Posts Tagged ‘Chris McCandless’

Chris McCandless Starved to Death

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

I was reminded of the troubled Chris McCandless over at Sailer’s place, where he has a post about the writer John Krakauer.

This post by a guy named Samuel Thayer, makes solid points about McCandless starving to death:

I like to measure my food in calorie-days—the number of days of my full caloric requirement that the food represents. I calculated Chris’s calorie requirement as 3,300 per day based on his age, gender, a body weight of 145 pounds, and heavy physical activity, using guidelines from Grodner et al. (1996). This estimate is rough, and the true figure would depend on many unknowable variables. Still, my point is easily demonstrated: McCandless didn’t have nearly enough food. He began his journey on April 28 with a ten pound bag of rice—which constituted less than five calorie-days. By May 9, he had only killed one grouse and had written “4th day famine” in his journal. The rice was already long gone.


The squirrels that McCandless was eating (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) typically weigh five to nine ounces (Whitaker, 1996). Using seven ounces as an average, and realizing that after subtracting the skin, tail, head, bones, feet, and entrails, the edible flesh would constitute about 40 percent of that weight, or 2.8 ounces of meat per squirrel. This means that he would have needed to eat about twenty-five squirrels per day to meet his caloric requirement. If he carefully removed and ate the liver, kidneys, kidney fat, heart, lungs, and brain of each squirrel, he would have about doubled the calories that he received from each animal. Since he probably did this to some extent, I estimate that he needed roughly sixteen squirrels to equal a calorie-day.

Go read the whole post, it is fascinating. Thayer says McCandless, if he was eating just wild berries alone, would have to eat something on the order of thirteen pounds of blueberries to meet his daily caloric needs. I can’t even begin to imagine eating that much fruit in one day.