Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Lost Boys of Minchumina: A firefighting mystery

The float plane banked over the fire camp, making sure his passengers could see their route to it from the lake where he would drop them off.  The two men said they understood.  When they were signed up to fight this fire, picked up basically off the street as many firefighters were in those days, they had claimed they were college students from the east coast, in Alaska on vacation.

The plane left them on the shore of remote Lake Minchumina with two sleeping bags and a few other supplies. Then they vanished.

Two weeks later, the two men stumbled into fire camp.  They had gotten lost, they said.  They had survived by eating frogs and drinking creek water. 

The people at fire camp were suspicious.  The two men looked far too healthy, clean and well-fed to have been wandering in the wilderness for so long.  Where had they been?  Had they found a cabin  stocked with food and stayed there until the supplies ran out, or until they wanted to return to civilization?   Had they seen the fire on the way in, thought "nope" and concocted a plan?  Nobody knew for sure, but the two were soon sent packing.

One of my coworkers in Alaska discovered the story while transferring historic fire files from paper to electronic records.  A letter, written by one of the firefighters, was asking for payment for the two weeks the two had been allegedly lost and wandering the tundra.  Intrigued, my coworker dug further, finding that one of the men had indeed been registered at an Ivy League university; there was no record of the other.  Reimbursement was denied.

The real story is lost in the mists of time, over sixty years ago.  What really happened to the two would-be firefighters? Were they truly lost, or living out an Alaskan adventure?


Alaska fire scar and fire in the distance

6 comments:

  1. The mysteries that will never get solved are the most intriguing. Sounds suspicious...the cabin theory sounds likely The saddest are those where no trace is ever found.

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    1. I'm sure they found a cabin. I wonder if they decided on that right away. Supposedly it was a pretty straightforward hike from the lake to the camp.

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  2. Interesting that both claimed to be college students, but only one's college enrollment could be verified. Wonder what they were up to.

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    1. I think my coworker tried to find contact information for the one who had been a student, but I don't think he was able to, or never got a response.

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  3. What an interesting little mystery!!!

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    1. I confess I really like mysteries! I'm really curious about things.

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