Missing, Presumed Lost

David Koch’s recent disappearance set me thinking about other losses. In the age of commercial sail when ships often went missing and word traveled only as fast as the wind there were formal hierarchies of loss defined by the underwriters, Lloyds of London predominantly. When a ship was late in arriving at her port of call, she was reported to Lloyds as overdue. When the length of time overdue became worrisome, she was reported missing. And finally, when the silence stretched into months and hope seemed naive, she was reported missing, presumed lost.

Never was a ship declared utterly, definitively lost without a witness, someone who could testify to her death, but when a ship was known to have been wrecked, the place of her loss became an inseparable part of her name—the Andalusia, lost on the Godwin Sands, or the Black Watch, lost off Cape Horn, or the Southern Star, lost in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The formal hierarchy of a man’s loss is measured in days rather than months or years like a ship. Already the authorities are ready to declare David the equivalent of missing, presumed lost. In my mind, at least, his name has become inseparable with a place—David Koch, lost on Grouse Mountain.

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