A British explorer has gone missing while attempting to find an indigenous tribe in Papua New Guinea.
Benedict Allen who has previously recorded series for the BBC and written books on exploration, was on a journey to rediscover the Yaifo, a tribe thought to be one of the last on Earth to have no contact with the outside world.
In a post on his website before setting off titled “I may be some time”, the 57-year-old said he was looking to meet with the tribe 30 years after discovering them for the first time.
A helicopter dropped Allen off at Bisorio without a satellite phone, GPS or companion and he was due back in the country’s capital Port Moresby on Sunday to travel to Hong Kong.
His agent Joanna Sarsby told the Daily Mail his wife Lenka was “very worried”.
She added: “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. He never takes a phone with him – he believes in living like the locals. For him not to come back is really odd.”
Allen’s last tweet, dated 11 October, featured a picture of the explorer wearing a backpack and said: “Marching off to Heathrow. I may be some time (don’t try to rescue me, please – where I’m going in PNG you won’t ever find me you know…)”
His older sister Katie Pestille told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme her brother’s disappearance was “ghastly” and “out of character.”
She added: “For everybody else, it’s very exciting – all the expeditions and all the things he does, but for his sister and his wife, it’s more of a worry.
“He knows all about that survival stuff. It’s just what worries me is there are bad people in these jungles.
“You would think that they were totally empty but there are people in there. I mean, I know more about the Amazon, but there are loggers and drug dealers and all sorts of bad people.”
Allen’s friend, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, who travelled to Papua New Guinea with him twice last year, said: “I would say the chances are that Benedict is going to be fine, I hope those aren’t famous last words.
“Benedict always expected something like this. I had supper with him just before he left and he said, ‘look, I’m quite certain I’ll probably be out of contact for quite some time and people shouldn’t worry about it’.”
In a blog post on his website, Allen wrote in September: “The Yaifo are one of the last people on the entire planet who are out of contact with our interconnected world.
“In October I’m hiring a helicopter to drop me off at the abandoned mission station, Bisorio – a forlorn place.
“Last time the Yaifo greeted me with a terrifying show of strength, an energetic dance featuring their bows and arrows.
“On this occasion who knows if the Yaifo will do the same, or run off, or be wearing jeans and T-shirts traded eons ago from the old mission station.
“Nor do I have an obvious means of returning to the outside world, which is somewhat worrying, especially at my advanced age.
“Either I must paddle down river for a week or so – or enlist the help of the Yaifo, as I did last time.
“So, if this website or my Twitter account falls more than usually silent – I’m due back mid-Nov – it’s because I am still out there somewhere.
“So, don’t bother to call or text. Just like the good old days, I won’t be taking a sat phone, GPS or companion. Or anything else much. Because this is how I do my journeys of exploration. I grow older but no wiser, it seems.”