The 1940s Fairbanks city bus made famous in a 1996 book and subsequent 2007 movie was removed in June by helicopter from the Alaskan wilderness. The bus had become an attraction to outdoor adventurers, sometimes with tragic consequences, so the decision was made for the Alaska Army National Guard to take it from its longtime resting place on the Stampede Trail, 25 miles west of Healy.
Its future had looked uncertain but this week the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced it's considering a new home for Bus 142.
The historic vehicle is likely to begin its next chapter at the University of Alaska's Museum of the North in Fairbanks, according to a statement from the DNR. It's hoped that placing Bus 142 on display in a public museum will "ensure this historical and cultural object will be preserved in a safe location where the public could experience it fully, yet safely and respectfully, and without the specter of profiteering,” DNR Commissioner Corri Feige said, with the move expected to be signed off in the next few months.
"It can honor all of the lives and dreams, as well as the deaths and sorrows associated with the bus, and do so with respect and dignity," Feige added.
The bus was in situ in the first place as it was originally used by the Yutan Construction Co to house employees during the construction of a pioneer access road between Lignite and Stampede, and was subsequently abandoned upon completion of the road in 1961. It was where 24-year-old adventurer Christopher McCandless found shelter in 1992, and ultimately died of starvation after 114 days. His story was the subject of Jon Krakauer's book, "Into The Wild," and the 2007 movie adaptation, which was directed by Sean Penn.
The story captured many people's imagination, and numerous travelers subsequently sought to reach the bus by retracing McCandless’ steps. Sadly, a number of these adventurers perished in the process, or were injured or required search-and-rescue services while hiking in harsh weather or crossing the swollen Teklanika or Savage rivers. The decision was taken to remove the bus to a secure location on safety grounds by CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and the operation was executed through a joint effort of Alaska’s DNR and the Alaska Army National Guard.
This article was first published on June 23rd and updated on August 6th, 2020.
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