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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2012, 08:45:30 PM »

I know this is the kind of statement that makes your head spin, Ric, but I wonder about some of the evidence that is offered to suport the idea that the Seven Site really is the castaway site.

Why would it make my head spin?  We're constantly re-examining and re-evaluating the evidence associated with the Seven Site.  New observations are always welcome.

For example, in the Possible Castaway Associations section of the Seven Site page of Ameliapedia (http://tighar.org/wiki/Seven_site#Shellfish_Features) we read:

“About two meters south of the Anadara feature we recorded a loose cluster of valves representing the “giant” clam genus Tridacna, most probably T. crocea. At least seventeen clams are represented by twenty-nine complete and fragmented valves. In most cases one valve of each pair is complete, while the other is often broken or even smashed into multiple fragments. Several examples show evidence of battering and/or prying around the byssal orifaces and on the siphon end. In one case (Fig. xxx), the tip of a small iron tool, apparently fabricated from the rim of a steel drum and found in metal detecting about three meters from the shell cluster, fits precisely into a chipped wound in the clam’s hinge.”

The following discussion argues first that it is unlikely that the colonists would have opened the clams in the manner observed. Then an argument against the smashed Tridacna shells being the handiwork of the Coast Guardsmen is made: “The Coast Guardsmen were equipped with heavy, serviceable knives, and would hardly have needed to fabricate a prying tool and chip away at the clam’s hinge”. I don't find that argument terribly convincing,

Neither do I.  I'm more convinced by the veterans of Unit 92 whom I've interviewed who said they never ate clams.

....but what I'd prefer to focus on is that one of the shells appeared to have been smashed open with a tool made from the rim of a steel drum. It find it easy to believe that that the Coast Guard brought steel drums with them to Gardner, and that a piece of one drum made it to the Seven Site due to Coast Guard activity. But where would a pre-PISS castaway have gotten such a thing? And why wasn't a steel drum, or some part of one, found by Gallagher at the site of the castaway's remains?

I think you make an excellent point.  The archaeologist who wrote the passage you quoted argues that there could have been steel drums aboard Norwich City and the castaway may have fabricated a clam-opener from the lid of such a drum and brought it to the Seven Site.  That explanation is far too convoluted for my taste and I won't try to defend it.  TIGHAR is not a monolith and there are frequently dissenting opinions among our researchers. 

All in all, I find the Tridacna shells to be more likely to be Coast Guard debris than castaway-related.

I think it's more likely that the clam shuckers (there are actually two of them) are not clam shuckers at all but are merely iron scraps, like the hundreds of other small iron pieces we've found on the site, that were brought there as part of the later coconut planting.  Putting little pieces of iron in the ground with the young trees was recommended practice and was thought to enrich the soil.

I think the same might be said of other items of evidence used to argue that the Seven Site is in fact the castaway site. Perhaps the reason the castaway's teeth, belt buckle, watch or some other artifact that could be more strongly linked to the castaway have not been found at the Seven Site is that the Seven Site isn't the castaway site?

We've argued that back and forth repeatedly but the evidence comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the Seven Site being where the castaway skeleton was found.  You can't set a requirement for what MUST be there.  You can only look at what IS there.


I know this post in particular and several of the last ones to some degree are a digression, but I think they're worthwhile things to discuss—I'll say no more here but perhaps a new thread titled “Is the Seven Site really where the Castaway was Found?” would be a good idea, and not just to discuss the Tridacna shells. I can hear Ric's teeth grinding at the suggestion...

The only thing that makes my teeth grind are postings that waste time.  If you want to challenge the notion that the Seven Site is where the castaway skeleton was found, be my guest, but you're going to have to come up with reasonable arguments like the one you offered here. 
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2012, 11:57:41 PM »

...I'm more convinced by the veterans of Unit 92 whom I've interviewed who said they never ate clams.

But on the Earhart’s Pistol thread, you’ve argued that decades-old memories shouldn’t be counted on. And the Identification of the Norwich City section of the Ameliapedia article on the Norwich City includes an exchange of letters between you and Dick Evans, a former Coastie, in which you gently point out an error in his memory about the Norwich City. So there is some reason to think that the memories of the former Coasties weren’t perfect (my memory of decades-old events sure isn’t).

But even if the Coasties you interviewed never did have a clambake at the Seven Site that doesn’t mean that other Coasties or US servicemen who visited Nikumaroro didn’t do so, unbeknownst to the Coasties you interviewed. According to this site, the Loran station was built in the summer/fall of ’44 by Construction Detachment D, a separate outfit from Unit 92. During station construction, 100 tons of equipment was delivered to the island by the USS Spicewood (photo below). Members of Detachment D and maybe also crewmen from the Spicewood could have been the clam-bakers of the Seven Site.

The Loran station went on-air in November of ’44 and went off-air in May of ’46. During that time the station had three commanding officers (Sopko till December of ’45 then two others). Might other Coast Guard personnel rotated through the station as well as the Commanding Officers? Perhaps the clambake was a Coastie event but Dick Evans and the Unit 92 interviewees weren’t on the island when it happened?

And of course, the clambake could’ve happened while your interviewees were on the island but they just didn’t get invited. People form cliques, after all.

Finally, after the Loran station went off-air in May of ’46 it was placed into caretaker status and my impression from reading Paul Laxton’s account of his time on Nikumaroro is that the mothballed station remained in place for several years before it was taken down, presumably by a US construction detachment. That detachment might’ve held a clambake at the Seven Site long after Dick Evans and your other Coastie interviewees were back home.

 
I think the same might be said of other items of evidence used to argue that the Seven Site is in fact the castaway site. Perhaps the reason the castaway's teeth, belt buckle, watch or some other artifact that could be more strongly linked to the castaway have not been found at the Seven Site is that the Seven Site isn't the castaway site?
We've argued that back and forth repeatedly but the evidence comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the Seven Site being where the castaway skeleton was found.  You can't set a requirement for what MUST be there.  You can only look at what IS there.

Actually, I was alluding to a remark you made on another thread about the possibility of birds removing artifacts from the castaway’s last camp site: “I wonder how many bright shiny things may have been removed from the Seven Site in this manner - wrist watch, belt buckle, coins, etc. “.

It certainly would've strengthened the argument that Seven Site was the castaway site if items like those had turned up at the Seven Site. For the reasons I stated in my previous post the clambake features seem to be more likely the residue of Coastie activity than of Gallagher's castaway and thus I don't think this particular line of evidence supports the contention that the Seven Site encompasses the site where Gallagher's castaway was found.



« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 12:34:28 AM by John Kada »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2012, 08:57:26 AM »

For the reasons I stated in my previous post the clambake features seem to be more likely the residue of Coastie activity than of Gallagher's castaway and thus I don't think this particular line of evidence supports the contention that the Seven Site encompasses the site where Gallagher's castaway was found.

Yes, just because the handful of Coasties we've interviewed don't recall having a clambake at the Seven site (or anywhere else) doesn't mean that some other group of Coasties didn't.
But let's think about a Coastie clambake.  It seems like such an event would be a recreational, rather than a survival, activity.  As such, it seems to me that a Coastie clambake would therefore be a planned event rather than a spur-of-the-moment idea during a bird shooting outing.  Can you imagine a Coastie clambake without beer?  We know the Coasties typically had beer on hand and if they were out of beer they also had Coke. At the Seven Site we have one beer bottle, but it's a circa 1936 bottle unlike wartime beer bottles and unlike the beer bottles we see in photos of Coasties on Gardner.  We also have the top of one wartime Coke bottle, apparently used as a target.
 
The absence of multiple Coastie-attributable bottles at the site is "the dog that didn't bark" and, to my way of thinking, argues strongly against the clam shells being from a Coastie clambake.  There is also the fact that the shells in one of the two features appear to have been deliberately laid out concave-side up, presumable to collect rain water.  It's hard to imagine why Coasties would do that but it makes perfect sense for a castaway.
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2012, 05:23:18 PM »

Besides the Coasties, the Seven Site could have been visited by personnel from the Bushnell when they visited the island in 1939.  A small portion of the map of Gardner Island created from the Bushnell’s surveying work is shown below. Notice that there are numerous Bushnell surveying points along both the ocean and lagoon shores. I suppose it is even possible that the Seven Site was Bushnell surveying point—what does the portion of the Bushnell map in the vicinity of the Seven Site show?

« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 07:43:32 PM by John Kada »
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2012, 12:32:42 AM »

According to pages 7 and 8 of Part One of the Bushnell Papers the Bushnell's surveying party was on Gardner from 7 to 12 November, 1939. Perhaps they even made a camp at the Seven Site? Does anyone know where they made camp during their stay?...
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Alan Harris

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2012, 06:58:58 PM »

the Bushnell's surveying party was on Gardner from 7 to 12 November, 1939.

I certainly can't offer you any help, I am way behind you on this research topic.  But I want to comment that until I read through the reference you linked, I didn't realize that the survey people were left "on their own" for long period(s) on the island without the ship there to serve as a dormitory.  IMO that heightens the probability of "Bushnell artifacts" left behind and so increases my interest in what you are saying.  Thanks for the insight!
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2012, 07:35:42 PM »

Thanks, Alan.

But wait, there's more: that first party was apparently there to map the island and assemble towers that I think were used for triangulation. According to the Bushnell report, when this first group of sailors returned to the Bushenell they left their tents and cots behind for use by the lagoon survey party. The lagoon survey party stayed on the island from 28 November to 4 December. The lagoon survey party is the one I think was using the Naval Observatory numbered surveying sextants.

It's a shame veterans of the Bushnell were never interviewed. This ancestry web site shows a copy of the Bushnell's Muster Roll in November, 1939.

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2012, 07:39:44 PM »

According to pages 7 and 8 of Part One of the Bushnell Papers the Bushnell's surveying party was on Gardner from 7 to 12 November, 1939. Perhaps they even made a camp at the Seven Site? Does anyone know where they made camp during their stay?...

I know of no record of where they made their camp but we know where they erected the three towers they used for the survey. On the attached map the red dots are the tower locations and the green dot is the Seven Site. (I'm amazed they got them up in only five days.) As you can see, the towers are nowhere near the Seven Site.  Camping way down there makes no sense at all, and nothing found at the Seven Site suggests any connection to the Bushnell survey.   If someone from the Bushnell survey happened upon the Seven Site then, by definition, the Seven Site can not be where Gallagher found the castaway bones a year later. There is abundant evidence that the Seven Site is where Gallagher found the bones.  There is zero evidence that anyone from the Bushnell survey was ever at the site.  Unless that changes we'll entertain no further evidence-free speculation on the subject. 
 
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2012, 08:21:01 PM »

Ric,

There were about 20 towers erected on the island There were three 80 foot towers and about 16 shorter ones, as I recall. A crude map of those tower locations is in the Bushnell reports and can be found here. Some of those 20 locations were fairly close to the Seven Site. But besides those 20 locations there were apparently an even larger number of 'surveying points' as we can see from the snippet of the Bushnell Map shown below. From the close spacing of these surveying points I would have to say it is a possibility that one of them war very close to the Seven Site. I can't say for sure because I don't have that portion of the map. I assume Tighar has the rest of the Bushnell Map that shows these surveying points; naturally I'm curious how closely these surveying points correspond to the Seven Site. Would it be possible to post that portion of the map?

It certainly seems possible to me that the Bushnell sailors could have been close to the castaway's remains, but not have actually seen them. I don't know why you find that possibility difficult to accept. But the key point I was making is that we have a surveying team from the Navy working on the island. Surveying sextants were used in hydrographic surveying, which is one of the things the Bushnell team was doing on Gardner. If the records of the Bushnell's surveying work happen to exist, wouldn't you want to know if a surveying sextant with N.O. number 1542 was used? That was the main point of my post.

« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 08:29:13 PM by John Kada »
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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #24 on: November 01, 2012, 12:24:58 AM »

Some additional information from the Bushnell report is attached, a summary of the work done at the 20 or so triangulation stations we've been discussing. For the reader's convenience I've also attached the map from the Bushnell Report that I previously linked to.

According to the attached work summary 8 primary triangulation stations were were erected, as were 14 secondary triangulation stations. This work was done by roughly 20 members of the Bushnell with the help of 16 islanders. At some point the triangulation stations must have been revisited to be dismantled. I would say it is pretty clear that the men of the Bushnell were all over the island. They were mapping it after all, weren't they?
=====
note added: In the small snippet of the Bushnell map (I won't attach it again--see my previous post) I count 6 surveying points on the ocean side and another 5 surveying points on the lagoon side . The map appears to cover about 4000 feet of oceanfront so I'd say these surveying points were spaced approximately 800 feet apart on the lagoon and ocean shorelines over on the Seven Site side of the island.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 12:49:41 AM by John Kada »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #25 on: November 01, 2012, 07:20:24 AM »

... I would say it is pretty clear that the men of the Bushnell were all over the island. They were mapping it after all, weren't they?

There are different kinds of maps.  I think they were interested in the general shape of the island--the boundary between land and water--and so were more focused on the shorelines rather than the interior.

Gallagher's work party found a skull.

The Bushnell work parties did not.

That makes it sound to me as though the Bushnell workers were not "all over the island" in the sense of "seeing everything that was on the island."
LTM,

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John Kada

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #26 on: November 01, 2012, 08:04:19 AM »


I think the two maps and the work summary that I've posted pretty clearly indicate that the Bushnell sailors were all over the island.  As far as we know they never saw the castaway's remains.  It seems possible to me that they were close to the castaway's remains but never saw them. That's what I've laboring to say in these last few posts.

Let me tell you a story: I moved to NYC some 20+ years ago when I got a job here. I worked in an office building a few blocks from the Hudson River and one day my first week at work I decided to walk over to the waterfront on my lunch break. Well, I'm strolling along, head down, absorbed in thinking about my new job and in my peripheral vision to the left I see the legs of a man standing at the curb. But I'm not really paying close attention, I'm just walking along. Just as I'm about to pass this man he calls out to me to stop and I finally look up and see this man in a suit, holding a gun in his hand which he is pointing at another man who is siitting on the stairway leading into an apartment building. The man in the suit identifies himself as an FBI agent, flashes some kind of ID, and asks me to go to the corner and call the police (this was not the cell phone era). Apparently he caught this perp, the guy on the stoop, up to something no-good. Probably the perp tried to mug the FBI guy. Well, I went to the corner pay phone, called the cops and when they came I continued on my way, perhaps paying closer attention to where I was going, perhaps not.

The point of my story is that you can be very close to something without really noticing it. I would've walked within a foot or two of that hand holding the gun pointed at the perp without ever noticing it, had the FBI man not gotten my attention. I don't see why a Bushnell man in the vicinity of the castaway's remains, perhaps even quite close to them, might not have failed to notice them. There wasn't an FBI guy standing there, after all  ;D...

The Seven Site isn't a point, it's an area covering a thousand square meters or more, no?...
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #27 on: November 01, 2012, 09:06:54 AM »

For the reasons I stated in my previous post the clambake features seem to be more likely the residue of Coastie activity than of Gallagher's castaway and thus I don't think this particular line of evidence supports the contention that the Seven Site encompasses the site where Gallagher's castaway was found.

Anything is possible.  As much as I'd like to think the 'dog that didn't bark' has the answer, guys like our coasties have also often been known to go off and do crazy stuff with a little time and few resources.  Just like we may have notions of what a good ol' Coastie clambake should look like, so we have notions of what a castaway 'camp' ought to resemble.  I'm not sure how reliable such notions are.  Gathering and cooking clams in an impromptu way might not be so wild.  I've shucked many an oyster with whatever I could devise myself - and often not so neatly.

I'm not discounting these things as interesting 'markers of some sort', but while they may seem to 'point' in a desirable direction in a search for Earhart, they are not certain signs of a castaway either.
The Seven Site isn't a point, it's an area covering a thousand square meters or more, no?...

I've never been to Nikumaroro, but I can tell you from reasearching the website that it's not a thousand square meters.  Dr. King's project plan for the 2010 expedition called for an initial clearing of 10x30 meters. One point of friendly debate has been just where the boundaries of the site lie for purposes of defining where the castaway lived and left remains.

But the size of the site is a discussion I will leave to the experts.  One of your earlier points above was how you didn't see the Tridacna (clam) valves from the Seven Site as evidence of castaway activity.

I know we've been talking about the dog that didn't bark, bottles that don't seem readily attributable to Coasties, and we should.  But remember as well there's a dog that did bark, or, to borrow your analogy, an FBI man who yelled.  To read the assemblage as depicted here, the only faunal evidence recovered from the Seven Site were the 2 clusters of Tridacna clam valves. That's far from the whole story. 

Sharyn Jones, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama, inspected and classified some of the faunal material taken from the Seven Site.  One of her reports from 2008 (attached) states: "The 2007 Seven Site faunal assemblage contained a total of 1,401 bones, including 1,168 fishes (shark and boney fishes), 78 fragments of turtle bone, 155 bird bones, and one highly fragmentary bone of a medium-sized mammal (likely a dog or small-medium sized pig)." 

(This report has been on the TIGHAR website for many years; I've merely attached it for ease of reading because I think it's an excellent report. Keep in mind this report doesn't even represent all of the faunals found at the site.)

I've also attached a database I built from Dr. Jones' results. It's surprising to note the variety of fish in this database, which conveys the idea that whoever was catching, cooking and eating these species was indiscriminately selecting whatever could be raised by hook, spear or net.  What kind of fish are we talking about?  Here's a photo from fishbase.org of the Myripristis species (soldierfish), cooked at the Seven Site.  Full-grown it was about 6 inches in length, but Jones' database lists these and numerous others as small-bodied or very small-bodied individuals, probably baby fish.  If this was a Bushnell or Coastie clambake, they were very diverse eaters, seemingly not caring what they ate or how they cooked it, or how appetizing or large the fish might be.  Most of the bones leave evidence to Dr. Jones of simply having been "likely just thrown on hot coals and fire." This seems a rather uncivilized way of cooking in front of our putative distinguished clambake guests. 

There is a tendency to put pressure on single points of evidence (i.e., "The clams must be isolatable to the castaway or we can toss them out") until they either break or magically become smoking guns.  It's far more realistic to look at the broad array of species ostensibly used as food at the site and make educated guesses about the individual who might be consuming them.  Once one has done this, envisioning the tridacna (clam) valves as castaway food sources becomes somewhat less difficult.  A closer study of the condition of these valves would show also that, as Dr. King observes, "Seven of the valves were broken, typically with single breaks across their midsections, shattered into multiple fragments ... some apparently smashed with heavy objects (breakage patterns radiating inward.)"  This would seem to indicate some degree of desperation, fitting in perfectly with the method of cooking observed in the fish, bird, and turtle bones.

It may be a surprise to some that I view the database of fish from Dr. Jones as ranking with the most persuasive evidence I've seen, other than perhaps the Western Pacific High Commission's correspondence regarding the finding of human remains on Gardner, for a castaway's presence on the island at the Seven Site.  It was this evidence that led Dr. Jones to conclude, "Based on the condition and frequency of the faunal remains from the Seven Site I agree with the interpretation of this site as an encampment and one that was likely created by castaways who were not Pacific Islanders."

Having looked at this with the slant I've given to it (and I admit it is a slant, i.e., an argument attempting to persuade and any errors or omissions are mine), I pose the question: do the clams begin to take on a slightly different character?  How do we isolate these other 1,401 bones in such a way as to exclude them from the castaway or even to make all of them more likely to be eaten by someone else than a castaway?

Joe Cerniglia
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2012, 10:10:08 AM »

One correction to the above should be made.  I checked my files and realized I didn't compile the faunals database.  That's a poor word choice.  Dr. Karyn Jones did that.  All I did was take her Excel file and transfer it to Microsoft Access.

Joe Cerniglia
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Seven Site
« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2012, 12:47:23 PM »

The Seven Site isn't a point, it's an area covering a thousand square meters or more, no?...
The area that has been cleared and examined and has produced features, faunals and artifacts suggesting the presence of a castaway spans roughly 38m by 26m, or 988 sq. meters.

Attached is the section of the Bushnell map showing the southeast tip of the island.  The circles - marked by me with green arrows - are apparently survey points.  The map has no key or legend so I can't be sure what the circles signify, but it seems likely that, at some point during the survey, somebody stood on those spots and either made an observation or was observed.  All of the circles are along the lagoon shore or ocean beach.  There is one smaller circle in the Buka Forest that I have colored red. I don't know what it signifies.  I've also translated otherwise illegible notation on the map such as "high trees."

Also attached is a detail from the July 18, 2012 GeoEye satellite image.  Our 2010 trails and cleared area at the Seven Site are still easy to see. I marked the excavated area with a yellow box.  The lagoon shoreline is still virtually identical to the way it appears in the 1939 Bushnell map making it easy to locate where the closest markings (green and red circles) were.
Skeptics will look at the circles and say, "Look! Look! They were virtually on top of the Seven Site!"  Those of us who have been there know that in a practical sense those spots are a long way from the Seven Site.

Could somebody associated with the Bushnell survey have wandered through the Seven Site and not seen the bones?  Sure.  Could the array of features, faunals and artifacts that have been found at the Seven Site by Gallagher and TIGHAR that he, and we, have attributed to a castaway be stuff left behind by Bushnell personnel who dined there and forgot their sextant box?  I think that only the most ardent naysayer would see that as likely.


 
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