A young explorer went missing in the Costa Rican jungle, so his dad went in after him.
Cody Roman Dial, 27, was a biologist and skilled adventurer who had been raised to love and respect nature by his parents, Roman and Peggy.
He and his brother Jazz spent part of their childhood in a hut in Borneo, and Cody — or “Roman Two” as his family called him — was just six when his dad took him on a challenging backpacking trek across an island in their home state of Alaska.
By the time Cody reached adulthood he was regularly undertaking self-guided expeditions into wilderness around the world.
In early 2014 he embarked on a grand journey through Central America, climbing Guetamala’s Tajumulco, scuba diving with whale sharks and surfing in Nicaragua.
His goal was an expedition into the Darién Gap, a remote jungle between Colombia and Panama which is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous places. It’s known for its deadly wildlife as well as violent guerrilla warfare and cocaine smuggling.
In early July he emailed his dad from an Internet café, notifying him of his plan to practise for the Darién Gap by hiking through Corcovado National Park without a guide.
“I’ll be bounded by trail to the west and the coast everywhere else,” he wrote to his parents, “so it should be difficult to get lost forever.”
He was never heard from again.
His dad, a famous biologist and former champion mountaineer, flew to Costa Rica to help with the local search effort as they scoured the National Park’s rivers and ravines.
Roman obsessively searched for clues about what had happened to his son. He investigated leads like a backpack Cody may have left at a hostel and a rumoured sighting of a young white man walking with infamous drug dealer Pata Lora.
In his new book about Cody’s disappearance, titled The Adventurer’s Son, he describes a mysterious phone call claiming his son had been kidnapped by criminals.
By early August Costa Rican authorities had given up the search, but Roman carried on, calling in a team from an Alaska survival school who scoured the area where a gold miner had reported seeing Cody. But they found no trace of him.
In desperation, Roman himself snuck into Corcovado National Park against all official safety advice, helped by a local poacher. He didn’t find Cody or any clues about what had happened, but returned to the park multiple times over the next two years to keep trying.
His efforts were documented in the National Geographic documentary Missing Dial.
Roman finally got his answer about what happened to his son in 2016, two years after Cody’s disappearance.
Remains found in a ravine deep in the jungle were identified as the 27-year-old, and evidence from the scene indicated he had been killed when a tree fell on his camp site.
The discovery brought Roman both heartbreak and relief, which he details in The Adventurer’s Son.
“Would I have raised Roman the same way knowing that he would die on a path I led him along?” he wrote.
“The answer is obvious but the question unfair.”