By RYAN GORMAN
Researchers believe they have discovered where Amelia Earhart's plane crashed during her 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe.
A sheet of metal found more than 20 years ago on an uninhibited island in the Kiribati archipelago in the southwestern Pacific Ocean has been nearly confirmed to have come from her plane.
A team with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) told Discovery they verified the part's authenticity with a high degree of certainty.
First discovered on the Nikumauroro atoll in 1991, the piece of metal is believed to have come from a very specific repair done to the plane in Miami.
A team in Miami covered a navigational window on Earhart's twin-engine Lockheed Electra with a custom-made metal plate, according to a Miami Herald report cited by TIGHAR.
"The Miami Patch was an expedient field repair," Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery. "Its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart's Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual."
The rivets and dimensions of the sheet of metal matched those of the Miami patch, according to TIGHAR.
"This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart," Gillespie added.
Other evidence of Earhart having been on the island was discovered as far back as 1940, Gillespie told AOL News. Castaway remains, dead animals and a campsite were discovered by British soldiers but dismissed as the the campsite of a short, stocky European man, Gillespie said.
It was previously believed Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan crashed into the Pacific Ocean when they disappeared July 2, 1937. But it is entirely possible they landed on the island and were able to radio for help.
"The island is surrounded by a flat reef, at low tide it looks like a parking lot," Gillespie explained. His team now believes she made a smooth landing and sent distress signals for five days until the plane was either washed off the reef or the emergency radio died.
A sonar anomaly discovered while poring over reams of data from a 2012 TIGHAR trip to the uninhabited island was found possible by multiple experts sought out by TIGHAR to be the fuselage of a Lockheed plane.
A 2015 trip to the site is scheduled by the non-profit to try to find the rest of the plane.
Donations to their effort can be made here.
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