Michael Clark Rockefeller

Michael Clark Rockefeller

Death c.18 Nov 1961 (aged 23)
Burial Buried or Lost at Sea, Specifically: Body lost at sea off the coast of Malaysia
Memorial ID 3664 · View Source
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Social Figure, Scientist. Son of former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and heir to the Rockefeller oil fortune. The youngest son of Mary Todhunter Clark and Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, he graduated from Harvard University in 1960, and despite his privileged life, he felt uncomfortable with it. During college, he had spent his summers working as a ranch hand, worked in a supermarket, and had joined the Army Reserve as a Private. After graduation from Harvard, he joined an expedition for the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology to study the Ndani tribes of western New Guinea's remote Baliem Valley. He and a friend left the expedition to study the Stone Age Asmat tribe of southern New Guinea, where he took a strong interest in their lifestyle and art. The Asmat tribe was known for their exquisite woodcarvings. Rene Wassink, a Dutch anthropologist, who was also studying the Asmat tribe, accompanied him. Using a self-made catamaran constructed from two dugout native canoes, Rockefeller, Wassink, and two native guides were to go via sea to the village of Atsi, some 25 miles down the coast. Several miles off the mouth of the Eilanden River, a wave knocked out their engine, swamping their small boat. The two guides decided to swim the shark-infested waters for help, and left the other two men adrift. Five hours later, they would make shore, and signal the Dutch authorities of their plight. In the meantime, the catamaran, with Rockefeller and Wassink still aboard, overturned in the rough sea, and Rockefeller decided to swim for shore himself, using two empty gas cans as floats. He was never seen again. Two days later, Dutch authorities rescued Wassink, who was still clinging to the overturned catamaran. An extensive search of the coast failed to find any sign of Rockefeller, despite a very lucrative reward for his return, or proof of his death. Speculation has that he drowned, was eaten by sharks, killed by crocodiles along the shore, killed by cannibals that lived in the area, or is living as a captive of the natives. In his book "The Spying Game" (1998), author Frank Monte claims that he recovered the skull of Michael Rockefeller from cannibals living near where the boat overturned. Several other books, by different authors, have been written about Michael's disappearance. Michael was declared legally dead in 1964.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 10 Oct 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3664
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Michael Clark Rockefeller (18 May 1938–c.18 Nov 1961), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3664, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Buried or Lost at Sea, who reports a Body lost at sea off the coast of Malaysia.