Christopher McCandless, also known by his pseudonym Alexander Supertramp, eschewed the trappings of modern society and in 1990 chose to live his days in the wild.
He spent two years trekking across America’s landscapes with little to no money; from the vast deserts of Arizona, to the sweeping grass plains in Missouri and finally the frozen wilds of Alaska.
The west Virginian documented his August 1992 death by starvation in the bus after living mostly on squirrels, birds, roots and seeds for 113 days. He had become trapped in the wild after the nearby Teklanika River swelled, making a return crossing impossible.
The hiker and bus have become a symbol for fellow adventurers after Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild,” chronicled his life and death. The novel was followed by Sean Penn’s Oscar-nominated movie of the same name in 2007.
The decision to remove “The Magic Bus” came as it had become the focus of a dangerous pilgrimage.
At least two hikers have died during river crossings and in February a group of five Italian tourists had to be rescued, while searching for the bus
Last week officials removed the 1940s-era bus from the remote Stampede Trail during a daring aerial operation dubbed “Operation Yutan”.
After winching the vehicle from its position with an Alaska National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter, officials placed it on the back of a truck and moved it to an as-of-yet undisclosed location for “safe storage”.
“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.”
Family informed of bus’ removal via phone call
Mr McCandless’ youngest sister Carine told 9News.com.au she learnt the US Army had moved the bus via a phone call and was bombarded with social media images shortly thereafter.
While Ms McCandless understands why the bus was removed, she said she was saddened to have been left out of the loop.
“I was saddened I wasn’t given a heads up, but I wasn’t offended by it.
“I understand their priority was to get it done safety without interruption by anyone else,” she said.
“I got very emotional at the thought of the bus being removed, then immediately before I was done speaking on the phone, people had seen the bus in the air so people were tagging me and sending things on social media.
“For selfish reasons I wish I knew ahead of time so I had a chance to prepare.”
Ms McCandless, who authored the memoir “The Wild Truth”, also defended the DNR’s decision in a written statement.
“I was stunned when Commissioner Feige called to inform me, just overwhelmed with emotions. But it was a respectful, proactive conversation,” she wrote.
“Though I am saddened by the news, the decision made by Alaska DNR was with good intentions toward public safety, and it was certainly their decision to make.
“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.”
While the bus’ new location hasn’t been revealed, Ms McCandless said the DNR plans to restore it so people can pay their respects in a safe manner.
While she’s touched by the interest in his life, for Ms McCandless, Chris was merely her older sibling.
The same sibling who once donated $24,000 from his college fund to Oxfam famine relief.
“He was the most honest, pure-spirited person I’ve ever met,” she said.
“On the surface he could look like just a regular guy – captain of the cross-country team in highschool – but he was smart, kind of quiet, had a great sense of humour and was kind to everyone.
“Chris was the type where he would just do charitable things – he didn’t need recognition for it.
“He never made an effort to draw attention to himself, yet people were always drawn to him, even now.”