The Singing Bones recounts the life and times of eighteenth century polymath and explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller, the first European naturalist to visit Alaska.
The first to propose that America was originally peopled by migrants from Siberia, Steller was aboard the packet boat St. Peter commanded by Vitus Bering on the Second Great Northern Expedition sponsored by the Russian Admiralty to determine if Asia and North America were connected by land or separated by a sea. When St. Peter was wrecked on Bering Island in what was later named the Bering Sea, Steller cured the survivors, who were marooned and dying of scurvy, while making remarkable discoveries in natural history. He was first to describe the behavior and biology of the northern fur seal and Steller's sea lion, and his descriptions of the whale-sized Steller's sea cow and spectacled cormorant (both now extinct) are all we know about these exquisite creatures as living beings.
The castaways eventually built a small vessel from the St. Peter's wreckage and sailed back to Kamchatka in autumn 1742, where Steller continued his explorations, in part while living with the indigenous Itelmen people.
A blend of narrative adventure and biography, this historical first-person novel chronicles the professional visions and conflicted life of a deeply fascinating, flawed, and courageous man who devoted everything to advancing the frontiers of science and improving the lives of the native Siberians.