Thirteen Bones

Thirteen Bones

by Tom King
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Thirteen Bones by Tom King

On July 2, 1937, nearing the end of a flight around the world, aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific. Despite a massive search, they were never found. Their fate remains a mystery to this day.

Earhart's last generally accepted radio message put her on course that likely would have brought her close to Nikumaroro - then called Gardner Island - a tiny, uninhabited atoll in the Phoenix Islands.

In early 1939, British authorities in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony launched the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, and began to clear Gardner Island for coconut planting. In early 1940, the colonists found thirteen human bones near the island's southeast end, along with a sextant box, a Benedictine bottle, some corks, and a woman's shoe.

In Thirteen Bones, author Tom King imagines the discovery and its aftermath through the eyes of the discoverers.

Thirteen Bones is fiction, incorporating facts uncovered by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery - TIGHAR - during twenty years of investigation into Earhart's and Noonan's disappearance. It includes the flurry of telegrams that went between Settlement Scheme Administrator Gerald B. Gallagher and his superiors in Fiji, reporting the discovery and deciding what to do about it. It proposes a geopolitical reason that the British authorities did not report the discovery to the Americans - even though the bones were suspected to be Earhart's.

Woven around the tale of the bones, Thirteen Bones tells the story of the Nikumaroro colony, its tragic hero Gallagher, and its adventurous Tunguru (I-Kiribati) and Tuvaluan colonists. The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme (whose acronym its creators cherished) was one of the last expansions of the British Empire. It was created as the world spiraled into war, and it died as Great Britain struggled to adapt to post-war realities.

Nikumaroro is a tiny island, and its people had limited contact with the outside world - a world that Thirteen Bones' protagonist, Keaki, dreams about and struggles to understand. But that world imposed itself on the island's small community in many ways - not least, perhaps, by making Nikumaroro the place where Amelia Earhart left her bones.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608441853
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing
Publication date: 09/25/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Tom King is an archaeologist, consultant, teacher and writer, who has worked since the late 1980s with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery's (TIGHAR's) Amelia Earhart project - doing archaeological research on Nikumaroro, the island where colonists in 1940 found thirteen human bones that may well have been Earhart's. His co-authored 2004 non-fiction book, Amelia Earhart's Shoes, recounts TIGHAR's adventures on the island. In Thirteen Bones, King tells the story of the 1940 discovery as it might have seemed to the Tunguru colonists, weaving the tale around facts revealed by TIGHAR's historical and archaeological research.

King is well known in the United States and internationally as an expert in cultural or heritage resource management - trying to find ways for the modern world and the places and things we value as parts of our culture to exist in productive harmony. He has authored seven textbooks through Left Coast Press ( and Altamira Press (, and scores of journal articles, popular articles, and internet offerings on heritage topics. He has done archaeological research in California and the Micronesian islands, and helped establish historic preservation systems in the island governments of Micronesia. He has worked in various agencies of the U.S. government, been a litigant and expert witness in heritage-related lawsuits, and worked extensively as a consultant and educator. He teaches short classes about historic preservation project review, traditional cultural places, and consultation with indigenous communities; he also lectures around the country on TIGHAR's research.

King lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, anthropologist Pat Parker, and writes a blog at He welcomes email at .

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Thirteen Bones 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RickRJ More than 1 year ago
A most enjoyable read! Dr. King masterfully "connected the dots" of historical and archaeological research into a most plausible scenario. The reader will feel the heartbeat, tears and humor of each character. Especially, enjoyable was the rendezvous of the ships Nimanoa and Viti, and the perspective which the discussion aboard ship gave of that period. "Karaka", (native name for Gallagher) of course, has always been a special soul, and was poignantly captured in "Thirteen Bones". King's depiction Keaki and Baiteke were most heart-warming and amusing with a little of that "Stand by Me" feeling.