Amelia Earhart indeed survived her plane crash, but an upcoming documentary claiming to have photo evidence is crazy ... so claims a man who has made the mystery his lifelong mission.
Ric Gillespie, owner of TIGHAR -- an organization long involved in the search for Earhart -- tells TMZ he's known about this photo for a year and on many levels he knows Amelia's not in the pic.
The new documentary claims Earhart became a captive in the South Pacific after her crash and claims her captors can be seen all around her in the photo.
Gillespie says there were a lot of mercenaries in that area at the time ... so it could be any white woman in the pic -- the features aren't recognizable.
Secondly ... based on where Earhart took flight in New Guinea, Ric says she would not have had enough fuel to get to the Marshall Islands, where the photo was allegedly taken. According to Ric, her last signal was picked up hundreds of miles from that location.
Finally, Gillespie believes the photo simply doesn't match up with the captive theory. He points out none of the alleged captors have guns or look threatening. He thinks it's just a photo showing people hanging out on the wharf on Jaluit Atoll -- part of the Marshall Islands.
Gillespie and TIGHAR still stand by their theory -- Amelia survived her plane crash and died as a castaway on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro, Kiribati.