The disappearance of Michael Rockefeller was one of the most intensely followed stories of 1961, as everyone wanted to know what happened to the heir of one of the richest families in the world.
The young Rockefeller was last seen alive off the coast of modern Papua New Guinea, trying to swim to shore after his boat capsized.
Rumors began to swirl and many believed he was eaten by cannibals. A recent book claims that was the case indeed.
The Rockefeller Who Wanted To Travel The World
Michael Clark Rockefeller was born in 1938, the fifth child of New York Governor and future US Vice-president Nelson Rockefeller.
He was the great-grandson of the dynasty’s founder, the legendary John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men ever.
Michael had everything one can dream, a life of luxury, good education, and the promise of an executive position in the family business empire.
Only the young Michael had other plans. He was of an artistic temperament and fresh out of college he wanted to see the world, not find himself buried in a stuffy boardroom.
Ironically, the passion that led him to his death at a young age was ignited by his father’s interest in art.
Nelson Rockefeller had recently opened the Museum of Primitive Art which featured exotic items from Africa, as well as Mayan and Inca artifacts.
Michael decided he wanted to travel and collect primitive art as well. “It’s the desire to do something adventurous, at a time when frontiers, in the real sense of the word, are disappearing,” he explained at the time.
His father granted him his wish, undoubtedly hoping it was just a phase and his son would eventually take his place in the family organization.
The young Rockefeller spent months in Japan and Venezuela, but these countries were too modern for his taste. He wanted something more exciting.
The family pulled some strings and young Michael was granted a place on the 1960 Peabody expedition to study the Dani population in Papua New Guinea.
Michael was in charge of taking photos of the tribesmen and he was absolutely fascinated by their culture.