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More people disappear in the Alaska Triangle than anywhere else

The mystery of the Alaska Triangle is solved. Well, sort of

Clouds surrounding a mountain in Alaska
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re into alien conspiracies, unsolved mysteries, high school geometry, and tropical islands, it doesn’t get more intriguing than the Bermuda Triangle (aka Devil’s Triangle). That was, of course, until the mystery of The Triangle was finally solved a few years ago! Well … not really.

No matter, because we now know the Alaska Triangle exists and the mystery behind it is way, way more interesting. So much so that the Travel Channel even made a TV series out of it, where “[e]xperts and eyewitnesses attempt to unlock the mystery of the Alaska Triangle, a remote area infamous for alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings, paranormal phenomena, and vanishing airplanes.” So, yeah, the Alaska Triangle has everything the Bermuda Triangle has, but with more mountains, better hiking, and a whole lot more crazy.

An airplane mid-flight

How it all began

Interest in the Alaska Triangle began in 1972 when a small, private craft carrying U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs seemingly vanished into thin air somewhere between Juneau and Anchorage. What followed was one of the nation’s largest-ever search-and-rescue missions. For more than a month, 50 civilian planes and 40 military craft scoured a search grid of 32,000 square miles (an area larger than the state of Maine). They never found a trace of Boggs, his crew, or his aircraft.

Other mysteries

Paul Lemaitre suffered a similar fate. At 65, he competed in his first marathon and was rounding the last point, a mere 200 feet from the finish line. However, between that point, where he gave his bib number to a race official, and the end, he vanished. Authorities believed he had likely fallen off the marathon’s path through the wilderness, yet despite the minuscule area that needed to be searched and the participation of State Troopers, mountain rescue experts, and even trained search dogs, not a trace of the man was ever located.

Alan Foster is another example of odd disappearances in the region. In 2013, the expert pilot of nearly 10,000 flight hours vanished from radar soon after takeoff. Neither he nor his aircraft were ever found. He gave no indication of any distress prior to losing contact, and the only oddity beforehand was that he dropped to an altitude of 1,100 feet.

Richard Griffiths was an inventor who was hoping to prove the worth of his special wilderness survival cocoon. However, after several months of people believing him to be testing his cocoon in the Alaskan wilderness, he was reported missing. The following investigation found that he took a bus toward the White River, a tributary of the Yukon, spent some time in a lodge, and was never seen again.

A portrait of Hale Boggs during a press conference.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The vast, unforgiving wilderness may offer some explanation

The borders of the Alaska Triangle connect Anchorage and Juneau in the south to Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) along the state’s north coast. Like much of Alaska, the triangle contains some of the most rugged, unforgiving wilderness in North America. It’s an impossibly vast expanse of dense boreal forests, craggy mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and large swaths of plain old wilderness. Amid this dramatic backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that people go missing. What is surprising, however, is the sheer number of people who go missing. Add to that the fact that many disappear without a shred of evidence, and bodies (alive or dead) are rarely found.

Again, given the sheer size of the Triangle, it’s easy to chalk up its “mysteries” to the perils of traveling through such an inhospitable landscape. Alaska is big — at more than twice the size of Texas, it’s huge, actually. And, most of the state is still entirely uninhabited by people, with rugged mountains and dense forests. Finding a missing person in the Alaskan wilderness isn’t like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s like finding a specific molecule in a haystack. 

Climbers Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson atop a remote Alaskan peak in 'The Sanctity of Space.'
Greenwich Entertainment

Is something else at play within the Alaska Triangle?

By the numbers, it seems something more interesting might be at play. More than 16,000 people — including airplane passengers and hikers, locals, and tourists — have disappeared within the Alaska Triangle since 1988. The rate per 1,000 people is more than twice the national missing persons average, and the rate of people who are never found is even higher. The numbers do imply that something else is going on here other than merely “getting lost in the mountains.”

For almost as long as there have been planes flying over the Atlantic Ocean, theories have abounded about the nature of the Bermuda Triangle. Lovers of lore and mystery novels have postulated everything from unusually heavy air and bizarre weather patterns to alien involvement and energy lasers from the lost city of Atlantis. Many have speculated similar reasons for the disappearances within the Alaska Triangle. And those speculations are only increasing now that we are beginning to understand the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.

However, the most likely scientific explanation is simple geography. The state’s massive glaciers are rife with giant giant holes, hidden caves, and building-sized crevasses. All these provide the perfect burying grounds for downed aircraft and wayward souls. Once an aircraft crash-lands or a hiker becomes stranded, the fast-moving, year-round snow squalls can easily bury any trace of a person or airplane. Once that plane or person is buried by fresh snow, the likelihood of finding them is near zero. 

Other factors likely contribute as well. Compasses, for example, can sometimes be wrong by as much as 30 degrees in the area. While that may not seem like much, when knowing where you are depends on it; a 30-degree error can easily send you off course and then steer you wrong when you try to navigate your way home.

OK, all that does make sense. Alaska is huge. And, there are intense snowstorms all year around. But, aren’t those other theories way more fun to explore? We’re going to keep looking into the wormholes and alien reverse gravity technology because those are way more interesting.

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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