Gone Missing: Vanished in Papua

Airing on the Travel Channel, November 2, 10 ET

Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

In 1961, 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller traveled to Papua to pursue a career in anthropology and escape the silver straitjacket that came from being the son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. After his dugout canoe swamped in the Arafura Sea, he went missing. Almost 50 years later, reporter Tim Sohn and a film crew ventured to Papua to investigate whether he drowned, was eaten by cannibals, or survived to live Kurtz-like in a remote village.

Field Notes: Take No. 1,472
Tim Sohn investigates Michael Rockefeller's disappearance and becomes a first time TV host while dodging sea snakes and crocodiles, and trying to communicate with locals decked out for a war party.

Lost Scion
By Tim Sohn
The Michael Rockefeller story that led to the Travel Channel show appeared in Outside's October 2003 special package, The O Files.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Papua New Guinea
Lead Photo: Nathaniel Havholm
More Travel