If you have a moment, these films on youtube are made by the Johnsons. It is interesting to hear their perspective on the indigenous people they were ‘exploring’ and on the world from the 1930’s perspective.
Here are excerpts from the documentaries made by Martin and Osa Johnson:
Recently, some modern explorers tried to rediscover their camp:
On a recent trip home to CT, I sat down with my 93 year old Auntie Delia. I learned a lot about the family, but this was undoubtedly the most interesting thing to me. Perhaps it was because I never knew of it, or this person even existed. Or maybe it was because this guy sounded like the source of adventurous genes that course through all of our veins.
His name is James Nelson Laneri, or Jim Laneri as he is called in all the photos and articles about him. He was a pilot for some expeditionists named Martin and Osa Johnson in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. He flew over areas previously unexplored in the Congo area of Africa and in Borneo. The plane he flew was called “The Spirit of Africa.” Sadly, the plane now lays at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico after the Johnsons allowed the Civil Air Patrol to use it during a training exercise. For years the locations of the plane was unknown, but it was discovered last spring—and although attempts to raise the wreckage from the Gulf were in the works, there was a little thing called an oil spill that has put that effort on hold.
My Auntie Delia gave me a photo album with a few photos of his in it with natives surrounding him and told me the plane was in the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a mistake, but it led me down another path of meeting (via emails) the curator of the Safari Museum located in—Kansas. It is just a 17 hour drive to the museum...but we may have to make the journey this Spring! It is really an amazing find. Below are the photos she gave me, and the links to the museum.
I am a descendant of Jim Laneri, and am looking for information regarding the plane. I was recently in Connecticut visiting Jim’s niece (now 93) and she told me the story of his pilot adventures for the Johnsons. She gave me some news paper articles and said the Spirit of Africa plane was at the Smithsonian. I live near Washington D.C. but do not see the plane in any of their lists of planes they have. Could you tell me if the plane is part of the Smithsonian collection, or if it is in your museum, private collection or perhaps destroyed. Any information you have and could pass on I would greatly appreciate! Thanks!
I am sorry to report that the original Spirit of Africa was lost in the Gulf of Mexico during a Civil Air Patrol mission. Osa Johnson gave the plane to the CAP and it was lost at sea exactly one week after she gave it. We have news stories from the incident in our archives and the marine wreckage of the plane has recently been located.
A full size replica of Spirit was done by aviation enthusist Dick Jackson some years ago. In completing his model he used our photos and some schematics from our archives. After her completion the replica, named "Spirit of Igor" as a nod to the Johnsons and the plane's inventor, Igor Sikorsky flew along side a replica of the Johnsons other Sikorsky in a national tour. Recently Dick Jackson sold his Spirit to the Fantasy of Flight museum in Polk City, FL.
Sorry to give you the bad news about the original plane. There are recovery plans in the work, but bad weather and now the Gulf Oil spill have put them on indefinite hold. I would highly recommend visiting the replica if you ever get down to Florida...I have been in both replicas and I don't think Martin, Osa, or Jim could have told the difference between them!
In closing, I wanted to let you know that on my last trip to our sister museum in Malaysia (specifically on the island of Borneo), I had the great pleasure of helping launch a rainforest tree planting project at the Johnson's original campsite. I planted four trees there, two obviously for Martin and Osa, but two more also for Jim and Joe Tilton, the Johnsons' sound guy and Jim's roommate during the expedition.
We established a partnership with our sister museum there six years ago and I have gone several times and done interviews with hundreds of people the Johnsons encountered on their two trips to Borneo. I always bring a laptop and flip through photos trying to Identify locals pictured and everytime I get to the airplane portions, somebody in the crowd will jump up and yell "Mr. Jim, it's Mr. Jim." Jim was much beloved there and is fondly remembered, especially by all the little children he gave airplane rides to on his days off! The man pictured here with me is named Masri Angau and he was six years old during that expedition. He tears up at any mention of Osa or Jim as he said they were both so very kind to him and his family.
I have photos of the tree I planted for Jim if anyone in your family would like to see them and I would be happy to scan and send along a copy of the certificate of the tree in his name. All four certificates are currently on display in a small exhibition here about our sister museum projects.
Hope this helps in your research---wish I had better news on the original plane!
Jacquelyn Borgeson, curator
Thank you so much for the information. While that is very disappointing about the plane, it has saved me hours of trying to locate it! I did see a lot about Spirit of Igor, so you have also explained that to me. I would LOVE any picture or information you have regarding my Uncle's travels, and memories. That photo you sent was the BEST!! I cannot wait to show it to my aunt.
In the scrap book she gave me was a news article from our local paper, The Hartford Courant, from October 21, 1936. Would you like a copy of that article? It was titled "Glastonbury Man Returns From Jungle." I also have 3 photos, one from the paper, and two photos I would be happy to scan and send to you too. If you have a copy of the memorial and tree I would LOVE it.
I homeschool my four children, and we are planning a trip around the US this spring/summer. Since coming in contact with this information, and your email, we have decided a trip through Kansas is a MUST for our itinerary!
Thank you for all your help and information. It is very inspiring. Christy
Sorry for the delay---I ended up taking a pre-and post holiday vacay and have just returned. I heard several fun stories about Jim (mostly from elders now who were kids then). They almost all revolved around him and his generosity in giving them rides (esp on his days off).
In our archives we have the first chapter or two of Jim's diary/journal. It was sent to us back in the day by him or a family member---not really clear---with a note that the rest would follow, but it never did. Have you ever seen a copy of the diary? We have soundman Joe Tilton's diary and manuscript for a book he planned and it was really neat to read about the expedition from his perspective vs Martin's or Osa's. I'm sure as pilot Jim's would be even more interesting. Also, Jim spent a lot of time with a British WWI war hero (who was killed later by the Japanese during the WWII occupation) turned chairty doctor. Some of his family members asked me about Jim and if he ever wrote about their relative in letters or a journal. That part would have to be in the later chapters.
And yes, I would love to see a copy of the articles and pics you have. We have so many images of Jim. When you come visit we'll make sure to have them available for a mini slide show. Here is a particularly dashing one of Jim and here's a pic of the house he shared with Joe Tilton. I confirmed it was his house as several of the camp kids pointed it out during show and tell and told me they would line up each morning and try to wait patiently for him to get up so they could beg for plane rides. A couple of the kids told me they tossed stones in to "help" wake him up and despite it, he always gave them rides if he wasn't being sent off to work by Martin and Osa...they all said he was very kind and spoke nothing but happy memories of him.
I will see about getting a copy of the memorial certificate made and send along some of the photos of the tree planting ceremony. What's you snail mail address if I can't get a good scan and just need to send a hard copy?
Ok, back to work---catching up from vacation is never easy!
They have a museum in Kansas we hope to go to someday—-
Photos from the Safari Museum:
While I have not really been interested in family trees in the past, the stories do interest me. So, the quest continues...