Tiburón Island is the largest island in the Gulf of California and the largest island in Mexico, with an area of 1,201 square kilometres (464 sq mi).
It was made a nature reserve in 1963 by President Adolfo López Mateos. Tiburón is Spanish for shark. Although the Seri name was first recorded by Alphonse Pinart in 1879, its etymology is unknown.
Tiburón Island is part of the state of Sonora, as well as the municipality of Hermosillo, and is located at approximately the same latitude as the city of Hermosillo. It is located along the eastern shore of the Gulf of California, opposite Isla Ángel de la Guarda. It is part of the chain of islands known as the Midriff Islands or Islas Grandes.
Tiburón Island is part of the traditional homeland of some bands (or clans) of the Seri people, probably for many centuries if not millennia. During the 1960s and early 1970s, a small hunting and fishing camp on the northern end of the island was operated by Jesus Olivas, a resident of Hermosillo. He constructed several buildings, a dock and an airstrip near the historic Seri encampment at Tecomate. The camp was popular with American visitors to the area. The remains of the structures and airstrip are still in place (although the airstrip was rendered unusable by the Mexican military around 1995 in an attempt to keep it from being used by smugglers who were active in the area at the time). In 1975, the Mexican government, through a decree by President Echeverría, gave the Seri recognition and title of communal property (“reconocimiento y titulación de terrenos comunales”) with respect to Tiburón Island.
The island is uninhabited (except for Mexican military encampments on the eastern and southern shores of the island) and is administered as an ecological preserve by the Seri tribal government in conjunction with the federal government. Bighorn sheep were introduced to the island in the 1980s; hunting is managed by the tribal government in coordination with Mexican federal authorities. It is also home to a subspecies of Coyote (Canis latrans jamesi) that is found nowhere but the island.
The island can be reached from Punta Chueca, which is the nearest community inhabited by members of the Seri tribe, and from Bahía de Kino, a non-Seri community 34 kilometres (21 miles) to the south. The distance from Punta Chueca to Punta Tormenta, the nearest point on the island, is 3 kilometres (1.9 miles). The channel between the mainland and the island is called Canal del Infiernillo (“Hell’s Channel”), because of the strong tidal currents and shoal water that occur there which can make navigation challenging. The island has a prominent mountain system of volcanic origin.
Two permits are required for day hiking and overnight stays on the island: one from the Seri Governor’s office in Punta Chueca and another from the ISLAS office in Bahía de Kino.
In 2012, a television episode of Survivorman Ten Days (Les Stroud) was filmed on Tiburón Island.
The Tiburón Island Tragedy occurred in 1905 when three members of a small American gold prospecting expedition went missing in the Sonoran Desert near Tiburón Island. At the time, Tiburon was inhabited by the Seri natives, who were widely believed to have been responsible for the fate of the expedition. There were also Yaqui renegades active in the area and there were rumors about their involvement as well. However, the sole American survivor, Jack Hoffman, said that lack of water was most likely the cause. Of the five-man expedition, the leader, Thomas F. Grindell, and two of his associates disappeared while the other two men survived, including a Papago guide, who left the journey early on. A prolonged search for the missing men then commenced. Led by Edward P. Grindell, search parties uncovered several artifacts that had belonged to members of the expedition, as well as evidence of their fate, but no trace of the men themselves was found. It was not until over a year later that the remains of Thomas Grindell were discovered by another group of explorers. Evidence at the scene seemed to confirm that dehydration was the cause of death.
Tiburon Island is the largest island of Mexico, but its location in the middle of the Gulf of California meant that it was still extremely remote in 1905. It was also sacred land of the Seri people, who were a small tribe that lived either on the island or on the Sonora coast. A narrow strip of land connected the island to the mainland, but it could be accessed only at extreme low tide, which was still dangerous. The Seri also had pinewood boats, called belsas, which could be used for getting across the water or for fishing. The Seri were considered extremely hostile and very primitive in 1905. They were not believed to have developed the use of fire and ate all of their food raw. They did not have any firearms and every time foreigners stepped foot onto Tiburon, they were met with a hail of arrows and other projectiles. There were two long-standing myths about the island: that it was rich in gold and that it was filled with Seri cannibals. Neither proved to be true, but the Seri were known to have killed several people between 1893 and 1905.
In 1894 or 1896, according to conflicting sources, an American newspaperman and romantic writer named R. E. L. Robinson went to Tiburon and never came back. According to James H. McClintock, before leaving his home in Phoenix, Arizona, Robinson told an Associated Press correspondent that he intended to be gone for six months, at the end of which he would return with some stories about the natives. Robinson also told the correspondent that he wanted to be pronounced dead by the newspapers so that people would assume he was killed by the natives. After heading south to Yuma, Robinson joined the owner of a small sloop and the two men sailed to the island from the Colorado River. However, not long after going ashore, the boatman heard a pistol shot and saw Robinson struck down by stones and or arrows. The boatman barely escaped, set sail for Guaymas, and reported to the authorities what he had seen. Between 1896 and 1897, Captain George Porter, who had participated in multiple natural history expeditions in Lower California, disappeared after he sailed his junk to the island to collect seashells and curios. When he failed to return home, the Mexican Army conducted a search of the island and found nothing more than a shoe, the remains of a large campfire, and the sternpost of the junk. No human bones were found and there were no signs of a struggle, but the Mexicans reported that Porter was probably killed and cooked over a fire made by wood from the junk. In 1904, when two Yaqui renegades fled to Tiburon Island, the governor of Sonora, Rafael Izabal, sent a messenger to the Seri: “Bring in the Yaquis with their hands tied to a pole and you will receive a reward.” The Seri did not speak Spanish, so that the messenger had to rely on sign language, which was not very clear. Some time later, a group of Seri women arrived in Hermosillo with eight bloody Yaqui hands tied to a pole and protected by a pair of straw hats. Later that year, Governor Izabal launched a military campaign to clear the island of its inhabitants. Although the engagement is considered to be the last formal campaign against the Seri, a small band of hostiles remained on the island and fighting continued into the 1920s.
The Grindell expedition consisted of four Americans and one Papago guide; Thomas Grindell, the leader, G. Olin Ralls, or Rawlins, Jack Hoffman, David Ingram, or Ingraham, and Dolores Valenzuela. Grindell was a respected educator; before his disappearance, he was both a teacher and principal of schools in Nogales and Tempe, as well as a clerk for Arizona’s Supreme Court. Moreover, in 1898, he served as a sergeant of the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. Grindell had briefly visited Tiburon some time between 1903 and 1904, but, upon his return, had reported to a Douglas newspaper that the natives were “the most peaceable people on earth.” The newspaper went further, saying: “Many of them were so poor that they could hardly navigate and lived on a very plain diet, such as fish and turtles. They do not cook their food and do not use knives, but simply in a very primitive manner tear the food asunder and eat it raw. The women are supreme in tribal government and the older they are the greater their power.” The expedition set out from Nogales, Arizona in the summer of 1905 and headed south for Hermosillo. With help from the commander of the Rurales, Emilio Kosterlitsky, they collected the Papago guide, some provisions, and horses, donkeys, and water. Grindell made the unfortunate mistake of storing all of the water in five-gallon oil cans, which were attached to the donkeys. A small still was also brought along to purify seawater, but failed to work properly. The expedition made slow progress and, according to Hoffman, on the day before reaching the coast, the guide refused to go further. By that time, they were already nearly out of water, and they found the narrow strait connecting the island to the mainland to be impassable. Instead of continuing further, the men attempted to find a cattle ranch that they supposed to be in the area, but never found it owing to their inaccurate map. According to McClintock, all of the men eventually became separated and died in the desert, except Hoffman, who survived off the fauna and from water he distilled. When he did finally reach safety, on November 5, 1905, Hoffman discovered that he had been alone for four months and that he had walked over 150 miles from Tiburon to a point near Guaymas, crossing over desert, swamps, and mountainous terrain. He also assisted Edward Grindell in his search, once he was healthy again.
Jack Hoffman’s account
The following was reported in a 1905 edition of the Bisbee Daily Review, shortly after Jack Hoffman returned to Guaymas:
We left Bisbee June 1st for Nogales, where supplies were secured and from there went to Santa Ana, Sonora, by train, where Grindell and Ralls left their surplus baggage; thence by Stage to Altar, where we secured more supplies, one horse and a burro [donkey]; thence to Pitiquito also by stage, where we bought one horse and four burros, with two pack saddles. At Pitiquito we packed our burros and started for Terno Rancho. Before reaching there, however, two dry camps were made and more water was secured at the second camp from a ranch four miles distant. At Terno Rancho we secured a Papago guide. We then started for Coyote Springs, two or three camps being made on the way, the first one in the mountains, where a fresh supply of water was secured, the last we had. Then our hardships began. We were out of water long before reaching Coyote Springs and exceedingly thirsty. We stopped there a few days and then started for Tiburon Island pass, but in Coyote Springs we got the last water we ever had. Before reaching Tiburon pass, where our last camp together was made, we made three camps, one of which we made on account of the intense heat. Before reaching the third camp we were out of water, or rather nearly out, as Grindell and Ralls still had a little in their canteens. Dave Ingraham and myself were completely out, although Dave and I were in good shape. I was about played out and drank seven cups of sea water and two cups of coffee made out of sea water. You know the effects. The next morning I could hardly navigate, with about eight more miles to go to reach Tiburon pass. However, I dipped my head, arms and breast in sea water about every half mile or so and felt better right along. The reason that I played out was that I was the packer and the cook and did lots of sweating, although the boys helped all they could. We arrived at Tiburon pass, where Grindell and Doc Ralls took the animals and water cans and started to cross. In the meantime I was distilling water and distilled about ten tincups full. Dave and I drank seven. I continued to distill water, Ralls having given up the attempt to cross to the island and having started out for the San Antena Rancho with about half a gallon of water (distilled). He did not return for two days and we were forced to do something, distilling not furnishing water fast enough for three. We started out for the San Antena Rancho on or about June 28th. We ran across a strong trail and followed it, thinking that it would bring us to the ranch. After traveling twenty or thirty hours the trail proved to be a stock feed and water trail in wet weather. We stayed here in the shade the rest of the day, before starting for anywhere else. Dave and I were played out, but Grindell took the canteens and continued on; this was the last seen of Grindell. We rested all night and started back for the gulf the next morning. We found a shady spot to rest on the way back, but there was not shade enough and we were partly in the sun all day. The next night we continued toward the direction of the gulf and traveled two more nights together. We quenched our thirst by chewing the pulp of the water plant (cactus). The fourth night Dave could not go any farther and the fifth night I was forced to leave him, and made the gulf the next morning, weak and exhausted. High tide had covered our former camp and had done considerable damage. I found three or four bunches of matches which were not wet and started to distill water, but it took me all day to get some water. Olin Ralls had returned without water, as I found a plate with some fried bacon from which he had taken the grease and mixed it with flour and eaten part. It took me five days to regain strength enough to return to the mountains for Dave. I got out as far as we were or farther, but got so weak had to return without seeing anything of him. Stayed in camp three or four days more and, decided that the only way to save my life was to travel south for Guaymas. I left about July 14th or 15th, taking with me bacon, shotgun, the only gun left, the rifles and six-shooters being left on the desert, flour, baking powder, two pair blankets, coal oil and cooking utensils, making two loads. It took me until October 24th to reach Guaymas. I had to make detours of twenty or thirty miles around some of the swamps. I had too many troubles in regards to water, food, sore feet, etc., to bother you with.
The following was written by Jack Hoffman and appeared in Edward Grindell’s The Lost Explorers: The Mystery of a Vanished Expedition, an article in a 1907 edition of The Wide World Magazine:
I reached camp about daylight, plunged into the sea, and drank freely of the sea-water, which made me sick, but was refreshing. Then I resorted to the still in a desperate attempt to get some fresh water. After working all day I had a quart full. I made some coffee and ate a little bacon and bread. Oh, but it was good! Then I lay down on the sand and slept, awaking in the morning greatly refreshed. After a quick meal, with more coffee, I got the still to work again; this time it went better, and I made a canteen full besides what I used for myself. I rested for a day, and then filled the canteen and, carrying some food, went back to find poor Ingram. I travelled all night, and at daybreak I reached the place where I thought I had left him, but no Dave was to be found. I searched all round, but without success, returning at night to the coast camp. It is my opinion that during the night Ingram, in his delirium, got up and wandered. That was the last I saw of any of our party. On reaching the coast camp I found to my surprise that things were not as I had left them. Someone had been there! The distillery had been meddled with, the bacon cut open and much of it fried to a cinder and left in the pan, although there was no grease. The grubbox, too, had been rummaged, but nothing taken. Thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that Ralls, who went away first after water, had returned unsuccessful, and, crazed with thirst, had fried the bacon and drunk the grease. Where he vanished to afterwards, however, is more than I can tell; I could find no trace of him. I stayed about the camp for ten days, thinking some of my companions would come in. I spent most of my time in distilling water from the sea, which was a slow process with the poor apparatus I had. From a map we had I figured I was only some thirty miles from Guaymas, and as my supplies were getting low I decided to go down the coast, thinking I could get there in about a week. So I packed up my distillery, canteen, and stores, and with the shot-gun and one blanket started off down the coast, keeping near the beach. At one place, however, I found tracks which I thought were those of Ralls, so I started to follow them inland. I went about three miles with them, but as they were leading me into a sandy country with nothing but desert ahead I turned abruptly around and went back, continuing my journey down the coast. I stayed in the shade during the day and distilled water, travelling during the early morning and evening. I killed pelicans and sea-fowl with the shot-gun to supply myself with fresh meat, but after four weeks’ travel—making only a mile or two a day—my stock of shells got low and I only dared to take pot-shots at big birds. Once I waded out into the sea to get a pelican I had shot, and was just about to pick it up when a big shark came up like an express train and grabbed him from me. I took a book along with me which belonged to Thomas Grindell, and after reading it I left it in one of the camps. Passing the delta of the Sonora River I got into swamps, which I had to go around in places and at others wade through. I was in these swamps for a week, and often thought I should never get out. Part of the way I was waist-deep in water, and had to carry the outfit on my head. At one place the mountains came abruptly down to the sea, so I had to go back inland and cross them. My shoes were badly worn and travel over the rocks was hard and painful. In several parts of these mountains I found good copper ore, but did not feel inclined to spend any time in prospecting. Returning to the coast, I kept doggedly on, but before long my shot-gun shell gave out and my bacon was gone, so I had to eat what I could pick up along the shore. Often I would catch a fish in shallow water, and this made a good meal. I was getting very thin and weak. My matches had given out, my shoes were about gone, so that they had to be tied to my feet with rags, I had lost my hat, my hair and beard had grown long. I was a mere skeleton, but still I kept travelling, though it seemed a year since I had left Tiburon. A light rain fell on me once. Oh, why could not rain have fallen while we were at Tiburon and left us fresh water? It seemed as though all the forces of Nature had combined to make our trip a tragic failure. “Must I die on this awful coast or shall I ever live to see a human habitation?” I used to ask myself. I felt that coyotes and buzzards were following on my trail, and day by day, as my strength grew less, my camps got closer together. Some days I would not travel at all, but lay in the shade resting myself and my swollen feet. By this time a dead bird was welcome, and a jelly-fish made a good lunch; I could eat anything. Once I found a turtle’s nest with fifty fresh eggs. How delicious they were! They built me up and gave me fresh strength. Having no one to talk to I would often cry out just to see that I had not lost my voice, and that I was not in some hideous nightmare. One morning—how well I remember it!—I thought I could live but a few days more. Suddenly, rounding a bend on the beach and passing through a thicket of mangrove, I ran right into a camp. Could I believe my eyes? There was water, there was food. Hurrah! I was saved! I spied a plate a cold tortillas, and ate them all. Then I cleaned up a pot of frijoles and a plate of cold fried fish. I ate everything in sight; then I fell back and went to sleep. I was awakened by a rough shake, and found two Mexicans standing above me asking who I was and what I wanted. I told them my story in the best Spanish at my command, and they informed me they were fisherman out from Guaymas, which was about fifteen miles away, adding that I could stay with them until I had recovered my strength, when they would take me to Guaymas with them. The few days’ rest and plenty of food did me worlds of good. When I got into Guaymas I learned, to my astonishment, that it was the fifth day of November, and that I had been four months wandering down the coast alone! Instead of it being fifteen miles from Tiburon to Guaymas, as my wretched map showed, it was one hundred and fifty miles. I learned, too, that none of my companions had shown up, and that we had all been given up for lost.
Edward Grindell’s search party
Thomas Grindell intended to be back in Hermosillo no later than August 15, 1905. So after he and his men failed to appear, rumors began circulating that they had been massacred by either the Yaquis or the Seris. Three search parties were formed over the next several weeks. The first two were led by Thomas Grindell’s brother, Edward P. Grindell, who later wrote a detailed account of his experiences called The Lost Explorers: The Mystery of a Vanished Expedition. On September 1, after hearing no news about his brother’s whereabaouts, Edward Grindell traveled to Hermosillo, where he received “all the help possible” from Governor Izabal. Izabal issued Grindell the proper paperwork and he assigned a few Rurales to help in the search. He also sent for the Papago guide, who lived at a ranch near Caborca. The guide, Dolores Valenzuela, was very frightened after the Mexican authorities summoned him. According to Grindell, there was an unwritten law in Mexico that said that it was a very serious offense for a native guide to return from a journey without bringing his followers back safely. Valenzuela told Grindell that on June 24 he left the expedition on the beach in front of the island, after being paid for his service. He made no mention of what might have happened to the others, but he did agree to help in the search. By that time, news arrived in Caborca that some Papago hunters had discovered a disturbing site in the desert. In Edward Grindell’s words: “The day after I arrived in Caborca a report was brought to the town that Papago hunters in the vicinity of Tiburon had found a place where some Americans had been killed and eaten by the cannibals of the island. Nothing was left of the unfortunate whites but the hands, and these were nailed to a plank stuck on end in the ground. There were also dance rings in the soil around, showing where the cannibals had had a feast. The Papagoes also reported finding a tin camp-stove and broken cameras. Many people thought that this gruesome discovery explained the fate of the Thomas Grindell party, but still I would not give up hope.”
Edward Grindell’s account says that the people of Caborca were not entirely trusting of Valenzuela, some called him a “bad Indian” that knew more than he was letting on. An interesting incident took place between Grindell and Valenzuela before the search could really begin. Grindell claims that Valenzuela was anxious to begin searching with him alone, but, after he said he was bringing a translator named Furhkin along, Valenzuela said he wanted to bring two of his brothers. Grindell agreed, believing that he had nothing to fear from his guides. Meanwhile, before leaving Caborca, Grindell came across a Papago vaquero named Juan Cholla, who said that Valenzuela was indeed a bad man. Among other things, he had deserted from the Mexican Army and attempted to kill a prominent Mexican cattleman. When it came time to begin the search, Valenzuela was nowhere to be found. It seemed obvious that he was responsible for the disappearance of the others so Grindell reported back to Governor Izabal, who said he would dispatch troops and nothing else could be done. Grindell then decided to return to his home in Tucson, Arizona. However, within hours of his arrival, he found Valenzuela walking down the street. Grindell confronted the man and, when he asked what had happened, Valenzuela replied by saying that he was searching for him. Grindell then remembered that he had told the guide that he lived in Tucson and Valenzuela told him that he was staying with a relative, Hugh Norris, at the Papago Reservation outside of town. Grindell spoke with Norris, who said that Valenzuela was still anxious to help, but he would not return to Caborca because he was afraid of what the Mexicans would do to him. He left Caborca on horse and rode straight to Tucson in two days, a distance of about 200 miles. Grindell agreed to bypass Caborca and, because he didn’t want to travel alone with the guide all the way back to Hermosillo, he enlisted the help of a young miner named Fred Christy. The three men then headed back to Mexico, having telegraphed Governor Izabal and the American consul, Louis Hostetter, before leaving.
At Hermosillo, Grindell purchased supplies and hired twelve more heavily armed Papago scouts. From there they went to the Sonora River so they could follow it to the coast. Once at the coast, the search party went north to where Valenzuela said he had left the others. A week later, at a place called Coyote Springs, or Coyote Wells, the search party picked up the trail left behind by the Grindell expedition and began following it. The location was over 175 miles from Hermosillo. After going six miles, the search party arrived at the coast and found the Seri camp where the hands were attached to a piece of wood. Grindell wrote: “There were two dance rings, one inside the other; the larger one was about forty feet in diameter and well beaten. At one side, and about a foot from the edge of the ring, there was a sawn plank, evidently driftwood, some fourteen feet long, firmly planted in the soil. Nailed to this plank crosswise, six feet from the ground, was a stick four feet long. At each end of this stick was a human hand, fastened there with leather straps cut from a camera case. On the inside of the straps were letters which evidently formed parts of the name of the owner; a capital ‘M’ and a small ‘e’ and ‘r’ were noticeable. There were also some printed pages from a book on navigation tacked on the plank, and near by was a small tin stove. The savages, I should explain, tie their wretched victim to this plank and, as they dance, first one and then another will cut a piece of his flesh off, keeping up the horrible business to the tune of a doleful tam-tam [musical instrument] and their own chanting until death puts an end to the prisoner’s suffering. And it was into the hands of these fiends that I feared the explorers had fallen!” Grindell continues on by saying that he believed the severed hands and the straps from the camera case came from two Los Angeles miners named Harry E. Miller and Gus Olander, who traveled to Tiburon in January 1905, but never returned.
Continuing further, the search party found several abandoned camps from the expedition, as well as several artifacts and a few dead pack animals, but no trace of the explorers themselves were found. The Papago scouts also discovered fresh Seri tracks on more than one occasion and, according to Grindell, in some cases they appeared to be overlapping, or following, that of the lost expedition. The Papagos told Edward that they were certain the Seris had either killed his brother and his men or that they were prisoners on Tiburon Island. Eventually they convinced Grindell and, when the supplies began running low, they decided to go back to Hermosillo, where they would organize another search party for Tiburon Island itself. Grindell’s second journey lasted a week and, because rain had washed away most of the tracks, they returned without finding anything of the lost explorers.
Edward Grindell wrote the following letter to the Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Bacon, before leaving for Arizona:
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mex. Dec. 9.
Robert Bacon, Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Sir:—Mr. Hostetter, the American consul here, informed me you have written him regarding four Americans lost in the vicinity of Tiburon Island last July; namely, Thomas Grindell, Olin Ralls, David Ingraham and Jack Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman, however, has since been found, and you no doubt have heard his story. He says the other boys likely perished for want of water. Now I have been searching for this party since the 5th of September, giving my entire time to the matter, but have failed to find any of them. I have, however, found their trail and have followed it for over one hundred miles, but the recent rains have entirely obliterated their trails. So now I have nothing to work on but the general location. I found the boys’ camp deserted. I found four or five animals dead. I trailed Mr. Ralls over forty miles, where he went alone with one mule. A sudden rain forced us to stop following the trail for the day, and next day the trail was gone. But one of the Indians found, about ten miles further on, a dead mule. The mule had the pack saddle still on its back and a rifle and bucket still fastened to the saddle, which led me to believe that Mr. Ralls had fallen between this and the point where I last had his trail. I searched the country thoroughly, but could find no trace of the men. I had with me five to twelve Papago Indian trailers and one American companion. We searched the entire coast of the mainland in front of Tiburon Island for a distance of one hundred miles, and back into the mountains for from twenty to thirty miles, and I think I have covered every place where bodies might reasonably be expected to be. We rode over eight hundred miles on horseback. I have given up ever finding the boys, but as a last resort I have offered a reward to the Papago Indians of $200 for each of the bodies they find. It is my opinion that the boys wandered in their frenzied condition away back into the mountains, into places where they never will be found. Everyone here has been very kind to me in the search, especially Louis Hostetter, the American consul. He has been very considerate, and helped me many times. I trust this information will be of value to your department.
Very truly, E. P. Grindell.
Once Hoffman turned up alive and it was confirmed that tragedy had struck, the Arizona Rangers became involved. Captain Thomas H. Rynning had served with Thomas Grindell during their brief career as Rough Riders so he and a few of his men volunteered to make one final search. However, Governor Joseph Henry Kibbey made it clear that Rynning and his men could only enter Mexico as private citizens and had no jurisdiction once across the international border. The rangers went anyway and, with the help of Emilio Kosterlitsky and the Rurales, they attempted to pick up where Grindell and his search party had left off. The rangers were not successful though and they returned to Arizona a few weeks later.
Captain Rynning reported the following to a Douglas newspaper after his return from Mexico:
The party which was organized at Guaymas to go to the relief of the missing explorers left Guaymas at noon November 2nd in the power boat Lolita of twenty tons. In the party were John F. Jack Hoffman, the survivor of the ill-fated expedition; Dr. Frank Toussaint of Guaymas, Rangers Tip Stanford and W. A. Old and myself. The crew of the Lolita comprised the captain and a crew of five Mexicans. Dr. Toussaint is formerly of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is engaged in mining near Guaymas. He is a warm friend of a sister of the Grindell boys and took a personal interest in the search. In addition to the money which I took from Douglas, die doctor advanced me $100 to outfit for the trip and to charter the boat. We found out on our return that the message from Walter Douglas requesting me to draw on him for $500 was received at Guaymas two hours after our leaving for the island. If we would have had that amount we might have stayed longer and con-tinued the search for the bodies further in the interior. I never drew on Mr. Douglas for any money. We arrived at Tiburon Island the next evening, the distance being about 125 mile. We did not disembark until the next morning at 9 o’clock. Although we sailed completely around the island the only human habitation we saw were five deserted Seri villages and two dogs. All of the natives had probably gone into the interior of the island. The captain and sailors on the Lolita evidently were well informed as to the Seri Indians or else had been intimidated by the stories they had heard of the cruelties practiced by the natives as they absolutely refused to leave the boat. No amount or gold could have persuaded them to set foot on Tiburon soil. After the trip around the island we landed on the mainland and Hoffman guided us to the last camp of the party. There we found two dead horses and a half mile below the last camp we found a dead burro, three coats, an overcoat, two blankets, an ax, a burro bell, saddle and two pack saddles. We also found a camera which belonged to Mr. Grindell. It was hidden in the brush some distance below and there we also found a quantity of bacon, flour and other provisions and about 300 rounds of ammunition. Hoffman led us to the place where he assured us was the spot at which he left Dave Ingraham to die, but no trace of him could be found. Hoffman found his buck-handled knife near this place. All of the statements made at Guaymas by Hoffman were corroborated by what we found, but no trace whatever could be found of the bodies, dead or alive, of the missing explorers. Going further inland we found the trail of what we supposed was the other relief expedition, which is led by Ed Grindell. The trail of the horses showed that they were shod, which convinced us that it was Ed Grindell’s party. The trail seemed to come down from the north and went back that way, only further to the east. One of the trails was nine miles from the camp of the missing party and the last was about fourteen miles from the camp. Considerable apprehension was felt by the members of our party for the other rescue party, as it was feared that they were making a dangerous trip and they are likely to meet the same fate that Grindell and his companions are supposed to have met. Realizing that nothing further could be done in that vicinity, we re-embarked and left for Guaymas, where we arrived yester-day morning. Hoffman expected to leave last evening for Bisbee and will probably be there tomorrow. Hoffman is almost completely recovered from the results of his awful trip down the coast to Guaymas. The trip that we made in twenty-four hours it took him ninety days to make, and when he arrived in that city he was in horrible shape. His body was almost completely covered with running sores and he was almost crazed by his experiences. His face was almost as black as that of a negro owing to the exposure to the sun and weather, and persons who knew him before he left on the trip failed to identify him. In some instances he was requested to repeat parts of conversations he had with some of these people to prove his identity. Parts of his story were not given much credence in Guaymas, but the trip to the island convinced us that he told the truth in every instance. His experiences in that trip down the coast would make an interesting but exceedingly harrowing tale, and that he is alive today is the best proof of his story to those who know the country through which he went. As to Thomas Grindell’s fate and that of his companions, it would be hard for me to give an opinion. It is the general belief, however, that if they were not actually killed by the Seris, their bodies were disposed of by them. The stories concerning the habits of this tribe regarding their cannibalistic tendencies we found to be true. It is a fact that they eat all of their meat raw and that they have been known to partake freely of human meat. Of course, there may be a chance that the members of the party escaped, the absence of any trace of their bodies leaving some hope of that, but it is beyond me where they are if they are alive, with the possible exception that they are prisoners in the interior of Tiburon Island, but there seems but little hope of that. The other relief party under Ed Grindell may have discovered something more, possibly the bodies of the missing men, and nothing further can be done until they return. A telegram was received by the Dispatch from Hermosillo yesterday stating that Ed Grindell and Ralph Colvin of this city had arrived in that city after a fruitless attempt to locate the former’s brother and his two companions; the third organized attempt to find the missing explorers. The message stated that the party had just returned from the coast, but the search was absolutely fruitless, as the recent heavy rains had obliterated aII trails and traces of the party which had previously been found. The telegram which was sent to the Dispatch by Mr. Colvin states that Ed Grindell had given up all hope of ever hearing anything from his brother and that it would be useless to continue the search. There is this satisfaction, however, that everything was done Within human power to locate those whose fate will always be conjecture and this will, of course, be some consolation. Mr. Grindell has spent his time and money and did not give up the hunt till it was found that all efforts were in vain. The many friends of the men who were lost showed the right disposition in helping in a material way in every necessary manner and now that the search is at an end they will feel that everything was done that could be done.
Thomas Grindell’s remains
The remains of Thomas Grindell were finally discovered by another group of explorers over a year after the tragedy took place.
A December 27, 1906, edition of the Boston Evening Transcript said the following:
Prospectors arriving from lower California report the finding of the remains of Thomas Grindell and his party, whose disappearance two years ago has become an international incident, which never had been solved. Edward Grindell may now collect the insurance on his brother’s life. This and a much larger sum have been spent in the last two years in outfitting expeditions in the hope of recovering the dead man’s body. Not until Monday [December 24] was this accomplished, all hope of its recovery having been abandoned for more than a year. In the burning heart of the desert, a party of prospectors, well prepared for the desolation they courted, came upon the heap of bleached bones which marked the battle lost to thirst and to the sun by Grindell and his half dozen daring companions. Faded letters, indistinct, yet legible, made the identification possible. Grindell was the principal of the Douglas City schools. He took a party to explore the Tiburon Islands in June, 1904 . The one man of the party who didn’t famish made the salt sea water sweet with a small atomizer. Months afterward, half insane and without clothing, he reappeared among men, as startling an apparition as one come from the tomb. All of his efforts to lead men to the spot where he left his perishing comrades were ineffectual. – Professor E. P. Grindell, at the head of an expedition, had conducted a search for his brother ever since he was reported missing. In November, 1905, the party came across the trappings of Harry E. Miller and Captain Gus Olinder, a book on nautical science which belonged to Olinder, and a pair of dried human hands, which may have been those of one of the men. The charred remains of a huge feast and fire, and the circles of an Indian war dance were also in evidence. Miller was a school teacher of Los Angeles of an adventurous turn of mind, and Olinder was a seaman engaged to accompany him on the trip.
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