Michael Rockefeller Disappearances In Expedition

The disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the fifth child of New York Governor during an expedition in the Asmat region off the south coast of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961 is one of the most unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. Despite an extensive search by his father, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, no trace of Michael was found. His body was never found till now.

On November 17th, 1961, Rockefeller and Dutch anthropologist Rene Wassing were on an expedition to collect woodcarvings by the Asmat people. His two Local guides swam to shore while they stayed with the boat drifted out to the Arafura Sea. The next day, perhaps 10 miles from shore, Rockefeller decided to swim and said to Wassing who stayed with the boat, “I think I can make it” and swam for shore.

Michael Rockefeller during Expedition
The question of whether he made it to shore remains unanswered. Wassing was rescued the next day, while Rockefeller was never seen again, despite an intensive and lengthy search effort.  At the time, Rockefeller's disappearance was a major world news item. His body was never found. He was declared legally dead in 1964.

It is believed that Rockefeller either drowned or lost in the sea or he made it to shore where he was killed and possibly killed and eaten by a group of local people in an act of revenge against someone from the “White Tribe” for the 1958 killing of several villagers by Dutch colonial patrol.

In 1969, the journalist Milt Machlin traveled to Dutch New Guinea to investigate Rockefeller's disappearance. He concluded that circumstantial evidence supported the idea that he had been killed. Several leaders of Otsjanep village, where Rockefeller likely would have arrived, were killed by a Dutch patrol in 1958, thus, would have some rationale for revenge, so it is possible that Rockefeller found himself the inadvertent victim of such a cycle started by the Dutch patrol. In the documentary film Keep the River on Your Right, Tobias, an anthropologist stated that he spoke with Asmat cannibals who described finding Rockefeller on the riverside and eating him.

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