What Really Happened to Michael Rockefeller

Asmat Demon Mask natural fiber New Guinea

Asmat Demon Mask natural fiber New Guinea (Photo credit: mharrsch) (CC)

Apparently some answers to 50 year old questions about a privileged young man.

via Smithsonian Mag

A journey to the heart of New Guinea’s tribal homeland sheds new light on the mystery of the heir’s disappearance there in 1961

Asmat is, in its way, a perfect place. Everything you could possibly need is here. It’s teeming with shrimp and crabs and fish and clams. In the jungle there are wild pig, the furry, opossumlike cuscus, and the ostrichlike cassowary. And sago palm, whose pith can be pounded into a white starch and which hosts the larvae of the Capricorn beetle, both key sources of nutrition. The rivers are navigable highways. Crocodiles 15 feet long prowl their banks, and jet-black iguanas sun on uprooted trees. There are flocks of brilliant red-and-green parrots. Hornbills with five-inch beaks and blue necks.

And secrets, spirits, laws and customs, born of men and women who have been walled off by ocean, mountains, mud and jungle for longer than anyone knows.

Until 50 years ago, there were no wheels here. No steel or iron, not even any paper. There’s still not a single road or automobile. In its 10,000 square miles, there is but one airstrip, and outside of the main “city” of Agats, there isn’t a single cell tower. Here it’s hard to know where the water begins and the land ends, as the Arafura Sea’s 15-foot tides inundate the coast of southwest New Guinea, an invisible swelling that daily slides into this flat swamp and pushes hard against great outflowing rivers. It is a world of satiny, knee-deep mud and mangrove swamps stretching inland, a great hydroponic terrarium.

We were crossing the mouth of the Betsj River, a turbulent place of incoming tide and outrushing water, when the waves slammed and our 30-foot longboat rolled. I crawled forward, reached under a plastic tarp and fumbled blindly in my duffel for the Ziploc bag holding my satellite phone, and slipped it into my pocket. I hadn’t wanted to bring the phone, but at the last minute I’d thought how stupid it would be to die for want of a call. If Michael Rockefeller had had a radio when his catamaran overturned in this exact spot in 1961, he never would have disappeared.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc
    • echar

      Come on… Second time this song is posted. The original is the best, imo.


      • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

        Oh wow.

        I remember Krokus…

        • echar

          That song is off the aptly named Headhunter album – 1983.

          • frederigoxcz305

            My Uncle Gabriel got a stunning blue Dodge
            Charger SRT8 from only workin part time on a home pc… hop over to here

  • jasonpaulhayes

    Perhaps he simply sought refuge in a foreign land, far from the world he couldn’t accept.

  • echar
    • Thurlow Weed


      Say, who do I have to cast a wiccan spell on around here to get rights to post YouTubes without having to wait for the censor?

      • echar

        Matt Staggs is probably your dude.

        • Matt Staggs

          I’ll try to put you on the whitelist when I get back home from jiu-jitsu.