NPF: BURIED AT SEA

Posted in No Politics Friday on August 20th, 2015 by Ed

Mysteries don't have to be grand in scope in order to be compelling. Consider this story, true in every detail, as evidence.

On February 11, 1979 an ex-hippie named Scott Moorman, who had given up life in the mainland U.S. to live as a fisherman in Hawaii, boarded a boat christened the Sarah Jo with four of his friends. Their plan was simply to spend the day fishing as they often did. A few hours after they departed Hana, HI the day's perfect weather took a rapid turn for the worse. A near-hurricane passed through the island chain, causing a great deal of damage on land as well as to ocean vessels. The Sarah Jo did not return that evening or the next day. One of Moorman's companions was one Peter Hanchett, which is important because Hana resident John Hanchett – Peter's father – was the only person who realized that the five men were out on their comparatively tiny boat during the storm. Being free spirited Beach Bum types none of the men had thought to inform anyone of their itinerary or specific destination, if one even existed.

The elder Hanchett and a neighbor went out to sea but quickly threw in the towel on account of the weather. The next day Hanchett resumed the search with the help of a local marine biologist named John Naughton. The day after that the U.S. Coast Guard got involved, eventually searching over 73,000 square miles of open ocean. No trace of the Sarah Jo or its passengers was found. Eventually the men were presumed dead.

"Ed, this story isn't very interesting so far." You're not wrong. But.

In 1988 a marine biologist doing research in the Marshall Islands came upon the wreckage of a boat on a remarkably isolated atoll called Bokak. If Bokak is not the actual middle of nowhere, that point certainly must be visible from it. Bokak (Population: 0) is so remote that it is 450 miles from Majuro, the main atoll of the famously remote Marshalls. It is the remote corner of a remote country. It is also 2,200 miles from Hana, HI.

Analysis of the wreckage proved definitively that it was the Sarah Jo. No trace of Scott Moorman's four companions was found, but under a neatly stacked pile of stones not unlike a burial marker the researcher found an intact human jawbone. Dental records matched it to Scott Moorman. The researcher, by the way, was John Naughton. He had set out looking for Moorman the day after his disappearance and found him nine years later entirely by accident. Oh, and there was something buried with the skeletal remains:

"It was a sheaf of paper, and I’d say a book, except it was not bound. Probably three inches by three inches by maybe 3/4 of an inch thick. But between each one of these pieces of paper, there was a very small square piece of tin foil material. We have not been able to determine who placed that there or, what purpose it serves."

Huh.

It is hardly surprising that Moorman and his friends died after becoming lost at sea. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the boat broke apart and the other four men disappeared into the waves. But who buried Scott Moorman – on a deserted atoll hundreds of miles from…anything, really – and why? Why would anyone go through the effort to do that, and in the middle of nowhere at that? What explains the seemingly random but intricate papers buried with him? The most likely scenario in my mind is that someone buried him because they feared that by informing the Coast Guard they would somehow become suspects in Moorman's death. This is patently silly, though, as the fact that Moorman and the others died from exposure after drifting out to sea seems obvious.

It's not exactly the gunman on the grassy knoll or the disappearance of Lord Lucan, but it would be interesting to know who performed this rather strange ritual with Moorman's remains, why they did it, and why they chose such an odd location. It would have made approximately as much sense if his body had been discovered, partially buried, on the Moon.