Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart is believed to have died as a castaway after crashing her plane on an island in the Pacific Getty images

Researchers may be a step closer to finding out what happened to US aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world.

Four forensic dogs have uncovered a spot on a remote Pacific island of Nikumaroro, part of the Republic of Kiribati, where US aviator Amelia Earhart may have died.

The border collies all identified the same area under a tree, leading researchers to believe Earhart may have died there 80 years ago.

The dogs were brought to the island by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and the National Geographic Society, which has been investigating the disappearance of Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan for two decades.

Although no bones were discovered, soil samples have been taken to a laboratory to see if DNA can be extracted.

Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, but went missing on 2 July 1937 after leaving Papua New Guinea while attempting to fly around the world.

The researchers believe Earhart and Noonan ran low on fuel but managed to land on Nikumaroro, before dying as castaways on the island.

Remains of fires and cooking have been found in the areas researchers are investigating.

Last week, a photograph emerged allegedly showing Earhart and Noonan after their disappearance in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, which has led some historians to believe the aviator and navigator died at the hands of the Japanese.

The photo is believed to have been taken in 1937 and purportedly shows Earhart with her back to the camera and Noonan to the far left.

Others are sceptical about the photograph, however.

"I don't believe there is legitimacy to this," Richard Gillespie of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) told CNN.

Never-before-seen Photograph Could Prove The Fate Of Vanishing Amelia Earhart
The new photograph which purports to show Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonam after they disappeared