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Author Topic: The Bones  (Read 991 times)

Ric Gillespie

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The Bones
« on: November 09, 2018, 08:42:10 AM »

It's time to review the question, Who was the castaway whose skull was found by the work party and whose partial skeleton was found by Gallagher?
One step at a time.
First let's ask - would anyone care to argue that the skull and the partial skeleton were not from the same person?
Or, would anyone argue that the remains were not those of a "castaway" i.e. someone who had been on the island involuntarily and failed to survive.

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Don White

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2018, 10:49:44 AM »

In terms of absolute certainty, neither of those can be ruled out as impossible. However, given what we do know, I'd rate them as "possible but unlikely."

Don
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2018, 11:01:24 AM »

In terms of absolute certainty, neither of those can be ruled out as impossible. However, given what we do know, I'd rate them as "possible but unlikely."

As to the first, Dr. Jantz is confident that it's just one person.  The proportions of the skull are entirely consistent with the stature and build of the person indicated by the measurement of the bones in the skeleton.

As to the possibility that the person was not a castaway, for the life of me I cannot come up with a scenario that makes any sense.  Maybe it's just a lack of imagination.
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Don White

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2018, 11:30:50 AM »

Well, yes, I would add that it being a castaway other than Earhart or Noonan (and more likely Earhart given the measurements) is also "possible but unlikely". The assumptions necessary to have it be someone else are just too extensive -- starting with a missing person that is unknown and unreported. Apparently the British found it easier to believe in the existence of such a person, because that was their eventual conclusion about who it was. Tales of uncharted desert islands and unknown castaways were more credible than they are now. After all, the American searchers in 1937 weren't even sure of the position -- or the existence -- of every island or reef in the region. After WWII, they knew where every flyspeck was. And it's a lot harder to disappear without a trace these days.
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2018, 12:23:02 PM »

unless the place that the skeleton was found is a real superhighway for Niku.... most things in that place have to be assumed to be placed together.

The bones found and the shoes... if they are assumed to be together then you almost 100% rule out a pacific islander. they did not wear shoes....


I have been very amused by the findings that were made at the 7 site.... how often people were there at different times really makes me wonder. like the charred piece of paper with a barcode on it in a firepit.
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Matt Revington

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2018, 12:39:02 PM »

One critical issue with the bones were their age, Gallagher estimated 4 years, Lindsey Isaac suggested up to 20 years, I don't think Hoodless estimated an age but said they were very weathered.  If Gallagher was close to right then it fits pretty well with Earhart's timeline if Isaac was right then it was more likely a Norwich City or other unknown castaway. 

Apparently estimating age of bones from weathering is very difficult and any of the estimates are not much more accurate than a random guess.
The data below is from a forensic science paper on the weathering of bones in a tropical environment (the citation is at the bottom), it shows a great deal of variation even in the same environment, to quote "These extreme differences between sites located within the same geographic region highlight the need to better understand micro-environments and the effect they have on the decomposition process.".  Therefore it was essentially impossible for anyone who had not studied decomposition on the Phoenix islands to accurately estimate the age of  bones simply from their weathering, probably the best data would be from the pig study done by Dr. Burns on Niku for Tighar. 


"Stage Description

0 Fresh, de-fleshed bone
1 Cracks begin to appear along the length of the bone, though some soft tissue may still be present
2a Bone begins to flake topmost layer of bone, some soft tissue may still be present
2b Topmost layer of bone has almost completely flake off
3 Topmost layer of bone is gone, deeper layers of compact bone (1.0–1.5 mm) are fibrous
4 Compact bone continues to look fibrous and is rough to the touch, splintering of bone pieces may occur, inner cavity begins to show wear
5 Inner, trabecular bone is exposed, bone itself is falling apart and losing its original shape"

Summary of bone weathering by climatic region
                                                                 Years since Death                    Stage of death weathering
Site (Tropical)
Ambesoli (savannah)                                          4–6                                         3–5
Ambesoli (savannah)                                          7–9                                         3–4
Ambesoli (savannah)                                        10–12                                           5
Parc National des Virunga (savannah)                 2–4                                           1–2
Ituri (rain forest)                                              16                                               0
Ituri (rain forest)                                               >15                                           1–3

Site (warm temperature)
Somserset                                                          8                                               0
Wales                                                             10–12                                            1
Wales                                                                 19                                              2

Site (arid)
Abu Dhabi                                                           2–4                                          0–1
Abu Dhabi                                                           4–8                                            1
Abu Dhabi                                                       10–15                                         2–3

Forensic Science International 204 (2011) 126–133
Time-since-death and bone weathering in a tropical environment
Ann H. Ross *, Sarah L. Cunningham
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, NC State University, CB 8107, Raleigh, NC 27695-8107, United States
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2018, 12:43:41 PM »

I have been very amused by the findings that were made at the 7 site.... how often people were there at different times really makes me wonder. like the charred piece of paper with a barcode on it in a firepit.

The modern barcode was found in an entirely different location.  If you read the research report linked in the preceding sentence, you will see that Ric said the presence of the burnt modern barcode rules out that location as the place where the skeleton was found.  He said that in 1998--so, roughly 20 years ago.
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2018, 01:07:27 PM »


The modern barcode was found in an entirely different location.  If you read the research report linked in the preceding sentence, you will see that Ric said the presence of the burnt modern barcode rules out that location as the place where the skeleton was found.  He said that in 1998--so, roughly 20 years ago.

gotcha, somehow ran across that bit randomly in my searches for survey data and got it in my head it was found during one of the 7 site digs..... where was it found it you don't mind?? I didn't see it listed.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2018, 02:27:14 PM »

The scrap of paper with part of a barcode was found at the Aukeraime Shoe Site, so named because that southern shoreline south of the small lagoon passage was called Aukeraime by the islanders.  There persists a great deal of confusion among many about what was found where.

TIGHAR found shoe parts at the Aukeraime Shoe Site in 1991 and for a long time we thought they were probably associated with Earhart. The title of Tom King's book "Amelia Earhart's Shoes" refers to those shoes.  The site was archaeologically excavated in 1997 but nothing further of significance was found except the remains of a campfire containing the scrap of paper.  In 2016 we were able to conclusively eliminate the shoe parts from the Aukeraime Shoe Site as being associated with Earhart (see A Shoe Fetish IV in TIGHAR Tracks Vo. 32 #2)
Our excavation of the castaway campsite has also turned up the remains of an old campfire, but it did not contain any scraps of paper.  It contained broken bottles reliably dated to the mid 1930s.  The bottoms were melted but the upper parts of the bottles were not heat-damaged, suggesting that the bottles had stood upright in the fire.  Nearby we found a length of wire twisted in a fashion suggesting it had been used to hold bottles upright.
TIGHAR has found no shoe parts at the castaway campsite.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2018, 02:29:27 PM by Ric Gillespie »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2018, 02:35:00 PM »

I have been very amused by the findings that were made at the 7 site.... how often people were there at different times really makes me wonder.

Perhaps I can help. Yes, there have been many people at the Seven Site over the years, but in assessing what the work party, and later Gallagher, found in 1940 we need only be concerned with people who were at the site prior to the discovery of the skull in April 1940.  There is only one person known to have been there - the owner of the skull.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2018, 10:09:53 AM »

Let's consider whether the castaway might have been one of the men presumed to have been drowned or taken by sharks in the Norwich City disaster.  After all, they represent a known population of men who went missing in the immediate vicinity of the island. At first glance they would seem to be the most likely source for the castaway whose remains were discovered roughly ten and a half years later.  Let's take more than a first glance.

Thirty-five men went into the water. Twenty-four are known to have made it to the beach alive. We have detailed information of some of the other eleven from the accounts of survivors and from the "Central Index Register of Seaman, 1918-1941" at the Public Records Office in Kew, England:

John Thomas Jones, age 30, height 5 ft 5.25 in., birthplace Loogan, Wales. Jones was the ship's steward.
Hamer, "The steward, poor chap, was the most unfortunate of all. He had practically reached safety when he collapsed and was drowned before anyone could give him assistance. He was brought up on the beach, artificial respiration was tried for about an hour without avail, and we were all reluctant to give up. He was a very popular fellow and everyone expressed their sympathy for his relatives in their sad bereavement. Later we all paid him our last respects, gave him a Christian burial and placed a cross of coral at his head."

Lott, "The steward's body was washed up about half an hour after we landed. We tried artificial respiration for about an hour but without result."

Arab, age unknown, height unknown, birthplace probably Yemen.
Hamer: "When the lifeboat with all hands was leaving the ship it was drawn up into the tremendous surf and capsized throwing most of the crew into the sea, eleven of them losing their lives. Four were imprisoned under the boat, one of them was found drowned when the bottom was cut out of the boat. The other three had managed to keep their heads above until help came."

Lott: "The next body was an Arab who was under the upturned boat and we got him out in the evening."

[Think about that for a second.  Four guys get trapped under the lifeboat when it capsizes before dawn.  Three of the four manage to stay alive until the boat washes ashore and then spend the entire day stuck under the boat with the dead Arab until their shipmates discover the upturned boat. Apparently the boat was too heavy to turn over so they had to cut out the bottom.]

John James Leslie, age 56, height unknown, birthplace unknown. Leslie was the ship's carpenter.
Lott: "Later on during our stay on the Island the Carpenter's body was found, by the Capt. and 3rd Mate. These bodies were buried on the island. No further bodies were washed up till the time of our leaving."

So three of the eleven were buried on the island. There is no mention of exactly where they were buried.

Of the eight men who are unaccounted-for, three were European:

James William Horne, age 31, height unknown, birthplace unknown.  Horne was the ship's Third Engineer.

Thomas Edward Scott, age 27, height 5 ft 9 in., birthplace West Hartlepool, England. Scott was the ship's Fourth Engineer.

Francis Sumner, age 18, height 5 ft 3 in., birthplace Hull, England.  Sumner was an Ordinary Seaman.

Six of the ship's ten Arab crewmen were lost. All were "firemen" (engine room workers).

Redman Yousef, age 23, height unknown, birthplace Aden, Yemen

Saleh Ragee, age 22, height 5 ft. 6 in., birthplace Aden, Yemen

Said Metanna, age 29, height 5 ft. 4 in., birthplace Aden, Yemen

Ayed Naif, age 30, height unknown, birthplace unknown

Ahmed Hassan, age 27, height unknown, birthplace unknown

Ali Hassan, age 31, height unknown, birthplace unknown

One of the above was buried but there is no record of which one.

Next we'll consider how the above data compare with what we know about the castaway.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2018, 10:52:57 AM »

Dr. Jantz has considered the data in comparison to what we know about the castaway based on the measurements taken by Dr. Hoodless.

Of the three missing Europeans:
Thomas Scott is too tall.
Francis Sumner is too short.
We have no height information for James Horne.

Of the six Arabs:
Said Metanna is too short.
Saleh Ragee is a possibility.
We have no height information for the others.

So, based on height alone, we're down to five candidates.
James Horne and four of the following
Saleh Ragee
Redman Yousef
Ayed Naif
Ahmed Hassan
Ali Hassan

Dr. Jantz reports that he now has skeletal data on Yemeni and Pacific Islander populations which pretty much eliminate the castaway as being from either of those groups - so we're down to James Horne, for whom we have not yet found height data.  As far as we know, James Horne did not wear women's shoes.

Coming up next:  There is documented evidence that the bodies of most, and possibly all, of the eight missing men eventually washed up on the beach near the shipwreck.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2018, 10:59:00 AM »

It seems that in May 1937 there were nine skeletons on the beach near the Norwich City wreck.

In May 1937, John William Jones was on his way to Hull Island aboard the Burns Philp ship Makoa.  Jones was to assume the job of overseer for the Tokelau laborers who were to plant coconuts and harvest copra on Hull and Sydney atolls under a lease to Burns Philp, Ltd.

On the way, Makoa stopped by Gardner.  It's not clear whether anyone went ashore or they just pulled up close to the shipwreck.  In June, Makoa herself was wrecked on the reef at Hull.

Fast forward to November 13, 1937.  The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney paid a visit to Hull on the way back to Hawaii from American Samoa.  As recorded in Dept. of Interior Field representative Richard Black's report of that cruise (Eleventh Cruise to the American Equatorial Islands):
""Mr. Jones told us of the wreck of the Norwich City lying on Gardner Island.  She struck in 1919, and the Makoa saw her recently and stated there was much good material aboard her such as anchors, winches, etc.  The bodies of nine men lost in the wreck, drowned or killed by sharks (he said) were buried ashore, but wild pigs dug them up and their skeletons now lie on the beach.  The survivors were taken off the island."

Jone had the name of the ship right but he was ten years off on the year it went aground.  Nobody salvaged the anchor and winches.  They're still there.  There were eleven men lost, not nine, and only three were buried.  There is no record of anyone ever seeing wild pigs on Gardner.

So what can we make of this account?  Jones apparently saw a whole bunch of human bones on the beach and assumed they had been dug up by wild pigs. That can't be right.  The skeletons of three men could have been uncovered by storms, but only if they were buried in the beach sand and the neither Hamer nor Lott specify where the bodies were buried.  Where did Jones get the number nine?  Had he heard that nine men were lost so he just assumed he was seeing the skeletons of nine men, or did he count skulls or pelvises? 

If, in fact, there were nine skeletons on the beach and three of them were the ones who had been buried, then only two men are un-accounted for.  If only one of the nine was from an uncovered grave, then all eleven casualties are accounted for.
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2018, 12:29:55 PM »

so did the makoa make landfall or is this just an anecdotal story?? why would these bones not be mentioned by the new zealand survey party??

seems like a good story to me...
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Bones
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2018, 12:44:42 PM »

so did the makoa make landfall or is this just an anecdotal story?? why would these bones not be mentioned by the new zealand survey party??

seems like a good story to me...

I can guarantee that Makoa did not make landfall. If your ship makes landfall at Niku it never leaves.  Ask Norwich City.  To get ashore they had to lower a launch and land on the reef in the lee of the shipwreck. Whether they went ashore is not mentioned.
This is not an anecdotal recollection. It's an account documented in a U.S. government report written five months after the event.  I don't know why the bones are not mentioned by Maude and Bevington (October 1937), the New Zealand survey party (Dec. 1938 to Feb. 1939), or the Bushnell survey (November 1939).
The New Zealand survey party is not mentioned in Maude's report of installing off the first Gilbertese work party in Dec. 1938.  That doesn't mean the survey party wasn't there.
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