Into the Wild Light of Day

A book by Chris McCandless’ sister reveals long-buried secrets that explain why the protagonist of “Into the Wild” ditched his family and lit out for the Territory

Jon Krakauer
Aug 23, 2018 · 8 min read
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A crown that fell off one of Chris McCandless’ molars sits atop a grizzly bear skull inside the bus he used for shelter in the Alaskan bush. McCandless lived in the rusting bus beside the Sushana River, just outside the northern boundary of Denali National Park, from May 1992 until he died in August 1992. This image was shot during a visit to the bus in July 1993 as part of my research for the book Into the Wild. Photo copyright © Jon Krakauer

a young hiker, stranded by an injury, was found dead at a remote camp in the Alaskan interior. No one is yet certain who he was. But his diary and two notes found at the camp tell a wrenching story of his desperate and progressively futile efforts to survive.

The diary indicates that the man, believed to be an American in his late 20’s or early 30’s, might have been injured in a fall and that he was then stranded at the camp for more than three months. It tells how he tried to save himself by hunting game and eating wild plants while nonetheless getting weaker.

One of his two notes is a plea for help, addressed to anyone who might come upon the camp while the hiker searched the surrounding area for food. The second note bids the world goodbye.

An autopsy at the state coroner’s office in Fairbanks this week found that the man had died of starvation, probably in late July. The authorities discovered among the man’s possessions a name that they believe is his. But they have so far been unable to confirm his identity and, until they do, have declined to disclose the name.

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Selfie on the Devils Thumb in the Alaska Coast Range, taken on May 16, 1977, when I was 23 years old. Photo copyright © Jon Krakauer
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Carine and Chris in 1975, when Chris was 7 years old. Photo courtesy of Carine McCandless
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Chris McCandless, age 12. His sister Carine reports that the photo was taken at a time when Chris had begun “to ask the hard questions about our family.” Photo courtesy of Carine McCandless.
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The Sushana River where it flows past the bus in which Chris lived and died. Photo copyright © Jon Krakauer
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I shot this image of the bus in July 1993 during my first of several visits to the Sushana River. Photo copyright © Jon Krakauer
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After setting up camp inside the bus, Chris scrawled this exuberant declaration of independence on a sheet of plywood covering a missing window. Photo copyright © Jon Krakauer
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A list of tasks Chris undertook before leaving the bus and making an unsuccessful attempt to return to civilization in July 1992, written on a strip of birch bark. Photo courtesy of Carine McCandless

Galleys

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Jon Krakauer

Written by

Author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Classic Krakauer, and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. www.instagram.com/krakauernotwriting/

Galleys

Galleys

A home for books and authors on Medium

Jon Krakauer

Written by

Author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Classic Krakauer, and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. www.instagram.com/krakauernotwriting/

Galleys

Galleys

A home for books and authors on Medium

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