Bones found on Nikumaroro
In the spring of 1940, natives clearing a forest found and buried a human skull. Gerald Gallagher, Administrator of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme and residing on Niku, conjectured that the bones might be those of Amelia Earhart. His superiors ordered a thorough search of the area.
Examination in Fiji
- Telegram No. 1 – circled 4 From Gallagher to Vaskess. Confidential. October 17, 1940.
- Complete skeleton not found only skull, lower jaw, one thoracic vertebra, half pelvis, part scapula, humerus, radius, two femurs, tibia and fibula. Skull discovered by working party six months ago — report reached me early September. Working party buried skull but made no further search.
- Bones were found on South East corner of island about 100 feet above ordinary high water springs. Body had obviously been lying under a "ren" tree and remains of fire, turtle and dead birds appear to indicate life. All small bones have been removed by giant coconut crabs which have also damaged larger ones. Difficult to estimate age bones owing to activities of crabs but am quite certain they are not less than four years old and probably much older.
- Only experienced man could state sex from available bones; my conclusion based on sole of shoe which is almost certainly a woman's.
- Dental condition appears to have been good but only five teeth now remain. Evidence dental work on jaw not apparent.
- We have searched carefully for rings, money and keys with no result. No clothing was found. Organized search of area for remaining bones would take several weeks as crabs move considerable distances and this part of island is not yet cleared.
- Regret it is not possible to measure length of skeleton. No hair found.
- Bones at present in locked chest in office pending construction coffin.
- April 4, 1941--Hoodless to Sir Harry--Report on portion of a human skeleton.
- I have today examined a collection of bones forming part of a human skeleton. These bones were delivered to me in a closed wooden box by Mr. P. D. Macdonald of the Western Pacific High Commission.
- 2. The bones included:- (1) a skull with the right zygoma and malar bones broken off: (2) mandible with only four teeth in position; (3) part of the right scapula; (4) the first thoracic vertebra; 5) portion of a rib (? 2nd right rib); (6) left humerus; 7) right radius; (8) right innominate bone; (9) right femur; (10) left femur; (11) right tibia; (12) right fibula; and (13) the right scaphoid bone of the foot.
- 3. From this list it is seen that less than half of the total skeleton is available for examination.
- 4. All these bones are very weather-beaten and have been exposed to the open air for a considerable time. Except in one or two small areas all traces of muscular attachments and the various ridges and prominences have been obliterated.
- 5. By taking measurements of the length of the femur, tibia and the humerus I estimate that these bongs belonged to a skeleton of total height of 5 feet 51/2 inches approximately.
- 6. From the half sub-pubic angle of the right innominate bone, the "set" of the two femora, and the ratio of the circumferences of the long bones to their individual lengths it may be definitely stated that the skeleton is that of a MALE.
- 7. Owing to the weather-beaten condition of all the bones it is impossible to be dogmatic in regard to the age of the person at the time of death, but I am of the opinion that he was not less than 45 years of age and that probably he was older: say between 45 and 55 years.
- 8. I am not prepared to give an opinion on the race or nationality of this skeleton, except to state that it is probably not that of a pure South Sea Islander--Micronesian or Polynesian. It could be that of a short, stocky, muscular European, or even a half-caste, or person of mixed European descent.
- 9. If further details are necessary I am prepared to take detailed and exact measurements of the principal bones in this collection, and to work out the various indices ( e.g. the platymeric index for the femur or the cnemic index for the tibia ) but if such a detailed report is required the obvious course to adopt would be to submit these bones to the Anthropological Dept of the Sydney University where Professor Elkin would be only too pleased to make a further report.
- D.W. Hoodless
- Central Medical School
- 4th April, 1941.
April 5, 1941: Note to file 44439-40 (21) from Hoodless to “D.M.S.” (Director Medical School? Or a typo for CMS, "Central Medical School"?)
- My report on these bones is enclosed. I will take charge of these bones until it is decided what to do with them.
- D.W. Hoodless
- Typed note in file 4439-40 (23) from Vaskess to Sir Harry. April 11, 1941.
- His Excellency,
- Submitted with 10 [Gallagher's letter of December 27th] and 11 [Hoodless' report] and minutes 20 and 22 above [notes to file of March 31 and April 5]. The report 11 appears definitely to indicate that the skeleton cannot be that of the late Amelia Earhart, but Y. E. [Your Excellency] may wish action taken as suggested in paragraph 9 of 11 although it does not seem possible that any useful purpose will be served by proceeding farther.
- Note in red ink to file 4439-40 (24). Sir Harry to Vaskess. April 12, 1941
- Pl ask CMA [Macpherson] to convey my thanks to Dr. Hoodless for the trouble he has taken in this matter & and to request him to retain the remains until further notice.
- Note to file 4439-40 (36). Gallagher to Vaskess. July 3, 1941
- The Secretary,
- I have read the contents of this file with great interest. It does look as if the skeleton was that of some unfortunate native castaway and the sextant box and other curious articles found nearby the remains are quite possibly a few of his precious possessions which he managed to save.
- 2. There was no evidence of any attempt to dig a well and the wretched man presumably died of thirst. less than two miles away there is a small grove of coconut trees which would have been sufficient to keep him alive if he had only found it. He was separated from those trees, however, by an inpenetrable [sic] belt of bush.
- The Tarawa File--found in 1997; led to discovery of the full Bones file in 1998.
- Bones Chronology
- The Pearson Paper. This was the source used by Hoodless to evaluate the bones found on Nikumaroro.
- TIGHAR Tracks 14:2 (1998), "Amelia Earhart’s Bones and Shoes?"
- 1999 Bones Search I.
- 2003 Bones Search II.
- 2011 Bones Search III.