A British explorer who went missing while attempting to find an indigenous tribe in Papua New Guinea has been spotted “alive and well”, according to reports.
Benedict Allen had not been seen for three weeks after being dropped by helicopter into deep jungle in Bisorio. He had been due to complete his mission and return home to his family on Sunday.
Amid growing fears for Allen’s safety and the mounting of a search, the BBC reported on Thursday morning that the 57-year-old had been spotted near a remote airstrip in Papua New Guinea, 20 miles north-west of Porgera, Enga Province.
His friend, the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, tweeted that Allen was “not out of danger yet”, adding: “He’s marooned at an airstrip after tribal fighting cut off all the road bridges.”
His agent Jo Sarsby told the BBC she had received written confirmation that Allen was “safe, well and healthy” and that an air evacuation was being arranged.
Gardner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a second sighting had been made by tribal chiefs who claimed Allen was requesting rescue.
Gardner said: “It’s always possible that they could have made a mistake but I’m not aware of any other 57-year-old lanky British explorers that have gone missing in that area, so let’s hope that it isn’t a false glimmer of hope. But I think he’s going to be OK.”
Allen had been 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.
He last encountered the tribe 30 years ago. Sarsby had earlier described the Yaifo as “possibly headhunters, quite a scary bunch.”
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.”