This is a photograph of Michael Rockefeller. If you don't recognize his first name, you certainly recognize his last. Michael's great-grandfather was John D. Rockefeller, the world's wealthiest person. Michael's father was Nelson Rockefeller, Vice-President of the United States. His uncle, Winthrop Rockefeller was governor of Arkansas and his first cousin, Jay Rockefeller, was governor of West Virginia.
Greatness was the low bar every Rockefeller had to surpass. For Michael, who had recently graduated from Harvard with honors, greatness was inevitable. But, as it is with most of the aristocracy, there is a quest for adventure before having to confine oneself to the governor's mansion or capital building. Michael decided to study and collect the art of the people in New Guinea, one of the islands near Indonesia.
In his 40-foot canoe (13-meters) and three miles (five kilometers) from shore, Michael's adjoined pontoon capsized. His two guides swam ashore to get help.
After two days of waiting, Michael decided to brave the waters. He jumped out of the canoe he was sharing with a Dutch anthropologist and started swimming.
The picture above may have been Michael's last. He disappeared.
Hundreds of reporters went to New Guinea to find out what happened. Private detectives were hired. Planes, helicopters, ships and thousands of locals scoured the island and the sea hoping to find something…anything. Rumors were spreading like wildfire.
Fifty-seven years later, the most disturbing rumors were confirmed by a National Geographic research team. Two missionaries who had lived with the natives and spoke their language came forward to tell the story, as did several members of the community. Dutch cololonialists had killed four natives in 1958. Vengeance had to be taken.
Michael had survived the swim. Pulled ashore, his body was pierced with spears. His head was removed and the brains eaten raw. The rest of Michael's body was boiled in a pot before being consumed by the natives, each sharing in the meal. His thigh bones were made into daggers, and the bones from his lower legs were made into fishing spears.