Research Document #12, page 2
The Bones Chronology
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11. October 15 , 1940: Note to file 4439-40 from Vaskess to file. MIN05.

Spoken with Dr. Macpherson on 10.10.40 and again today. Telegram to Mr. Gallagher, No.1 of 15.10.40, to be coded and sent, as drafted in consultation with Dr. Macpherson today.

13.12.40    (Apparent typo in date, should be 13.10.40.)

12. October 15, 1940: Telegram from Vaskess to Gallagher. WPHC02; GBG06.


Please telegraph to me particulars of finding of skeleton in Gardner Island, including where found and state reason for believing it to be that of a woman and whether this belief based on anatomical characteristics. State dental condition and whether any evidence of dental work on jaw, length of skeleton from vertex of skull to arch of foot, approximate age and condition of bones and whether any hair found in the vicinity of skeleton.

What have you done with skeleton? It should be carefully cared for and placed in a suitable coffin and kept in secure custody pending further instructions.

Keep matter strictly secret for the present.

Western Pacific High Commission

13. October 16, 1940: From High Commissioner to Acting Resident Commissioner. WPHC03.

Confidential. Your telegram No. 348, I have telegraphed direct to Gallagher for particulars with a view to identification. Matter should be kept secret for the present.

High Commissioner

14. October 16, 1940: Typed note to file 4439-40. MIN06.

Telegram to Ag. R. Cr., G. & E. I. C., Conf. No. 500 of 16.10.40, as drafted by the Secretary, coded and sent by Mrs. Lucchinelli.

15. October 17, 1940: From Gallagher to Vaskess. GBG07 and WPHC04.

This telegram is logged as “Telegram No. 1 Conf., Skeleton Human, found on Gardner Island: Report on” in WPHC 4/II/33, WPHC, correspondence register 1940, under the Phoen. Islds. tab, number 4767. Received October 21, 1940. Filed in 4439-40 (G. & E. I. C.)


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.


16. October 17, 1940: Handwritten entry to file 4439-40. MIN07.

Telegram from O.C., P.I.S.S., No. 1 Conf. of 17.10.40

17. October 21, 1940: Handwritten entry in file 4439-40 from Luke to Macpherson, Acting Central Medical Authority. MIN08.

Central Medical Authority

What do you make of 4. Would it in yr opinion be consistent with the ascription of the remains to Mrs. Earthardt? [sic]

18. October 23, 1940: Typed entry in file 4439-40 from Macpherson to Vaskess. MIN09.
Secretary, W.P.H.C.,

According to 4 (reference to Gallagher's telegram of October 17th) no positive evidence of identification was found, and I am afraid the data available does nothing to establish the skeleton as that of Mrs. Putnam. It is unfortunate that the complete pelvis is not available as this would have done much to establish remains as being those of a woman. It is unfortunate also that no evidence of dental work was found as this frequently affords a most valuable means of identification. Bones, per se, unless corelated with some known physical deformity or injury in the deceased (such as a healed fracture, etc.,) are of little value as regards identification, although of course sex and age can often be established.

2. I would suggest the bones be sent either to the Anatomical Department at the University of Sydney or to Fiji for farther [sic] examination, and that the search be continued with a view to discovering farther [sic] bones, personal trinkets, etc. Up till the present the number on the sextant case appears to afford the most hopeful means of identification. The instrument itself moreover, if a good one, should have engraved on it a number assigned either by the Bureau of Standards in the case of the United States, or the National Physical Laboratory in the case of the United Kingdom. This number indicates as a rule the result of tests for which compensation requires to be made in using the instrument.

D. C. M. Macpherson
Acting Central Medical Authority

19.  October 26 , 1940: Telegram from Vaskess to Gallagher. GBG08, WPHC05.


Your telegram of 17th October. Organised search should be made in the vicinity and all bones and other finds, including box, sextant and shoe, should be forwarded to Suva by the first opportunity for examination.


20. October 26, 1940: Typed entry in file 4439-40 from Vaskess to Sir Harry. MIN10.

His Excellency

Submitted with 4 and 9 and with a draft telegram to M. Gallagher for Y. E.'s approval.

2. Perhaps a carefully worded letter should now be sent to the U.S. Consul-General in Sydney asking him to obtain a description of the sextant carried by Mrs. Putnam and any number or distinguishing mark on it?


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