Survival Publication of the Week: “Into the Wild”

Chris McCandless' bus in Alaska

Survival Publication of the Week: “Into the Wild”

“…raising my right hand, shaking my fist on the plane’s second pass…[i]t was a little cheer…

Unfortunately, as he learned too late, raising a single arm is the universally recognized signal for ‘all OK…”

I must confess, before reading John Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” I did not know the signals that should be used to express emergencies, non-emergencies, concerning situations, or ‘time for tea.’

This may be one of the best reasons for reading certain popular works–we can actually learn something useful.

For instance, besides proper signalling, one should be prepared (even over-prepared) for a survival situation.

And don’t get cocky.

Chris McCandless (the subject of Into the Wild), may not have been cocky per se, but it seems that he may have been overconfident in his abilities to survive completely alone in the Alaskan wilderness.

It isn’t that it CAN’T be done, the question is, SHOULD it be done?

I’m not going to pass judgment on Chris.  He made a mistake, and he paid for his mistake with his life.

The unfortunate thing is, up until the very end, Chris did everything right–he travelled all over the United States, he was able to sneak into Mexico (then back into the US), and up into Canada. All while working menial jobs, collecting wild edibles, and living in wide open spaces.

Onward and upward to Alaska!


…he made one mistake.

He ate wild potato seeds that were likely high in alkaloids.

These seeds can be toxic in certain doses.

Krakauer points out that none of the existing wild edible literature at the time listed the seeds as poisonous.


That’s what separates all of us from a potentially life-threatening disaster.

In Chris’ case, there was no margin for error.

In my own preparations for future survival situations, I will continue to remind myself about Chris’ plight, and try to increase the margins for correct actions versus errors.

If I can learn from others and increase my odds of survival, I’m going to do it.

You should, too.

Read the book: John Krakauer’s Into the Wild

Or get the movie: Into the Wild

John Krakauer’s update on the subject:

Wikipedia entry on Into the Wild:

The Survival Nut: Wild Edibles

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are those that dispute Krakauer’s belief that Chris ingested seeds that were toxic, and that his death was simply a case of starvation.  Here is a link to one of those articles:

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