Real Names: Peter Hanchett, Benjamin Kalama, Ralph Malaiakini, Scott
Moorman and Patrick Woesner
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Hana, Hawaii
Date: February 11, 1979
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Unrevealed
Details: On the afternoon of February 11, 1979, Peter Hanchett, Benjamin Kalama, Ralph Malaiakini, Scott Moorman and Patrick Woesner set sail from Maui, Hawaii for a pleasant fishing trip off a seventeen-foot Boston whaler called the Sarah Joe. They had a good day at start, but the wind picked up and a storm came in. Peter's father, John Hanchett, grew concerned and went out into the middle of the storm to look for them. After several hours, he went back without finding any traces of the boat. The next day, he was joined by marine biologist John Naughton; again, they came up empty. On the third day, Captain Jim Cushman of the Coast Guard continued the search for the Sarah Joe by helicopter and ship. Five days later, the search was officially suspended; a total of seventy-three thousand miles had been searched. No trace of the Sarah Joe or the five men was found.
On September 9, 1988, John Naughton was on a wildlife expedition to a deserted atoll called Taongi approximately 2000 miles from Maui, a part of the Marshall Islands, when he discovered a small boat washed onshore. Based on looking at the boat, he could tell it was registered in Hawaii. Several feet from the boat, he found a shallow grave with a human jawbone protruding from a pile of rocks.
The Coast Guard linked the boat to the Sarah Joe and dental records proved the jawbone was part of the remains of Scott Moorman, one of the missing Sarah Joe fishermen. It is entirely possible that the boat made it to the island within three months, but the problem is that a Government survey of the island six years previously would have found the boat and remains on the island. Were the other four men lost at sea during the interim and arrived after the expedition or did someone arrive on the island to leave the boat and Moorman's remains?
A possible clue rests on the island. Moorman's jawbone had been buried with an unbound stack of papers 3/4 inches by 3/4 inches alternated by slips of tin foil material between the pages. The cryptic papers may be part of a Chinese burial ritual representing money and fortune in the next life. Known as Joss paper or "Ghost Money," gold and silver foil such as the ones inside the papers also represent money or good fortune for the dead to bring with them into the next life.
Suspects: None; foul play is not suspected in their disappearances.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 11, 1989 episode.
Results: Unresolved. The family hired private investigator Steve Goodenow to look into the loss of the crew. He took a team to Taongi and discovered a new "handful" of Scott Moorman's bones near the original grave. Drivers also found the boat's engine's wedged underwater in nearby coral.
Given the narrow channel between the reefs and islands, it is unlikely the boat could have reached the Taongi lagoon without human interference. Goodenow hypothesized that Chinese fisherman found Moorman's body and buried him; he further theorized that fisherman did not report the incident since they had been fishing in the area illegally. Robert Malaiakini, brother of missing crew member Ralph Malaiakini, thinks that Moorman tied himself to the boat to weather the storm; he doubts that anyone from the Sarah Joe could have survived the storm and 2,200-mile journey to Taongi.
Memorial plaques to commemorate the crew were installed on the Taongi atoll and in Hana Bay.
- The Crew of the Sarah Joe on Unsolved.com
- 1988 Article on the Sarah Joe
- 2009 Article on the Sarah Joe
- Blog Concerning the Sarah Joe