What happened to aviator Amelia Earhart is a mystery that has baffled the world since she disappeared with navigator Fred Noonan in her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world in 1937.
Her plane went missing over the vast Pacific Ocean and to this day no traces of her, the navigator or the plane have shown up despite extensive searches.
Old black and white photos locked away in a dusty archive at the New Zealand Air Force Museum may reveal what happened.
The images were taken in an aerial survey of Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro Island, in the run up to a British attempt to colonise the island in the late 1930s.
The bid failed because the island lacks drinking water.
The theory is Earhart landed on the island, which is around 400 miles south of her route across the Pacific for some unknown reason. The pictures seem to show a camp.
The theory is backed up by the British expedition coming across American beauty products on the island.
It is thought Earhart and Noonan died as castaways as they ran out of food and water in the inhospitable jungle.
The island has been searched for traces of the pair and their aircraft, but without success.
Now, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is planning a more detailed search of the island by trying to map the camp co-ordinates from the old photos, which are detailed enough to see footprints.
The 43 photos and their negatives were stored in a tin box in the archive, which is an immense help to the searchers as modern imaging technology can digitally enhance the negatives, rather than working from old photos which lose detail every time they are copied.
“The prints were available a quarter of a century ago,” said a museum spokesman. “But they just didn’t show enough detail. Now we have a detailed aerial survey of every inch of the island taken before the colonists and other visitors reached the island.
Amelia Earhart was a pioneer woman aviator. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and set many US aviation records for speed and flying long distances.
She was last in contact with her ground crew on July 2, 1937 when flying to Howland Island, a staging post on her trip across the Pacific.