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The Search for Michael Rockefeller Paperback – February, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A story of adventure and mystery, told in the relaxed, oral style of a good yarn." -- Pete Axthelm, NEWSWEEK

From the Publisher

In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, 23-year-old heir to the Rockefeller fortune, disappeared while on an anthropological expedition along the treacherous coasts of New Guinea. A massive search was mounted, but no sign of him was ever found. Seven years later, a tantalizing story reached journalist Milt Machlin: could it be that Rockefeller was still alive, held captive by headhunting tribesmen? In "The Search for Michael Rockefeller," Machlin recounts his fascinating adventures in pursuit of the truth of the young scion's fate. Against a jungle backdrop of strange "cargo cult" beliefs, "payback" revenge-killings, and cannibalism, Machlin spins his exciting tale with late-night, round-the-campfire brio.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Common Reader (February 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585790206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585790203
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on June 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book, written in the early seventies, details Argosy Magazine journalist Milt Machlin's investigation into the disappearance of the young Rockefeller family scion who vanished on an expedition to tribal New Guinea after his catamaran capsized and he tried to swim to shore. Machlin's involvement with the story began years after the event, when a seedy character came to his magazine's office with a wild tale about Rockefeller being kept captive as a living tribal fetish by a band of natives. The first part of the book is an account of Machlin's trip to New Guinea to investigate this lead. The second part is Machlin's attempt to reconstruct Rockefeller's fate, which Machlin believes differs from the official conclusion that he drowned before reaching shore.
I enjoyed Machlin's personal account of his journey much more than I believed his theories about Rockefeller's fate. Machlin is a gifted writer, and his account of his adventures in wild New Guinea is written with great verve and a gift for telling the most interesting details and anecdotes in the most interesting way. During his trip to the island on which Rockefeller had been reported to be alive, he joined a crocodile hunt, visited Guinean tribal villages, and learned much of a tribal culture that is both fascinatingly, and in many ways terrifyingly, alien. He mixes tales of his own adventures with anecdotes about the bush, like stories of giant crocodiles and octopuses, and tales of tribal feuds and cargo cultism. His clear, zesty writing and fascinating subject matter make his tale an enjoyable, engrossing read.
Then Machlin gets into his theory about Rockefeller's fate. The first part of the book establishes his bona fides -- knowledge of New Guinea and journalism.
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Format: Paperback
Milt Machlin was an experienced men's adventure writer, editor of the men's adventure magazine "Argosy" for many years, and in "The Search for Michael Rockefeller," we find a perfect fit between author's abilities and subject matter. Michael Rockefeller was himself an adventurous young man, son of then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller -- yes, one of those Rockefellers-- and 23 years old when he disappeared, in 1961, in primitive New Guinea. The young Rockefeller had just graduated from Harvard University, and joined, as a sound technician, an expedition sponsored by Harvard's Peabody Museum: its mission was to film and record the customs of New Guinea's little-known tribes.

Machlin was an adventure-loving bear of a man himself, member of The Explorers Club and Mystery Writers of America. He published "Ninth Life," about the very controversial California execution of Caryl Chessman in the 1950's, and collaborated with Robin Moore on the "French Connection" series. He dived to 2,500 feet on a supersub, flew in an international balloon race, sailed in a Viking ship, participated in several marine archaelogy undertakings. He also went twice to report on the Vietnam War, visited Cuba, Taiwan, Israel, Iceland, Australia, Japan, Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines and most of Europe: the man knew a lot about food and wine, as well. He had an easy, conversational style of writing that suited his subject matters.

Ten years after Michael Rockefeller's disappearance, in 1971, Machlin went to what was then very much still Stone Age New Guinea to investigate the disappearance. Now mind you, no rumor has ever trickled out of New Guinea of a young, rich white man who had gone native.
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Michael Rockefeller was the 23 year old son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller who was on an anthropology expedition to the western or Dutch run half of New Guinea in 1961. At this time, Dutch were trying to get together with Australia and set both parts on the road to independence as one country. Indonesia however, claimed the Dutch run half, probably because it was Dutch run, as was Indonesia, and this created some tension.

He had just returned from a trip to New York where he visited for one week after finding out that his father was divorcing his mother. Michael had always been close to his father. When he returned to New Guinea he took up his duties in the group where he did sound recordings and photography. He had gotten good at photography of the people and settings they were dealing with. Michael was also collecting native art, shields, carved poles, etc. for shipment back to the US.

As a part of the work, he had acquired a twin hulled canoe tied together with a platform with a tin roof. He an a friend from the expedition and two native helpers had over loaded the boat, and in some nasty weather went offshore to go down the coast. At this time they only had one 18 horse power motor for the boat. The outflow from the Eilanden River was fierce, and combined with the bad weather to put water over the back of the hulls, and flood out the motor. The coast in this area was essentially a mangrove swamp with salt water crocs and scattered native villages. The two natives took gas cans for floats and swam ashore, but it took tome awhile to get to a village and get help. Meanwhile, Michael, who was a good swimmer, got impatient, and decided to swim ashore as well. His friend who was not a good swimmer tried to get him to stay on the overturned boat, but was unsuccessful.
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