Michael Clark Rockefeller was a member of the Rockefeller family. His father, Nelson Rockefeller, served as governor of New York and Vice President of the United States. His great-grandfather was known as one of the richest men of all time. You see, Michael was super rich, well educated, and had a bright future ahead of him. Wanting to embark on a small adventure before adding wealth to his family’s fortune, Michael never returned from that trip. We searched for the Rockefeller heir who disappeared after visiting a cannibalistic tribe…
Michael Clark Rockefeller was born in 1938
The Rockefeller family, one of the wealthiest families in the world today, had a considerable fortune in those years. Michael’s father was New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. After graduating from Harvard in 1960, Michael wanted to turn to the arts. His father, who was interested in art, had recently opened a museum and fascinated everyone with the works he brought from Africa and Mexico.
Beginning to be interested in primitive art, Michael decided to go on a journey in the following years.
For this journey of self-discovery, he met with the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology and planned a visit to New Guinea, then known as Dutch New Guinea. His main goal was to collect the art of the Asmat people living there.
The Asmat people had hardly seen a white person until then.
With limited contact with the outside world, these people viewed white people as supernatural beings from beyond the sea. The tribe, which has a population of about 70,000 people, lived in small villages located along the river banks. Headhunting and cannibalism were essential elements of the Asmat culture until the 1990s. For the Asmats, the only way to avenge their deaths was to behead. Even the death of a person from illness did not change this belief.
Michael traveled to New Guinea in 1961 to collect tribal art for his father’s museum.
Together with the Dutch anthropologist René Wassing, he built a catamaran and used it to travel between villages. When the calendars showed November 17, the boat capsized due to high waves. Michael and René just stood there, clinging to the boat, away from shore.
Despite being 20km from shore, Michael jumped into the water saying “I think I can make it”
And he was never seen again. The Rockefeller family, a wealthy and powerful family, spared no expense in searching the island and its environs. Ships, planes, and helicopters searched the area carefully, but found no trace.
There are many theories about Michael’s death.
Some suggested that sharks swimming near the island may have eaten Michael. Others said that he might not have been able to swim that far and drowned.
The most shocking claim was that the cannibalistic Asmat people on the island ate Michael out of revenge.
In 1958, three years before Michael set foot on the island, the Dutch governor of West Guinea, Max Lapre, killed five members of the Asmat tribe. He hoped that with such repressive measures the practice of headhunting would come to an end. However, the people of Asmat swore to take revenge on the white people. Perhaps they noticed that Michael had swam to shore that day. The exhaustion of the young man, who had swam about 20 km, made their job easier, and they killed him to take revenge. Then they ate their legs and arms with pleasure! However, no clear information on the subject has been found so far. Still, this is one of the most common views on the death of the heir.