Days after a photo surfaced suggesting that legendary aviator Amelia Earhart may have survived a crash landing in the Marshall Islands 80 years ago, a group of researchers with a contradictory hypothesis say they instead have possible proof of her grave.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) said it believes that Earhart — the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean — and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died as castaways on Nikumaroro, a desolate island in the central Pacific Ocean after landing there.
Last month, four border collies named Marcy, Piper, Kayle, and Berkeley and their handlers were sent to the island as part of an expedition sponsored by TIGHAR and the National Geographic Society with the hope of solving the mystery of the ill-fated American pilot.
The dogs detected the scent of human remains, the researchers said.
“Within moments of beginning to work the site, Berkeley, a curly red male, lay down at the base of a ren tree, eyes locked on his handler, Lynne Angeloro,” according to National Geographic. “The dog was ‘alerting,’ indicating to Angeloro that he had detected the scent of human remains.
“Next up was Kayle, a fluffy, eager-to-please female. She also alerted on the same spot. The next day, Marcy and Piper, two black-and-white collies, were brought to the site. Both dogs alerted.
“The signals were clear: Someone — perhaps Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan — had died beneath the ren tree.”
Still, Fred Hiebert, National Geographic’s archaeologist-in-residence, said the odds of actually extracting DNA from a tropical environment such as Nikumaroro’s are slim.
TIGHAR’s theory differs with that of a new History Channel documentary, which showcases the newly unearthed photo and experts claiming that the image is proof that Earhart and Noonan survived the crash and died in Japanese captivity.
The photo, which allegedly shows Earhart and Noonan on a dock in the Marhsall Islands, was recently discovered in the National Archives.
“Indeed, a new documentary from the History Channel resurfaces a photograph that purports to show Earhart and Noonan in the Marshalls some years after they disappeared. But the man’s face is indistinct, and the woman’s back is to the camera,” according to National Geographic.
The US declared Earhart dead two years after her disappearance during her attempt to fly around the world, asserting she must have crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean after running out of fuel.
This story originally appeared in The New York Post.