Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Rockefeller

Land at First Light

At first light, roughly 5 a.m., they could make out land in the far distance. Wassink estimated the shore to be four to seven miles away. Dutch authorities would later say they were likely about 11 miles out.

The men broke off pieces of wood and tried to paddle the capsized boat, but it was to no avail.

The two then hashed over their options.

Rockefeller argued that they could not be certain that the Asmat teens reached shore, so the prospects for rescue were uncertain at best.

Michael argued that he should swim for it.

Wassink quoted him as saying, "This is our last chance. If we don't take it, we'll just float farther and farther out to sea."

Wassink said, "We had a long discussion, and I tried very hard to talk that plan out of his head. I talked about the dangerous tides and the swift currents. He listened to me, but I knew in advance that he would go ahead. It was always very difficult to make him change his mind... He was a brave man, but also very unreasonable... Bluntly, I said to him, 'Michael, you are mad.'"

Rockefeller went ahead with his preparation, emptying the two gas cans, stripping down and fastening his eyeglasses with twine.

Wassink said Rockefeller's last words were: "I think I can make it."

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