Alaska

Man’s body found after months of being stranded in the wilderness

February 2, 1982
Brooks Range, Alaska
The body of Carl McCunn (35) is found after he was stranded in the Alaskan wilderness and killed himself

McCunn was dropped off in the wilderness in March 1981, around 75 miles from the nearest town. He was equipped with cameras, 500 rolls of film, firearms, and 1,400 pounds of provisions including rice and beans and planned to stay until mid-August. Unfortunately, he neglected to make plans specifying when and where he was to be picked up.

McCunn kept a detailed, 100-page diary of his ordeal, beginning with amazement of nature. Around August, however, the tone was much different as he mentioned his food was running low as well as his concerns about being picked up before the freezing temperatures of winter came.

Meanwhile, McCunn’s friends became increasingly concerned. Alaskan State Trooper David Hamilton flew over the camp, though there was miscommunication between McCunn and the Trooper. Trooper Hamilton noted when he returned that McCunn was casually waving. Assuming there was no emergency, Trooper Hamilton did not attempt to pick McCunn up. According to McCunn’s diary, he had put his fist in the air as a cheer which is similar to a mountaineer signal which denotes “all ok, do not wait.” McCunn was disheartened by the idea his last attempt of rescue had left, and set out to fortify his tent in preparation for winter.

When he ran out of food he had hunted before winter, McCunn began to scavenge half-eaten food left by predators and nibbled on tree bark and rabbit feet to survive. He suffered frostbite on his extremities and wrote of thoughts of suicide and God. His final entries were about his plan to shoot himself, a request for forgiveness from God, and an explanation the ID he had attached to the diary was his own. The final page read in part: “Am burning the last of my emergency Coleman light and fed the fire the last of my split wood. When the ashes cool, I’ll be cooling along with them.” He shot himself with his rifle between late November and early December of 1981.

McCunn’s body was found in his tent on February 2, 1982. The coroner’s inquest ruled his death a suicide.

Sources:
“Death in Alaska.” The Times [Shreveport, Louisiana]. December 19, 1982
“Frustrated and desperate, stranded man commits suicide.” UPI Archives. December 14, 1982. Accessed: February 2, 2019. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1982/12/14/Frustrated-and-desperate-stranded-man-commits-suicide/2117408690000/

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