Japanese End Search for Craig Arnold

Rescuers in Japan have ended the search for Craig Arnold, missing at a volcano.

May 1, 2009, 5:23 PM

May 8, 2009— -- Japanese search-and-rescue teams have ended a 10-day search for the prize-winning poet Craig Arnold, who has been missing on a remote volcanic island.

The University of Wyoming assisant professor went missing April 26 after he set off hiking on the island of Kuchinoerabu-jima, about 30 miles off the Coast of Japan's southern Kyushu island.

Arnold's footprints were found going up the path to the mouth of the inactive volcano, and in the last few days, rescue teams found his tracks near a steep incline, where he may have fallen.

The island is remotely populated by only a few hundred residents and is densely wooded with deciduous trees and bamboo.

Arnold is the author of two award-winning volumes of poetry: "Shells," chosen by W.S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Young Poets in 1999, and "Made Flesh," published in 2008. He is currently a fellow with the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange.

The literary community galvanized around the search for the poet, posting the latest information on Web sites, like the Poetry Foundation and The New Yorker. The University of Wisconsin has involved the state's congressional delegation and the State Department.

He has been described as "one of the most gifted and accomplished poets of his generation" by former poet laureate Robert Pinsky.

"He achieves a distinctive cadence of desire and interdependence," Pinsky said. "His writing about what holds one person to another articulates a tremendous emotional underworld, distinctive and memorable."

"It would a great loss to American poetry," said Mark Strand, who was poet laureate from 1990 to 1991, won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Blizzard of One," and mentored Arnold at the University of Utah.

"He's not a frail guy at all," Strand told ABCNews.com.

Easy-to-Climb Volcano

Arnold's family said he was physically fit and had lots of experience hiking mountainous terrain in Europe, and Central and South America.

Kuchinoerabu-jima is considered a relatively easy volcano to climb, earning a 2-out-of-10 rating for difficulty.

"He's a tough guy and a smart person," said his brother, Chris Arnold, who traveled to Japan to help mobilize the search. "He's visited a lot of volcanoes, and this one is a breeze."

Arnold checked in to Watanabe, the only inn on the small island of Kuchinoerabu-jima, on april 26.

Leaving his bags at the inn, he was driven to the path leading up to the volcano. Expecting a two-hour hike, he had only a nylon jacket and a walking stick, according to his brother. Arnold had an iPhone, but reception was spotty on the island.

Police have told the family Arnold's footprints were found ascending, but not descending, the mountain path. The one-mile diameter caldera -- or summit area -- was extensively searched and nothing was found.

Authorities suspect that Arnold may have wandered off the trail into dense forest that would have darkened at nightfall. The inn owners called the fire brigade at 9 p.m. when he failed to return, who searched until midnight.

The Japanese initially called off the search after three days, but U.S. officials pushed to have the search extended. They have told the family there is no danger of exposure with springlike temperatures and that fresh water and food sources are available.

Arnold's mysterious disappearance poses as many contradictions as the last entry in his blog, "Volcano Pilgrim: Five Months as a Wandering Poet."

There, Arnold wrote about the plant angelica, a member of the apiaceae family, which includes both the sweet herb cilantro and deadly hemlock, which he noted killed Socrates.

Poet Has Safety Protocol

Because Arnold has traveled so widely, he has a safety protocol with his partner of six years, Rebecca Lindenberg: If she doesn't hear from him in 48 hours, get help.

In this case, it was the Japanese authorities who contacted her.

"I was in complete and total shock, almost nonfunctional with worry and anxiety," said Lindenberg, 31, who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah and agreed to be the person to "stay on the ground" in the United States.

"We take it a day at a time," she told ABCNews.com six days after the poet went missing. "It's quite mysterious, and nobody has been able to reconstruct a narrative for what has happened to Craig.

"He's not an enormous risk taker," she said. "He knows he's not a volcanologist, he's a writer."

Lindenberg creatd a Facebook page to update friends and university colleagues.

"What has also been amazing and unfathomable and unexpected is the outpouring of concern from the literary community and others that just encircled us," she said.

The circumstances under which Arnold disappeared reflect the themes of his poetry -- "the vivid tactile and sensual nature of experience," according to Lindenberg.

"He is a poet who is, in the words of one of his own poems, 'full out to the skin,'" she said.

As she awaits news about his fate, she thinks of the last line in Arnold's poem, "The Singer," referring to a bird song:

And what they sing so lovely and so meaningless

        may urge itself upon you with the ache

of something just beyond the point of being remembered

        the trace of a brave thought in the face of sadness.

According to a May 7 entry on Craig's Facebook page, authorities "believe they have identified where Craig's tracks end at a steep incline. The team believes that Craig went down that incline but they do not believe it would necessarily be a fatal fall."

But now, his fate is less certain.

Arnold's sister-in-law, Augusta Palmer of Brooklyn, N.Y., is reminded of his poem, "Couple From Hell," about the Greek goddess Persephone, whom the earth enveloped one day but who eventually returned, bringing spring. Palmer hopes her brother, too, is only in hiding and will soon re-emerge.

His philosphy, Palmer told ABCNews.com, is "poets should go where ordinary people can't or won't go to tell what experience is like."