More than eight decades ago, the pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared into the Pacific Ocean without trace.

The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the American's high-flying career ended in mysterious circumstances when she, the navigator Fred Noonan and her Lockheed Electra 10E plane went missing en route to Howland Island from Papua New Guinea in 1937.

However, divers searching for an answer to this mystery claim to have found the wreckage of a plane off the coast of Buka Island, Papua New Guinea.

Buka Island, an island in the Solomon Sea is the site where Amelia Earhart's plane may have crashed. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel
Buka Island, an island in the Solomon Sea is the site where Amelia Earhart's plane may have crashed. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel

Parts of the debris are a close match for the 1930s Lockheed plane.

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"The Buka Island wreck site was directly on Amelia and Fred's flight path, and it is an area never searched by anybody," said Bill Snavely who captained the dive.

"What we found so far is consistent with the plane she flew."

The recovery team belong to Project Blue Angel, a project researching the mysterious disappearance of the aviation hero. The team, who have spent thirteen years covering the flight path of the aircraft, may finally have an answer.

"Amelia's Electra had specific modifications done to it for her specific journey, and the fact some of those unique modifications appear to be verified in the wreckage that's been found, we really do believe its very likely this is the real thing" said Jill Mayers, the team's public relations manager said to the Daily Mail.

Project Blue Angel: Divers claim to have found new evidence in the Earhart mystery. Photo / Project Blue Angel
Project Blue Angel: Divers claim to have found new evidence in the Earhart mystery. Photo / Project Blue Angel

One of the most prominent discoveries in the search for Earhart was a small piece of glass, believed to have come from the plane.

"We can report that we found a piece of glass, approximately 6 inches in diameter, that shares some consistencies with a landing light on the Lockheed Electra 10E."

It is the theory of Bill Snavely that during Earhart's fateful voyage, the pilot was forced to turn around after 12 hours flight when running low of fuel.

There have been many false alarms in the search for Amelia Earhart's plane, but as historian Doug Westfall announced Buka Island is the first site "to have time, distance and fuel all right."

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Blue Angel: The dive site 100 ft off the island, is consistant with Earhart's flight plan and fuel reserves. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel
Blue Angel: The dive site 100 ft off the island, is consistant with Earhart's flight plan and fuel reserves. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel

The researchers, who have been working with local Pacific Islanders to examine the site, say that the crash has been passed on in the oral history of Buka Island.

The Project Blue Angel team are committed, saying even if it turns out not to have been Earhart's plane "we hope to find out who lost their lives in this crash and give their families closure."

Project Blue Angel are running a crowdfunding project to turn their research and discoveries into a documentary film.

The project hopes to use the US$200,000 (NZ$293,000) to lead further dives to the site and raise awareness with their film about Earhart's life and their subsequent search for her remains.

Pioneer: Amelia Earhart pictured infront of the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in 1937. Photo / Getty Images
Pioneer: Amelia Earhart pictured infront of the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in 1937. Photo / Getty Images

Last year a study pieced together the little discernible facts known about the loss of the pioneering aviator.

At the time it was a story of global significance.

After her disappearance on July 2, 1937, 120 radio operators claimed to have picked up her final transmissions, including from SS New Zealand Star. However less than 60 are from credible sources.

Amateur radio operators from the time claim to have heard exchanges from both Earhart and Noonan as tried to contact help.

Until now, the most likely theory as to the fate of Earhart was that she died on Gardner Island, an atoll around 600km from her destination in Howe Island.

In 1940, an expedition to Gardner Island found human bones thought to belong to Earhart. These bones were recently re-examined by forensic anthropologists, leading to a reopening of the whole debate.

Consistencies: A lighting disk thought to have come from Earhart's ill-fated Lockheed Electra 10E aircraft. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel
Consistencies: A lighting disk thought to have come from Earhart's ill-fated Lockheed Electra 10E aircraft. Photo / Supplied, Project Blue Angel

In an interview, Dr Kristina Killgrove, who had been working on the problem of Earhart's remains, was asked to provide her take in The Guardian newspaper last year:

"Solving the mystery of Earhart's disappearance would be a fantastic bit of forensic archaeology -- if it were possible. I think that people are fascinated with her disappearance, as Earhart was a fascinating woman, and who doesn't love a mystery? But I remain skeptical of the whole endeavour."

Due to the historic nature of the case, DNA examination is no longer a viable option. So far examinations have had little more to go on than comparing the size of the bones to Earhart's clothing and photographs.

"The search for the missing bones has been ongoing for … decades at this point, I don't think the likelihood of anyone ever finding them is high."

As for Earhart's Lockheed Electric plane – this piece of evidence might prove to be more robust and finally conclusive.