Huh!! And I was convinced he was a fool after reading the book...but it does seem plausible that he died from the effects of lathyrism, those damn grass pea seeds!! I still do believe that he would have succumbed to starvation sooner or later, but apparently it was sooner due to the partial paralysis.
Amazing!! So 20 some years later, there is partial vindication...
Hopefully all outdoor people can learn something by revisiting these experiences. Krakauer is a very skilled writer. McCandless died due to a cascade of marginal decisions, mostly because he was a rookie in the bush. The most glaring one was his lack of understanding of the affect of snowmelt on rising rivers. His route back to his point of origin was blocked by high water. He underestimated his food requirements, especially with regard to the procuring of megafauna. He did not understand how to preserve meat. He was naïve in his reliance on native plants. I do not consider him to be a fool. Inexperienced maybe, but willing to try something he believed in even if it cost him his life. Timothy Treadwell on the other hand, was a fool. Nearly anyone from Alaska that met him would agree with that.
Alaska is a strict mistress and she has a limited tolerance for bad judgment. That is why nearly anyone that spends time there is profoundly changed by the experience.
That article is from a year ago. McCandless was not a fool in my opinion. He was intelligent and passionate and he followed his heart. As Krakauer points out McCandless was well informed about what he was eating. I wonder how many of us to label him a fool would last if we were to have to fend for our own food in the wild. That is all the animal world does, hunt, forage and search for food in order to survive. The animal kingdom has no TV's, books, hobbies or pastimes, that is all they do is search for food and try not to be on somethings menu.
Very interesting read, thanks YC! I went about my day was pondering the whole hunter-gathering way of life. In the way back when, there were no guide books on what to eat, learning not to eat that particular plant must have come at a cost. Once the knowledge had been learned it must have become part of the tribal lore, not to be lost or forgotten. It's common now to sneer at "old wives tales" but really, that's what the wisdom of what to eat or not consisted of and how it was handed down to the next generation.
I can almost see a division of labor/responsibility where the women did indeed keep everybody safe from eating the wrong foods.
When we are having storms here and I and the dogs hole up for the day, we spend the time reading and snacking from the kitchen. They snack more than they read but it's a team effort. Along with a fresh pot of tea, I'm surprised how well we can clean out the icebox of any leftovers. Thinking back to the way back when: what ever provisions had been stored up against the winter, it would have been so easy to munch them all up without somebody watching the larder. I wonder if that was where we got started on mathematics.
I can imagine three or four elder women (maybe in their thirties) trying to get a handle on how long winter was and how to apportion out the food to make it last.
Anyways, had fun thinking about all this.
Best Wishes, Rob
P.S. PPines, I really like your words " died of a cascade of marginal decisions." Something to ponder and take to heart.