The version of
the bone story told to Prof. Ballendorf is the third time we’ve heard
this tale from totally different sources. It’s essentially the same
story told to a San Diego newspaper reporter in 1960 by retired Coast
Guardsman Floyd Kilts who said he heard it from a “native”
on Gardner Island in 1946. In 1991 Bauro Tikana, now living in Tarawa,
said that when he arrived on Gardner in 1940 he was told by laborers
there that bones had been found both near the shipwreck and on the “other
end” of the island. Clearly, this is a well-established bit of
island folklore – but is it true and, if so, whose bones were found?
To establish that
an anecdote is true requires supporting evidence which is not anecdotal.
This could be a contemporaneous written or photographic record, or it
could be the discovery of physical evidence. There are many, many stories
about Amelia Earhart being seen on Saipan, etc. but no supporting evidence
has ever come to light. In the case of the Nikumaroro bone story we
at least have some non-anecdotal support. British Colonial Service officer
Eric Bevington toured the island three months after Earhart disappeared.
His diary (a contemporaneous written source) confirms that he saw “signs
of previous habitation” but doesn’t say where. When queried
in 1992 he indicated (anecdote) the same general area where Mereki says
the bones were found. It was from that same part of the island that,
in 1991, TIGHAR recovered the remains of shoes (physical evidence).
Shoes are specifically mentioned in two of the three versions of the
bone story. There is, we conclude, reason to think that the bone story
is fundamentally true. Were they the bones of men lost in the wreck
of the Norwich City? If so, it means that two bodies (one of which was
later misidentified as a woman) washed ashore together and intact (including
shoes) two shark-infested miles from the wreck. If the shoes found by
TIGHAR are the shoes in the story they did not come from the 1929 shipwreck.
The heel is American and dates from the mid-1930s and, along with the
other parts found, matches the shoes worn by Earhart on her last flight.
There is, we conclude, a significant probability that the Nikumaroro
bone story describes the discovery of the bodies of Amelia Earhart and
As for the origin
of airplanes parts, the assumption that everything came from the wreck
on Sydney is understandable but incorrect. Components from two different
aircraft have been found on Nikumaroro. One of the aircraft was a Consolidated
Model 32, specifically one of 1,653 B-24Cs or Ds. We strongly suspect
that this was the Sydney crash. The other airplane appears to have been
Lockheed 10E Special NR16020.