True North Blog

Into The Wild – Is the Mystery Solved?

It seems that stories about the struggle to survive and overcome great odds in the unforgiving wilderness rarely endure.  Sure, an account may effect big headlines in the newspapers, and people may actively chatter about it amongst themselves with particular emphasis on the gory details, but even this quickly fades and people just as quickly forget.  While many know the basic facts about the Donner Party, few seem to know the real details, much of it inspiring, and fewer still seem to know anything about the U.S.S. Indianapolis.  This is a shame … For them, and for us.

However, the story about the death of Christopher McCandless, who in 1992 slowly starved in an isolated bus near Denali National Park long endures.  Many of us, of course, read the accounts that Jon Krakauer wrote, first in Outside in 1993, and later in his 1996 book, Into the Wild.  And, certainly, the 2007 film of the same name, based on Krakauer’s book, brought the McCandless story to even greater national attention and scrutiny.  People seem to be fascinated for two reasons.

First, the story generates much debate in the outdoors community which seems to break down into two main factions, each represented by two competing questions: Was McCandless a reckless fool who died simply because of arrogance?  Is McCandless an inspiration because he used nature to strip himself of conformity and materialism?

The chief reason may simply be because a mystery has overshadowed his death.  Did the wild potatoes that he was eating kill him?

Although Krakauer has long been criticized for romanticizing McCandless’ death and offering initial conclusions based on little more than circumstantial evidence and conjecture, to his credit he has continued to investigate and to amend when he has erred.  In as much, Krakauer recently wrote an article that sheds more light on what happened in that makeshift hunting lodge, and helps offer some finality to the debate, based on an investigation by Ronald Hamilton which began when he was employed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Anyway, I encourage you to read it for yourself: How Chris McCandless Died.


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Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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