Search continues for U.S. professor missing in Japan

By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 6, 2009

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The search continued Monday for a missing American hiker on tiny, volcanic Kuchinoerabu Island, but local police and residents have found little sign of the man.

Craig Arnold, a 41-year-old poet and University of Wyoming assistant professor, was last seen on the island April 27, arriving by ferry to continue a five-month trek to Japan’s volcanoes.

Kagoshima Prefectural Police spokesman Yoshiyuki Kuzuhara said the only clues searchers have found so far are footprints going up a path to the mouth of the active volcano.

A search of the mountain’s rim turned up no sign of the man.

After arriving on the island, Arnold checked in at a local guest house and paused for a cup of tea, then left his baggage and headed alone on foot to Mount Shindake, a 2,170-foot active volcano.

He had planned to hike for two hours and was wearing only a windbreaker, the innkeeper told police. He carried two walking sticks and no food or water.

It is believed that Arnold wandered off the trail at nightfall. Rescue teams have been using infrared techniques to look for any signs of life, but Kuzuhara said search activities have been extremely difficult in the thick jungle and rugged terrain.

Kuzuhara said Arnold’s brother arrived on the island Sunday and joined about 40 police officers and islanders in the search.

Kuzuhara discounted reports that Arnold may have accessed his Facebook Web page by satellite phone on April 30.

"The cell phone Mr. Arnold has with him is a SoftBank phone, and the island is totally out of its service area," he said.

Arnold was doing research for a lyrical book on volcanoes and kept a blog of his travels called "Volcano Pilgrim" at http://volcanopilgrim.wordpress.com.

The island is a popular tourist destination with numerous hot springs. However, warnings are posted on the mountain trails to deter hikers from climbing to the volcano’s rim.

Kuzuhara said Mount Shindake is "a very dangerous place" with frequent releases of sulfur gas.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.

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