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Canoeist Lost On Island For 41 Days Island In Okefenokee Swamp Has Jungle-Like Vegetation

Mon., March 18, 1996

Veteran outdoorsman Mike Goodell was confident he could find his way back to his canoe after getting lost on an island in the Okefenokee Swamp. He was right - it just took 41 days to do it.

Goodell says he lost more than 50 pounds during his ordeal, surviving on meals of bugs, leaves and berries washed down with swamp water. Sleep was limited to a few fitful hours a day.

“Just perseverance,” Goodell said. “I just hung out.”

Goodell, 33, wandered endlessly through the thick foliage covering Billy’s Island, an eight-square-mile piece of land in the famed southern swamp. Search parties using sophisticated equipment couldn’t track him down. “I wasn’t hiding,” Goodell said. “I just kept walking around.”

Jim Burkhart, who directs park operations in the 400,000-acre swamp, said the island has pockets of extremely dense vegetation.

“It may have been like two ships passing in the night,” Burkhart said. “There are pockets, low areas, that the vegetation is so heavy … it’s worse in some places than the South American jungle.”

Goodell, of Mount Morris, N.Y., weighed in at 246 pounds at Clinch County Memorial Hospital on Saturday. He weighed around 300 pounds when he began his venture.

Lost Feb. 4, he was found Friday by park volunteers after he finally relocated his lost canoe. He was dehydrated and had scrapes, cuts, bug bites and bruises.


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