American missing on volcanic island is award-winning poet, assistant professor

by Alex Martin

The missing American man last seen Monday on Kuchinoerabu Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, is an award-winning poet and assistant professor at a U.S. university, according to his family and the school.

The man, identified by his brother as Craig Arnold, 41, is on the English department faculty at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The author of two published volumes of poetry, Arnold is in Japan on the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission’s Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship, a press release by the university revealed.

Arnold was apparently visiting the active volcano on the island, 12 km west of Yakushima, for a book he is writing on volcanoes around the world. The last entry in his blog, titled “Volcano Pilgrim: Five Months in Japan as a Wandering Poet,” appeared April 26, the day he disappeared.

According to Yakushima police, an unidentified man in his 40s was last seen at the head of a mountain trail on the volcanic island Monday afternoon. Police and firefighters combed the area for three days since learning of the disappearance early Tuesday, but have found no trace of the man, a police official said.

On Friday, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said that on Thursday four U.S. military helicopters from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in the area on an unrelated mission assisted in the search for a few hours, but turned up nothing.

Meanwhile, Yakushima police said Friday they will continue the search for another three days with additional personnel. Although such searches usually are called off after three days, the official said they decided to continue after being informed by the U.S. Embassy that “a friend of the missing person” said Arnold had made a Facebook entry at 10:18 a.m. Thursday.

“We thought there were grounds to prolong the search based on that information,” the official said.

The embassy official said, however, they had no information regarding the Facebook entry.

Kuchinoerabu is a small, 38-sq.-km island with a population of approximately 150. A popular tourist destination, the island also features volcanic mountains with steep cliffs, which could potentially be dangerous to hikers.

The university’s press release said Arnold’s book “Shells” was chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W. S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1999. Arnold published a second volume of verse, titled “Made Flesh,” in 2008.