In 1972 House Majority Leader and Democrat Representative Hale Boggs traveled over Alaska in a private two-engine Cessna 310. He was joined by Democrat Representative Nick Begich and a few other men on the flight. Although the weather was less than favorable during their flight, it was campaigning season and Boggs had work to do.
It’s unclear at what time his plane went missing or where it went missing, but Boggs never showed up to his next appointment. When calls went out and no one knew where he or the rest of the men on his flight were, it was apparent there was a problem.
The search for Boggs and the others quickly turned into the largest search party in U.S. history. According to Politico, 40 military aircraft and 50 civilian planes combed over 325,000 square miles in search for the Cessna 310. The search time totaled around 3,600 hours, without a shred of evidence revealing where the plane could possibly be.
The only thing anyone was sure of was the area in which the plane disappeared in. The Alaska Triangle encompasses Juneau to Anchorage to Barrow. The landscape is full of harsh wildlife, thick forests, and glaciers with caves and tunnels the size of buildings. Ice caves large enough to hide a Cessna 310. A landscape so vast and unforgiving, the possibility of ever finding a plane wreckage has so far been impossible.
The Manual says that since 1988, over 16,000 people have gone missing in the Alaska Triangle. No bodies or evidence has ever been found in the area. If someone goes missing in the Alaska Triangle, he or she will not be found. Not even 90 aircraft can find bodies, clothes, or even a plane.
Perhaps learning the amount of people who go missing in Alaska every year isn’t alarming to everyone. Alaska is considered America’s last frontier. The landscape and weather are intense to say the least. Not only that, you wouldn’t want to come across most of the wildlife, either. Alaska is beautiful, but it’s also dangerous. The Alaska Triangle encompasses an area that sees snowfall just about year round. If you get lost or injured at any point and it starts snowing, your chances of survival dramatically decrease with each snowflake landing on the ground around you.
However, not everyone believes the dramatic number of missing people in the Alaska Triangle is simply due to the dangerous nature of the land. Tlingit folklore tells stories of creatures who are responsible for disappearances.
Kushtaka is a shape-shifting creature able to take on the appearance of a human or an otter. Stories vary on whether the creature is malicious or helpful, depending on who’s the one telling the story. Kushtaka’s motives are most commonly based on turning a person into an otter or ripping the person to shreds. That being said, there are stories of the Kushtaka helping a lost person find their way home, or turning the person into an otter to help them adapt to the wildlife and the cold. Legends say Kushtaka imitates the cries of a baby or the screams of a woman to entice hikers in its direction.
Remembering the over 16,000 missing persons count in the Alaska Triangle since ‘88, I would say the creature’s goal is to make sure you never make it back home. An article in Seattle Times reveals a boom in otter population in Alaska that’s dramatically affected fishermen. Maybe the Kushtaka has been busy in the last few years turning lost hikers and travelers into otters. Perhaps there’s never any evidence found in the Alaska Triangle because the crevices between glaciers are too deep and too large––large enough to hide an entire plane. People even claim that unusual vortexes in the triangle are responsible for missing people.
It’s frustrating to never know the answer, to never uncover the lost. It’s also fascinating to learn the high number of missing people in one state alone. It makes you wonder if the Alaskan wilderness is that dangerous, or if there’s another answer we simply haven’t discovered yet. Regardless the answers or the questions, always be prepared before hiking in the Alaskan wilderness. Do your research. Protect yourself. And if you hear a woman’s screams in the woods, ask yourself if it’s just the wind blowing through the trees before following the high pitched noises.