Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday Weird: Michael Rockefeller Disappearance

Michael Rockefeller (of the famed Rockefeller family) traveled to New Guinea in 1961 to study the Asmat tribe and their art. Soon after he would disappear, and in 1964 he would be declared dead, though his body was never found. To this day, no one is really sure what happened to him after he was last seen by his friend, Dutch anthropologist Rene Wassing.


On November 17th, 1961, twenty-three year old Rockefeller and Wassing were traveling in a 40 foot canoe three miles off shore with two local guides when their canoe was swamped and overturned.

The two guides swam for help, leaving Wassing and Rockefeller drifting. Help didn't come soon and after two days, Rockefeller turned to Wassing and said "I think I can make it".

By this time they were twelve miles from shore, but Rockefeller left Wassing and swam for shore. Wassing was rescued the next day, but Rockefeller would never be seen again, despite a lengthy and detailed search effort.

There are three prevailing theories as to what could have happened to Michael Rockefeller. The first is that he made it to shore and decided to live out a life in the jungle, either as someone's captive or as a personal choice.

The second is that he either drowned on his twelve mile swim, or was killed by a shark or saltwater crocodile.

Or, finally, that he was killed and eaten by local indigenous peoples, famous for headhunting and cannibalism.

Members of the Ostjanep tribe had been killed in 1958 by a Dutch patrol and there were rumors that members of the tribe had killed Rockefeller as revenge once he swam to shore.



Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think most likely a shark or croc got him. Or since it was so far, he simply became exhausted and drowned.
Be sure to visit today, Sarah!

Rena said...

Hmmm... I'm thinking the swim would do him in without the trouble of needing to blame crocodiles. On the other hand, eaten bY cannibals is far more colorful.

Maria Zannini said...

12 miles is a long way to reach land, and there are lots of ways to die along the way.

Either way, it's a sad end for someone so young.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Those waters have all sorts of perils but when you consider how long they were drifting and how tired he was already, I'd say he either drowned or croc got him. That would be logical.

Interesting article, Sarah!

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Sherry Ellis said...

That's an intriguing unsolved mystery!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

If he was eaten...yikes. Poor guy. However, interesting tidbit: I've always been pissed that my last name wasn't Rockefeller. It sure would have made life easier. I did a shout out to you on my blog. Seriously.

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