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Has anyone seen this man: Benedict Allen, lost in PNG

HARRY COCKBURN | The Independent

Benedict Allen
Benedict Allen

LONDON - A British explorer has gone missing in Papua New Guinea during an attempt to contact a tribe living in a remote area of jungle.

Benedict Allen, 57, has not been heard from in over three weeks after being dropped off by helicopter.

He was supposed to have begun his journey home on Sunday, but missed a flight to Hong Kong where he was booked to give a talk to the Royal Geographic Society.

He has not been heard from since late October. His last public post was earlier in the month when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing his rucksack on the way to Papua New Guinea.

“Marching off to Heathrow. I may be some time (don’t try and rescue me please - where I’m going in PNG you won’t ever find me you know...)”

His family is now concerned something may have happened to him on his trek.

Mr Allen was trying to reach the Yaifo people, who he first met 30 years ago in Papua New Guinea’s East Sepik province. He was trying to meet them again to film them for a new documentary.

He had no telephone or GPS device with him for the trip which was expected to take him through very remote areas of jungle.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr Allen’s agent Joanna Sarsby said: "He is a highly experienced explorer, very clever and resourceful and adept at surviving in the most hostile places on Earth, and he would never give up. He may not be a young man any more but he is very fit.

"He was trying to reach the Yaifo people, a very remote and reclusive tribe - possibly headhunters, quite a scary bunch. Goodness knows what has happened.

"I just imagine he might have been taken ill or is lying injured somewhere, perhaps with a broken leg, and maybe being helped by locals."

She added: “He never takes a phone with him - he believes in living like the locals. For him not to come back is really odd.”

His sister Katie Pestille, told the Mail she was not worried about the tribes he wanted to encounter, but was concerned about drug barons she said may be operating in the area.

She said: “I am not worried about the indigenous local tribes. They knew Benedict and trusted him. You think these jungles are empty but all sorts of people live there.

“In the past he has come across drug barons and loggers. It's an awful worry, if they came across him they could have robbed him and just left him there.”

She also said that in the past he had been missing for three months and was feared dead during an expedition to the Amazon 35 years ago.

On that occasion in 1982, Mr Allen got lost in the jungle escaping goldminers who attacked him. He survived by eating a stray dog whose paw he had healed.

 “I was starving to death – the only thing left was to eat the dog,” he said afterwards.

Ahead of his latest trip, Mr Allen warned that he was not taking a telephone, and that it could take him longer than planned to get home.


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John K Kamasua

Mr. Allen has been found, or he showed up, alive and well.

He denied international media over allegation of a set-up, and said there were no such things when talking to the Tourism Promotion Authority.

He sounds like a gentleman enough!

He now needs to get back to those international media and tell his story to put his case to rest, once and for all.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I like the first paragraph Peter.

"An anthropologist, an explorer and a tourist walk into a bar. They’re each clutching a spear. The anthropologist describes how it was presented to her on her seventh fieldwork season by the elders of the tribe. The explorer regales them with the tale of how he won the spear upon completing an initiation challenge the tribe had set for him, filmed for a documentary. The tourist explains that he paid $10 for his at the market, and needs to get back now otherwise the cruise ship will leave without him …"

Peter Kranz

This is an interesting article about the inherent ethical dilemmas facing anthropologists, explorers and tourists.

And of course people are not objective subjects like rocks or birds. It is only through a sharing of language, experience and culture that we can come to understand each other.

It’s perhaps as patriarchal – with all the echoes of colonial-era racism – to suggest that it’s for “us” to decide what is or isn’t ok for “them”.

Maybe the remote Papua New Guinean tribe want to welcome the same white guy who last showed up thirty years ago. Maybe once-remote peoples see holidaying visitors as a key revenue stream for their 21st-century lives.

And maybe the adventurous anthropologist with tenure in mind is no more or less self-interested than the tourist who wants an exotic selfie for instagram, or the explorer who wants another yarn to tell.


Barbara Short

Christopher Albert just told me.....I met him on his visit this year, about a 6 -8 weeks ago. I've forgotten the date. So he came with a group of British Tourists and he was the leader of the group. I am working with Sepik Adventure Tours and i had to take them out to Pagwi for their tour of the Sepik. They came back 3 days later and went to Tufi and he told me that he will be returning on a Wednesday that was like 5 days later and he asked if i can help to organize a car to use for about an hour to shop for bushknives and other material things to go to a remote area somewhere along the Sepik borders via a hired helicopter. And that was the last time i talked to him.

Arnold Mundua

If the Daily Mail needs a guide to track down this lost adventurer in Mt Hagen it should look no further Ireland. Knock on the door and ask for Fr Gary Roche.

Chris Overland

From today's Daily Mail in the UK:

"(The missing man) was spotted by tribal chiefs (yep, chiefs no less) near an airstrip in PNG's remote Enga Province after failing ... to find the last people on the planet who have no contact with the outside world."

Where are they hiding, these phantoms of the jungle? Perhaps he should have googled it to find out?


"Mr Allen was eventually tracked down to Mount Hagen, one of the most remote mountains in the world."

Wow, found at remotest Mount Hagen (population 46,256 in 2013). Perhaps one of Air New Guinea's regular jet flights spotted him whilst coming into land?

I think that I sense a book deal and associated documentary coming on, in which Mr Allen vividly recounts his desperate 3 week journey in the wilds of PNG, pursued be ravening cannibals and afflicted by awful tropical diseases, leeches, insects, etc.

Shows what happens if you leave your iPhone and GPS at home, eh?

Garry Roche

Guardian today has a critical comment by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff on Benedict Allen that concludes by saying:

"White men such as Benedict Allen should cease their meaningless, problematic 'explorations' and focus instead on the ways they can counter the privileges they inhabit, at home and abroad."

Peter Kranz

Another publicity stunt? Like the reality show couple who were supposedly held up on the Kokoda track the other year and found to be frauds?

Kokoda track tour operator Charlie Lynn said things "just didn't add up" with the story of his disappearance.

"I thought 'Here we go again, we've got another British explorer or reality star wannabe going to Papua New Guinea to try and generate a sensational story, using the thing of remote jungles and crocodile infestation and cannibals and getting lost and then later on getting found'," Mr Lynn said.

"He's supposedly an experienced explorer, he's been there before, but to go into a remote area of Papua New Guinea without a GPS; and apparently he didn't make any plans for his own evacuation if he needed it, and he didn't let anybody know where he was going.

Mr Lynn said the story fuelled negative perceptions of the country in the international media.

"I've got to say Papua New Guinea don't help themselves a lot but they're the victims in these scams, if you like, where people come in and they make out they're backward jungle cannibals living in remote tribal areas and so forth," he said.

"It's just grist to the mill for a sensationalist newspaper report and it certainly gets international attention."


Michael Geketa

Men are fond of these:
*being famous
*being glorified
*legacy making
*being praised
*making history
By the unfolding of things, this scenario to have been framed just to achieve one of the above.
Front page of today's National Paper [17th November 2017] stated, 'Missing British Explorer 'Spotted'

Baka Bina

Larim pukpuk kaikaim em.

Garry Roche

The Guardian reporting that this man has been found "alive and well" but still in a remote area. "Allen, 57, has spotted near an airstrip and has asked to be rescued, according to reports." All going as planned ???

Barbara Short

I just found this update in today's Guardian.....The explorer who went missing in the Papua New Guinean jungle has been found alive and well and has asked for a rescue party to be sent to pick him up, it has been reported.

Benedict Allen, who has made programmes for the BBC, had gone travelling in an attempt to find the Yaifo tribe, one of the few left in the world that has little to no contact with outsiders and whom he first met 30 years ago.

The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who met up with Allen just before he left and who sought to publicise the 57-year-old’s disappearance after he missed a planned flight home, said his friend had been sighted.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Gardner said: “He has been sighted alive and well near a remote airstrip in Papua New Guinea having trekked vast distances. He has requested rescue and efforts are under way to get him out. This is only a reported sighting, but it is the second sighting and it’s a tribal commission that has been looking for him and they have reported him in. So unless they have got it horribly wrong, and I’m not aware of any other lost British explorers in that part of Papua New Guinea, Benedict Allen is safe and well.”

A spokeswoman for Jo Sarsby Management, Allen’s agent, told the Guardian it is believed he was waiting at an airstrip in the country’s Hewa region.

She said it was understood the airstrip was not accessible by road and that it is hoped that a helicopter would be sent on Friday.

Later, Gardner reported that Allen was still at risk because he is “marooned” on an airstrip cut off by road after tribal fighting.


One of my Sepik wantoks will ring up tomorrow to find out what is going on.

John K Kamasua

Yes Phil. Not only does he sound annoying, but I would say a very careless man indeed or an attention seeker, trying to create a scene.

Someone or the local police should simply bundle him up and send him to Port Moresby, from where he can be sent on his way!

He must never be allowed into the country again.

We are tired of "attention seekers" already.

The local indigenous people have copped a hammering of their image internationally for all the wrong reasons.

Arnold Mundua

No one in PNG, even in the remotest corner is completely cut of from modernisation. A preplanned adventure story for the one who commissioned this trip, I guess.

Barbara Short

from Paul Mateos...

I recall Benedict,He was staying in Inn Wewak Boutique Hotel when I was asked by my dad (Mateos Alois) to pick him up and help him do his shopping for his trip to the Sepik River at the end of last month. He was on his private tour to a very remote part of the Sepik. He said he was going to Bisorio by a chopper. I asked him how long he'll be out there and he said for 13 days..with his camera he took videos of the whole shopping trip. He bought 2 bales of rice,a dozen of tuna cans,corned beef,sackets of coffee,biscuits,blankets,mosquito nets,Bush knives,water containers,etc..I believe he is not missing but must be out of communications range and got stranded..

Philip Fitzpatrick

The so-called Yaifo are by no means isolated. They have access to mobile phones and lots of other modern technology.

Hopefully one of them will give the cops a buzz and ask them to get rid of this annoying man.

Bernard Corden

Another Alby Mangels living on Mars Bars awaiting an exclusive formulaic interview with an alleged journalist from the Channel 9 Today program

Murray Bladwell

I hate to sound cynical but this story has all the elements of a set up.

When Mr Allen reappears, and he will, there will be headlines, "Intrepid explorer escapes from remote headhunter tribe.

It will elaborate his run in with drug dealers and the terrors of being lost in the jungle without food or water, terrorised by wild pigs, no phone communication etc.

The statements from his sister all seem to carry elements of a Bear Grylls character and potential elements of a plot. A great promotional story if he is about to release a book or make a dramatic presentation to the Royal Geological society.

And by the way, he will have had the foresight to return to civilisation with rolls of wild film footage of his capture/adventure.

By the way, a warning to all dogs in the Yaifo area, avoid a hungry man!

If I am wrong I will most happily apologise for my cynicism!

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