A piece of metal on the skin of the fuselage of Amelia Earhart's plane may be the clue necessary in determining what happened during her ill-fated effort to circumnavigate the globe.

The Miami Herald reported one of its photographer's snapped the only picture revealing the gleaming patch of metal, perhaps an indication of a never-recorded repair.

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared somewhere in the Pacific, believed near Howland Island about 1,700 miles from Hawaii, in July 2, 1937. Investigators found indications Earhart may have been stranded on Gardner Island, about 400 miles away.

“If we can match a rivet pattern from the repair in the photograph to a rivet pattern on the wreckage, I think it would be beyond dispute that Noonan and Earhart weren’t lost at sea, but made it to the island,” long-time Earhart investigator Ric Gillespie, the executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told the Herald.

Earhart spent a week in Miami while her plane was repaired, including the removal of a specially installed rear window that Noonan used for star navigation purposes.

“I think the window must have been broken or compromised by the hard landing in Miami,” Gillespie said. “It wasn’t standard equipment and they found out it would take a while to replace it, so they just took it out and patched the fuselage instead.”

Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and the first person to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Calif.