HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The newly-released documentary Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence claims a recently discovered photograph shows Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Noonan, on a dock in the Marshall Islands in 1937 – the same year they disappeared in a flight around the world.
"It's the great mystery of the 20th Century," says Hawaii-based archaeologist Mike Dega.
Dega is featured in the film, which bases a theory surrounding Earhart's fate on the long-forgotten photo.
"It looked like her from the back, it looked like Fred Noonan from the front," Dega says. "There was a Japanese ship behind it. To me, that's compelling evidence."
The program claims Earhart was captured by Imperial Japanese forces and imprisoned in Saipan, where she later died.
Historic aviation recovery expert Ric Gillespie believes the idea to be absurd. Over the past 29 years, he's led a dozen expeditions to Southeast Asia, looking for Earhart's plane and her remains.
He says the photograph isn't new – he first saw it a year ago.
"We saw immediately that the woman who was supposed to be Amelia Earhart had way too much hair to be Amelia Earhart," he said.
Gillespie also accuses the filmmakers of trying to deceive viewers.
"The photograph of Noonan, they flipped it, horizontally reversed it," he said. "It doesn't match Noonan. That's a bit disturbing. That's intentional deception."
The History Channel, which aired the documentary, hired Dega to try and locate a cemetery in the jungles of Saipan, where Earhart's remains might be buried. A confidentiality agreement limits what he can say.
"We had to hack through with machetes and things (for) several days," he says. "We found tombstones. We found the boundary of the cemetery."
GIllespie thinks Earhart's plane went down on an island more than 1,000 miles away from the Marshall Islands. Dega believes the documentary's new information will be groundbreaking.
If nothing else, it puts Earhart's mysterious story in the spotlight again – 80 years after she and her Lockheed Electra aircraft disappeared.