The abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness that became a popular but dangerous pilgrimage for adventure seekers due to the book Into the Wild was removed via helicopter from its longtime resting place Thursday.
At least two hikers have died and over a dozen more rescued while in pursuit of the 1940s-era bus where Christopher McCandless, the subject of author Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, died of starvation in 1992; McCandless — who took shelter in the bus 250 miles north of Anchorage — kept a journal of his plight after the nearby Teklanika River swelled, making it unable to hike out of the area.
Since Into the Wild’s release in 1996 and the Sean Penn-directed big-screen adaptation in 2007, the bus became a popular destination for the like-minded adventure seekers from around the world that attempted to retrace McCandless’ journey. However, in 2019, a woman from Belarus drowned seeking out the bus, and last winter a search-and-rescue team had to be deployed for five Italian tourists who sought the “Magic Bus,” the Associated Press reported.
“We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination,” Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri A. Feige said in a statement. “However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts, but more importantly, was costing some visitors their lives.”
Dubbed “Operation Yutan” by the U.S. Army, the bus was airlifted by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and, following its extraction, placed on a truck and moved to a “secure site.” The bus’ fate is currently unknown, but displaying it at a safe location is under discussion.
“The aircrew also ensured the safekeeping and safe transportation of a suitcase that holds sentimental value to the McCandless family,” the Army added, but in an email to the New York Times, McCandless’ sister Carine disputed that the contents of the suitcase belonged to her brother; more likely, it was journals left by subsequent visitors of the bus.
“Though I am saddened by the news, the decision made by Alaska D.N.R. was with good intentions toward public safety, and it was certainly their decision to make,” Carine McCandless told the New York Times.
“Bus 142 did not belong to Chris, and it doesn’t belong to his family. As for those that followed in his footsteps to where it rested, at the end of the day, their journey wasn’t about a bus.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, Krakauer said of the bus’ removal, “It really gobsmacked me. This place has been desecrated and now it’s been obliterated. But it’s really tragic people keep dying doing stupid stuff.”
Krakauer continued, “I wish the bus could have remained how it was. But I wrote the book that ruined it.”