John Krakauer Writes about How Chris McCandless Died

by Rachel Baker on September 13, 2013

Jon Krakauer, adventure writer known for writing about the outdoors and mountain-climbing, has written an article for the New Yorker about the topic of his book Into the Wild. Recently there has been further evidence to support his claim that Chris McCandless died, not because of starvation, but because of poison from a plant he ate.

In “Into the Wild,” the book I wrote about McCandless’s brief, confounding life, I came to a different conclusion. I speculated that he had inadvertently poisoned himself by eating seeds from a plant commonly called wild potato, known to botanists as Hedysarum alpinum. According to my hypothesis, a toxic alkaloid in the seeds weakened McCandless to such a degree that it became impossible for him to hike out to the highway or hunt effectively, leading to starvation. Because Hedysarum alpinum is described as a nontoxic species in both the scientific literature and in popular books about edible plants, my conjecture was met with no small amount of derision, especially in Alaska.

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