November 1, 2007

November 1 | Carl McCunn

1946 - November 1981: Age 35

Carl McCunn arranged to be dropped by plane in the Alaskan wilderness in March 1981 with supplies for the summer and 500 rolls of film. He planned to spend the season photographing wildlife. What he didn't plan, however, was his trip out again. He forgot to arrange for a plane to come and pick him up.

Strangely, his whole ordeal is meticulously recorded through the diaries he kept on loose-leaf paper over 8 months. He planned to leave by mid-August, but as the date approached he realized that he might not have made his arrangements clear enough. It was with great relief that he spied a plane circling overhead; he flagged it down, or so he thought. The pilot, who had been sent by concerned friends, noticed McCunn waving casually, giving the all-OK signal, then walking slowly toward his tent. From this he surmised there was no problem and left. It was only after the plane disappeared that McCunn realized he had given the wrong hand signal.

He was camped 225 miles north of Fairbanks, 75 miles from Fort Yukon. Rather than try to walk back to civilization, he decided to sit tight and hope someone would come back and get him. He stopped dating his diary entries, as he had to spend most of his time and energy looking for food and keeping warm. By October he had run out of food, and was competing with the local foxes for game. He saved one bullet, however, for himself. Toward the end, he wrote, "Am burning the last of my emergency Coleman light and just fed the fire the last of my split wood. When the ashes cool, I'll be cooling along with them." When the rangers found his body the following February, emaciated and frozen, his last diary entry read, "Dear God in Heaven, please forgive me my weakness and my sins. Please look over my family." He added a separate note asking that his personal items be returned to his father, and he said that the person who found him should keep his rifle and shotgun.

Sources: Wikipedia, New York Times

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