Death and danger have become cliché in Alaska. Reality TV would have you believe that there isn’t a waking moment in the 49th State that isn’t fraught with the perils of nature looming at every turn and disaster perpetually imminent.
During the early gold rush days in the late 1800’s deaths and acts of heroism and idiocy that occurred in Alaska made newspaper headlines from San Francisco to New York City regularly, and today is no really different. Alaska still grabs headlines with bear attacks and dim-witted politicians threatening to act like attacking momma bears; however, between the hype and the actual occasional crazy death in Alaska it has become harder and harder to die in a way that might surprise or actually even capture a headline or one of the little scrolling breaking new captions on Fox or CNN.
With that in mind here are ten ways to die in Alaska that are almost guaranteed to still make headlines.*
- Bear Attack at Brooks Falls Live on Camera. Bear attacks have become somewhat commonplace it seems of late in the news, so in order to really be noteworthy the person attacked should have a truly dramatic survival story (one like you can read in Dan Bigley’s book Beyond the Bear) in which case you have survived and don’t qualify as dead and you’ll have to die another way on this list. Your real hope to make headlines with a bear is to go big. The best way to go really big in terms of bears would be to travel to Katmai National Park to the Brooks Falls where the bears are BIG. Dress like a giant salmon and swim your way up the river while the whole scene streams live on the web. You’ll swim right into the jaws of the bears fishing there at the falls. If this isn’t for you, then watch the bears fishing at this link live and wait for your first human in fish garb.
- Gangland Style Shooting. Don’t tell anyone this, but Alaska (mostly Anchorage) has a little bit of a gang problem and we have our share of gang related shootings. To get in on the action go to any of the local hip-hop concerts and use spray paint to tag all the lowered or tricked out cars. This will likely get you shot. You can also attract the attention of the various gangs you’ll need by watching their hilarious gangsta rap videos on Youtube and then mock them with your own parody videos and they’ll be sure to begin targeting you.
- Break into the Anchorage Zoo at night. One woman many years ago became famous for trying to feed her foot to Binky our polar bear, but you can one up her by crawling into the Siberian Tigers’ cage. This is sure to grab national attention because they are Siberian Tigers. In Alaska.
- Survive the Siberian Tiger cage only to fall into the cage with the pack of wolves. The fact that you escaped the tigers only to die from a pack of captive wolves will surely impress people. That or go get trampled by the huge Bactrian camels. Don’t ask why we have tigers or camels at our Alaska zoo, or that might also get you dead.
- Go golfing at midnight on solstice and get hit in the head with a golf ball. (Yes, we have golf courses and in the summer there is enough sunlight you can actually golf at midnight, and the fact that we have golf courses alone will pretty much guarantee garnering at least a nod on ESPN. Actually getting hit in the head might be the hard part. Good luck with that. Your odds are probably more likely that you’ll get trampled by a mad mamma moose while on the course. If this happens right after you hit a hole-in-one, you’ll surely make EPSN headlines that night and probably get a mention in at least 23 of the 24 hours of a single Fox News cycle.
- Really go into the wild and try out the nightlife in Anchorage. Hit one of our popular watering holes down town right at closing time then hang out in the parking lot at bar break and talk your best smack to everyone who passes by and you’re pretty much going to get beaten and or shot or both. This wouldn’t make headlines normally, because it happens so frequently, but the fact that your bullet riddled body was found dressed as Sarah Palin will at least grab a tweet or two from Palin herself and then the rest of the media will swarm like Mosquitoes. Sorry, death by real mosquitoes is too common in Alaska to actually make this list.
- Avalanche. Plenty of people die in avalanches in Alaska every year, so that’s not such a big deal, but when you invent a gasoline suit, designed to ignite and melt the snow that is supposed to save you from such deaths but instead ends in a fiery and snowy explosion? That will make for some awesome GoPro footage and will score you some serious street cred in the Alaskan Death Annals.
- Death by Volcano. And while you’re capturing GoPro footage, you could go really where only pros go and go find one of our 90 active volcanoes and then paraglide into it, with the camera running of course. (I’m fairly certain this has never been done and would be sure to snatch up some headlines.)
- Earthquake. Where there are volcanoes there are earthquakes. Alaska is situated on the ring of fire, and this means we have tremblers pretty much happening somewhere in Alaska at any give moment. Don’t believe me? Check out these two websites that monitor our quakes and volcanoes. http://www.aeic.alaska.edu/ http://www.avo.alaska.edu/ We haven’t had a quake that killed anyone in a while, but if you timed it right and say had your head resting beneath a precariously placed boulder or better yet under the axle of a jacked up truck converted into a giant Alaskan-sized Radio Flyer Wagon just at the right moment when the old plate tectonics work their magic? BAM! You’re famous! (And dead.)
- Igloo Fire. And finally the top ten way to have your ticket punched in Alaska that is sure to impress both Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike? Death by igloo fire. First off there are no igloos in Alaska, and frankly Alaskans are tired as hell of being asked if they live in Alaska. So when some dude dies in an actual igloo fire, even hardened Alaskans will take notice. Outside of Alaska death by igloo fire might not sound all that special, seeing it’s Alaska and such infernos must be commonplace; however, when folks hear the fire was started by your malfunctioning gasoline-filled avalanche prevention suit everyone will be seriously impressed.
For an all too real (and tragic) list of how people have really died in the Alaskan wilderness check out http://www.akfatal.net
* [No actual guarantee of death or fame comes with this list. Dying in Alaska is also not recommended.]
Tune in for more soon from Don Rearden – the next Editor in Residence at The Rogue Reader.
Don Rearden grew up on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska, an experience that informed his critically acclaimed debut literary thriller The Raven’s Gift. While calling Don “a master of the cliffhanger” The Washington Post went on to praise the novel’s “hunter-hunted suspense of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the post-apocalyptic bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the haunting mysteriousness of The X-Files.”
Stay tuned for more posts from Don Rearden and his upcoming Alaskan thriller only from The Rogue Reader.