Amelia Earhart’ Photo”. Yes, questions such as “How is it that anyone bought into this hogwash in the first place?” and “So you’re saying NBC News was once a respected institution?”

The thing I’ve never fully understood is why the most likely scenario by far, of Earhart and Noonan running out of fuel and ditching in the ocean, seems so unacceptable to those who prefer castaway and prisoner stories. Is it just too bleak, too sad? Look, sometimes real life is – why not accept that?

History Channel’s PR department is desperately trying to figure out how to spin their bozo behaviour into something positive, but will probably instead try to misdirect by quickly announcing a new series on the mysterious connections between ancient astronauts, sharks, and Hitler, waving their arms as they yell, “No, look over here! Historical sharks!”

It’s July and the loons are back

A man whose face you can’t see very clearly has a sharply receding hairline? A woman sitting on the dock with her back to the camera is definitely wearing trousers? Well, of course it must be Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. And one presumes their captors must have hidden their uniforms and weapons to avoid appearing ‘too gauche’ in the photo.

Has to be, right? Well, could be. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. Oh, good grief.

“It’s my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan.”

Having a feeling of very convincing evidence that something’s probably true seems like it might be just a skosh shy of an oxymoron, especially when that evidence is just a receding hairline and a prominent nose. Why, that could be Richard “Ski Jump” Nixon for all I know, but I can’t quite tell if the man has the requisite sheen of cold sweat.

If there aren’t already, there ought to be scientific and legal principles that say your evidence is actually not very convincing if you find yourself repeatedly pointing out to others that it’s all very convincing while sounding like you’re just continuing your own efforts to talk yourself into it.

This puts me in mind of pop archaeologists fond of coming up with mighty extrapolations such as “This small hole in the stone wall, which some might deem insignificant, is very convincing evidence that this is probably an ancient astronomical observatory and almost certainly the site of harvest rituals, possibly attended only by tribal elders while lesser members cowered in their huts, perhaps forbidden even to look upon the secret and mysterious ceremonies.”

Here, let me try one:

Men landed on the moon and didn’t sink completely beneath the surface dust as a handful feared they might*, so that is very convincing evidence that the moon is probably made mostly of supportive cheese.


“But again, for me, those things are all somewhat suspect until you have that photograph, which corroborates that she was there.”

Does not.

“To me, that’s just proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Is not.

Can you think of anything easier to refute? It’s like they’re not even trying very hard.

Anyway, it’s my feeling that there’s no hard – or even semi-soft – evidence suggesting either one of the figures is anyone in particular. I also feel strongly that increasingly sillier Earhart “evidence” will be brought forth approximately annually until approximately the end of time, or such time as the “science” and “history” channels’ hawkumentary money runs out.

Edited to add, a day later: Shock, surprise! The photo’s been discredited. Who’d’a thunk it?

*Astronomer Thomas Gold’s paper “The Implications of the Ranger Moon Pictures” is here.