On July 2, 1937, celebrated aviator Amelia Earhart and co-pilot Fred Noonan vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe for the second time when her Lockheed Electra disappeared on their way to Howland Island, an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S Navy and Coast Guard launched a search-and-rescue operation that lasted two weeks and involved nine vessels and 66 aircraft. It was “the largest and most expensive air and sea search in the history of America,” according to HISTORY.com.

80 years on, the American aviator’s disappearance is still an mystery.

Now, an expedition has been organised by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and Fred Hiebert, an archaeologist in residence at the National Geographic Society, to search for Earhart and Noonan’s remains.

About the expedition

The team will begin the six-day journey on June 24, travelling from Fiji to Nikumaroro, a remote island located in the western Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,000 miles north of Fiji.

“The coral atoll is 350 nautical miles southwest of Howland, on the line of position (157 NW 337 SE) that Earhart identified in her last confirmed radio message,” according to a National Geographic report.

Four specially-trained forensic dogs named Berkeley, Piper, Marcy, and Kayle will be the part of the mission. The border collies are trained to sniff out burial sites up to nine feet below ground and over 1,000 years old.

“No other technology is more sophisticated than the dogs,” said archaeologist Fred Hiebert, in a National Geographic report.

“They have a higher rate of success identifying things than ground-penetrating radar,” he added.

Other than the long and exhausting journey to get to Nikumaroro, the bone-sniffing dogs from the Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) will have to face difficulties like scorching heat, dense vegetation and coconut crabs, the world’s largest land arthropod.

If bones are found, they will be shipped back to the U.S for DNA analysis.

"We will process whatever bone samples we find and compare them to a family member of Amelia Earhart, and if they are her bones, it will be the biggest CSI story in the world," said Hiebert in a USA Today report. "And then I can retire," he jokingly added.

What happened to Amelia Earhart?

Famed aviator Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. On May 21, her plane took off from Oakland, California, to begin the around-the-world trip. Earhart and navigator Noonan reached Lae, New Guinea on June 29. The duo was embarked on one of the last legs of their journey when their plane mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937.

In the eight decades since Earhart's disappearance, numerous theories have been doing the rounds.

According to the U.S. government, Earhart’s aircraft most likely ran out of gas and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, killing both the pilots.

However, according to American author W.C Jameson, Earhart was a pilot and a spy hired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to surveil Japanese military installations on the Marshall Islands. In his 2016 book 'Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave,' Jameson speculated that the aviator’s plane was shot down by the Japanese, or the duo was captured in the Marshall Islands after a crash or forced landing.

Meanwhile, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has a completely different theory.

The non-profit organisation claims that Earhart and Noonan had continued along their same navigational line and landed on the island of Nikumaroro, where they died as castaways. Led by executive director Richard Gillespie, TIGHAR has spent the past three decades testing this theory and have travelled to Nikumaroro Island multiple times.