Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Chris McCandles AKA “Alexander Supertramp”
I can vaguely remember the story of Chris McCandles AKA “Alexander Supertramp” when it hit the news in 1992; Back then I really didn’t give it much thought because to me it sounded like a “Hippy back packer” just got into trouble and died as a result.
Recently I read the John Krakauer book about Chris and then watched the movie “Into the wild” and I began to realize that Chris was an adventurer and possessed some survival skills , even tho people like to make negative comments about the man you have to face the fact that he was able to survive for around 120 days in the Alaska woods with not much more than a .22 rifle and a 10 pound bag of rice; I’ve never done it for that long, and neither have the majority of the people I call friends.
Anyhow, I think Chris is worth a mention on my Blog due to his Adventurous spirit and his ability to survive living on the edge of society all over the North American continent.
Take a look at the Info I have posted below and form your own opinions.
Tomahawk – Scouts out!
Christopher Johnson McCandless (February 12, 1968 – mid-August, 1992) was an American wanderer who adopted the name Alexander Supertramp and hiked into the Alaskan wilderness with little food and equipment, hoping to live a period of solitude. Almost four months later, he died of starvation near Denali National Park and Preserve. Inspired by the details of McCandless's story, author Jon Krakauer wrote a book about his adventures, published in 1996, titled Into the Wild. In 2007, Sean Penn directed a film of the same title, with Emile Hirsch portraying McCandless.
After graduating in 1990, he donated the remaining $24,000 of the $47,000 given to him by family for his last two years of college to Oxfam International, a charity, and began traveling under the name "Alexander Supertramp" (Krakauer notes the connection with W. H. Davies, Welsh author of The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, published in 1908). McCandless made his way through Arizona, California, and South Dakota, where he worked at a grain elevator.
He alternated between having jobs and living with no money or human contact, sometimes successfully foraging for food. He survived a flash flood, but allowed his car to wash out (although it suffered little permanent damage and was later reused by the local police force) and disposed of his license plate. He also paddled a canoe down remote stretches of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. McCandless took pride in surviving with a minimum of gear and funds, and generally made little preparation. He was, however, frequently fed or otherwise aided by people he met on his travels.
For years, McCandless dreamed of an "Alaskan Odyssey" where he would live off the land, far away from civilization, and keep a journal describing his physical and spiritual progress as he faced the forces of nature. In April 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to Fairbanks, Alaska. He was last seen alive by Jim Gallien, who gave him a ride from Fairbanks to the Stampede Trail. Gallien was concerned about "Alex", who had minimal supplies (not even a magnetic compass) and no experience of surviving in the Alaskan bush.
Gallien repeatedly tried to persuade Alex to defer his trip, and even offered to drive him to Anchorage to buy suitable equipment and supplies. However, McCandless ignored Gallien's warnings, refusing all assistance except for a pair of rubber boots, two tuna melt sandwiches, and a bag of corn chips. Eventually, Gallien dropped him at the head of the Stampede Trail on Tuesday, April 28, 1992.
After hiking along the snow-covered Stampede Trail, McCandless found an abandoned bus used as a hunting shelter and parked on an overgrown section of the trail near Denali National Park, and began his attempt to live off the land. He had a 10-pound bag of rice, a Remington semi-automatic rifle with 400 rounds of .22LR hollowpoint ammunition, a book of local plant life, several other books, and some camping equipment.
He assumed he could forage for plant food and hunt game. Despite his inexperience as a hunter, McCandless poached some small game such as porcupines and birds. Once he killed a moose; however, he failed to preserve the meat properly, and it spoiled. Rather than thinly slicing and air-drying the meat, like jerky, as is usually done in the Alaskan bush, he smoked it, following the advice of hunters he had met in South Dakota.
His journal contains entries covering a total of 112 days. These entries range from ecstatic to grim with McCandless's changing fortunes. In July, after living in the bus for three months, he decided to leave, but found the trail back blocked by the Teklanika River, which was then considerably higher and swifter than when he crossed in April. There was a hand-operated tram that crossed the river 1/4 of a mile away from where he fell in. McCandless was unaware of this because the only navigational aid he had possessed was a tattered road map he had found at a gas station, but he had left it on the dashboard of Jim Gallien's truck. McCandless lived in the bus for a total of 113 days.
On August 12, McCandless wrote what are assumed to be his final words in his journal: "Beautiful Blueberries."
He tore the final page from Louis L'Amour's memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, which contains an excerpt from a Robinson Jeffers poem titled "Wise Men in Their Bad Hours":
Death's a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.
The mountains are dead stone, the people
Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness,
The mountains are not softened or troubled
And a few dead men's thoughts have the same temper.
On the other side of the page, McCandless added, "I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL!"
His body was found in his sleeping bag inside the bus on September 6, 1992, weighing an estimated 67 pounds (30 kg). He had been dead for more than two weeks. His official cause of death was starvation. Biographer Jon Krakauer suggests two factors may have contributed to McCandless's death.
First, he was running the risk of a phenomenon known as "rabbit starvation" due to increased activity, compared with the leanness of the game he was hunting. However, Krakauer insists starvation was not, as McCandless's death certificate states, the only cause of death. Initially, Krakauer claimed McCandless might have ingested toxic seeds (Hedysarum alpinum).
However, extensive laboratory testing proves conclusively there was no alkaloid toxin present in McCandless's food supplies. In later editions of the book, therefore, Krakauer has speculated the poisonous fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola could have grown on the seeds McCandless ate, aggravating his already weak physical conditions and leading to his possible death by starvation.
Krakauer's book made Christopher McCandless a heroic figure to many. By 2002, the abandoned bus (No. 142) on the Stampede Trail where McCandless camped became a tourist destination. Sean Penn's film Into the Wild, based on Jon Krakauer's book, was released in September 2007. In October 2007, a documentary film on McCandless's journey by independent filmmaker Ron Lamothe, The Call of the Wild, was released. McCandless's story also inspired an episode of the TV series Millennium, the album Cirque by Biosphere, and folk songs by singers Ellis Paul, Eddie From Ohio, Harrod and Funck, and Eric Peters.
Unlike Krakauer and many readers, who have a largely sympathetic view of McCandless, some have expressed negative views about those who romanticize his fate. Alaskans have been particularly skeptical.
McCandless has been a polarizing figure ever since his story first broke in 1992. Because he chose not to bring a map and a compass (items which most people in the same situation would have considered essential), McCandless was completely unaware that a hand-operated tram crossed the otherwise impassable river 1/4 mile from where he attempted to cross. Had McCandless known this, he could easily have saved his own life. Additionally, there were cabins stocked with emergency supplies within a few miles of the bus, although they had been vandalized and all the supplies were spoiled, possibly by McCandless, as detailed in Lamothe's documentary.
Yet Ken Kehrer, chief ranger for Denali National Park, denied that McCandless was considered a vandalism suspect by the National Park Service. The most charitable view among McCandless's detractors is that he was somewhat lacking in basic common sense, i.e., venturing into a wilderness area on his own without adequate planning, preparation, and supplies was almost guaranteed to end in disaster.
Alaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian wrote: "I am exposed continually to what I will call the 'McCandless Phenomenon.' People, nearly always young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness landscape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent [...] When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild.
He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide.
Jon Krakauer defends McCandless, claiming that what critics point to as arrogance was merely McCandless's desire for "being the first to explore a blank spot on the map." Krakauer continues that there remain extremely few areas on the world map that would be called 'blank'.