Missing Hiker in Alaska

12:11 a.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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Nov. 17, 2012 Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska –  Open rivers, thin ice and a lack of snow are holding up a ground search for a 31-year-old Wisconsin man overdue from a trip to northwest Alaska.

Thomas Seibold of Three Lakes was reported overdue Sunday.

Siebold in September traveled to Alaska to hike and explore. Alaska State Troopers say he split from his friends in late September intending to stay at a remote cabin through October.

He was expected to hike 25 miles to the village of Kobuk (COE'-buck) but so far has not appeared.

Seibold is an outdoors and survival instructor. He has camped extensively during winters.

Troopers hope to search along the Ambler River and Ulaneak (oo-LAN'-ee-ack) Creek where Seibold may have built a base camp.

Bad weather has restricted search flights.

Hope they locate him in good health.

2:59 a.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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How much food did he have? If he was gonna camp for over a month he must have had a cache or a huge pack. This just shows that anyone can get hurt or lost. One wrong move in the right situation and it is all over.

11:32 a.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

How much food did he have? If he was gonna camp for over a month he must have had a cache or a huge pack

I have an 85L pack and I couldn't fit enough food in it for that time length.

Then again an 11lb Honey Baked Ham does take up some room(among other things.)

What can I say? I like to snack. ;)

I hope this guy is okay. 

12:07 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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This kind of stuff happens a lot in the North.  Many people that are experienced somewhere else, have problems in a place like Alaska.  They underestimate a lot of things like the weather.  The closest I have ever come to freezing to death was Aug 31 in the Coast Range up near Skagway.

1:42 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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There is a lot more detail on the hiker here - http://www.adn.com/2012/11/17/2696373/wisconsin-survivalist-missing.html

He may not have even made it back to the cabin. If he did, then he left the cabin without leaving a note. He could be anywhere in those mountains.

1:56 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said: I have an 85L pack and I couldn't fit enough food in it for that time length.

I have a 65L pack and took a 30 day supply of food and gear into the Teton Wilderness last spring. But having not carried so much weight and staying out for so long before  I only lasted 10 days before going back home. My pack weighed about 75-80 lbs.

I used to do month long trips in Denali NP in north central Alaska in the late 70s summers during Memorial Day to Labor Day.  I was young and strong and it was still difficult. 

I started caching food and gear in the 80s which made it much easier. 

Anyway hopefully this guy is okay. September was a long time ago and 2 months out is a long time with one months food. Maybe he did some hunting or found a old bus to sleep in...

2:04 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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I think of the scene in the movie Castaway where Tom Hank's character hikes up to a peak to retrieve a piece of rope.  It is never stated but strongly implied that he considered suicide as one small injury could lead to a slow death.  No matter how good or knowledgeable you are an event outside of your control could be fatal.  

3:09 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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I don't know the guy at all or his actual skill level, so maybe I'm totally off base with this, but the first thing I notice is 31 years old & Outdoors/Survival [instructor].  I've always felt you should have a certain number of years under your belt, preferably many, before you start calling yourself an expert & teaching others. 31 seams a bit young to me but who knows, maybe he's been doing this stuff since he was 10.

In any case, hope he is found ok. Maybe spending that much time out there he realized how much civilization sucks and decided he didn't want to come back.

I would imagine for that length of time he was planning on hunting/fishing & foraging for the bulk of his food. Certainly in the right place for it.

5:31 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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The woman and child that he canoed downriver with had been living in the cabin, so there was probably a good stock of food there.

I am skeptical of his skills and maturity because of the statements of his supervisor Tamarack Song. He was going to "find himself."

6:01 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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age is relative with any subject matter. I know Doctors and Physicians assistants who are 27 and who could save a life with the best of them. I am a therapist and have had clients display "ageism" against me, but end up finding ways to help them through problems that they thought only people of experience could have.

He was 31, but maybe hiked and climbed 250 days a year for the last 10 years. That's probably more than most older people have in their whole lives...you never know.

6:13 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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JerseyWreckDiver said:

...the first thing I notice is 31 years old & Outdoors/Survival [instructor].  I've always felt you should have a certain number of years under your belt, preferably many, before you start calling yourself an expert & teaching others....

To an extent, I agree, but don't discount the many courses offered that will make you better in certain circumstances than someone with decades of experience. First Aid/CPR, AST courses, Wilderness First Aid, Outward Bound, all come to mind.

One of my hiking partners from the last couple of years is a 24 year old girl, whose parent sent her on a OB course where she spent a month backpacking in the wilderness. She learned more in that month than some of the guys I've hiked with who've been doing it for decades longer.

Somebody with a few first aid courses (especially Wilderness First Aid) is a lot more qualified to stop someone from bleeding out than someone with 20 years experience and no proper training. The proverbial 'experienced outdoorsman' whose body turns up under the snow in the springtime is probably the one who figured he had enough 'hand-on' experience to not need an avalanche course.

Repeating incorrect behaviour many times, but being lucky enough to not have it become a problem, doesn't mean you actually know what you're doing.

6:33 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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I hope they find him alive, but given the research I just did, his skill sets may not be up to it.

This has nothing to do with his age. Apparently the Teaching Drum Outdoor School(not Talking Drum Outdoor School) was founded in 1987 by Tamarack Song. The aim of the school is to teach many of the old ways of survival that Tamarack Song learned from his Grandmother, a First Nations woman. However, there is a lot of negative press about Tamarack Song, in some cases comparing him to the fellow that was arrested and charged two years ago with killing people in a phony sweat lodge ceremony. What I've been able to gather from several sites, including one, Teaching Drum Turns, is that Tamarack Song is not of First Nations heritage, and when he first started the school, his survival skills were less than those of some of his students and first instructors. He apparently used to teach solo canoeing and latched onto the name Tamarack Song because it sounded better than his real name, Dan Konen. I found letters from past students who call the school a sham and a First Nations run website whose goal appears to be to expose the fraud before Tamarack Song gets someone killed.

There are a number of similar programs throughout North America, that aim to teach the Native ways and yet are not taught or administered by any native communities or individuals. Some are more honest than others. Many attract young people from Europe or elsewhere and charge a great deal of money to teach students how to make a fire bow, gather wild edible plants etc. In some cases, these schools recruit students who are having difficulty coping with their lives, and in need of direction. The young man in Alaska was, it seems, one of those. He took the course and then came back as an assistant instructor.

If Tamarack Song has no native background, it is not a new story. Archie Belaney(Grey Owl) did the same thing one hundred years ago and no one knew until after his death.

I do not judge Tamarack Song or his school. I am sure that whatever skills are taught, even if it is simply being able to get along with others in a close environment, provide some value. However, I find fault with any outdoor program that falsely professes to leave its graduates with solid survival skills.

8:22 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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peter1955 said:

JerseyWreckDiver said:

...the first thing I notice is 31 years old & Outdoors/Survival [instructor].  I've always felt you should have a certain number of years under your belt, preferably many, before you start calling yourself an expert & teaching others....

To an extent, I agree, but don't discount the many courses offered that will make you better in certain circumstances than someone with decades of experience. First Aid/CPR, AST courses, Wilderness First Aid, Outward Bound, all come to mind.

One of my hiking partners from the last couple of years is a 24 year old girl, whose parent sent her on a OB course where she spent a month backpacking in the wilderness. She learned more in that month than some of the guys I've hiked with who've been doing it for decades longer.

Somebody with a few first aid courses (especially Wilderness First Aid) is a lot more qualified to stop someone from bleeding out than someone with 20 years experience and no proper training. The proverbial 'experienced outdoorsman' whose body turns up under the snow in the springtime is probably the one who figured he had enough 'hand-on' experience to not need an avalanche course.

Repeating incorrect behaviour many times, but being lucky enough to not have it become a problem, doesn't mean you actually know what you're doing.

 I've no intent to discount valid training or the fact that despite his age he could be as your 24 year old hiking partner, a very quick & natural learner. The problem is, as Erich has bought to light, there are thousands of businesses out there that run wannabes through certification mills for just about anything they are willing to pay for. And while valid training is important, nothing can replace hands on & repetitive field experience, most of which just comes with time.  Just think of what your thought you knew about the outdoors ten years ago & compare that to what you do know now...

Anyway, hopefully he will be found ok but given the current info, I don't hold a lot of hope. He's not in Wisconsin any more...

11:11 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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I would add, that if Siebold ventured into the natural lands(wilderness is a more European term) expecting to survive by harvesting what is available, he might succumb to the fate of John Hornby, whose hubris killed both himself and his two companions in 1927. As well, "wader" you cannot expect that the cabin was well stocked. I have been in many cabins in the North that were well stocked only with rodent feces. Even with an elevated cache, anything resembling food will be quickly consumed by rodents, weasels(the entire family including the one I love but trappers hate, the wolverine) and bears. Most folks leave very little in their cabins or caches because of the subsequent destruction that will happen. So too, I doubt whether the woman and her son would make a gift of a month of supplies without compensation. I'm not saying that they would deprive him of food he needed, but they wouldn't just leave it in case he needed it. My guess is that he had enough( he thought), and planned on foraging for the rest. Unfortunately, as Hornby and others have found, summers are short up North. And planned harvests of caribou in Hornby's case or berries and herbs may happen early or not at all. Dr. Rae's report on the Franklin Expedition search noted that many Inuit starved the second year of the Franklin odyssey, attesting to the harsh conditions and the variability of the climate.

12:29 a.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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I have no idea what this guy knew or didn't know. I discount his age, doesn't matter to me unless he was a teenager and even then some probably have far better skill sets than I do. Even with his experience, Scott thought taking ponies to the South Pole was a good idea and we know how that turned out, so I wouldn't be too quick to judge this guy. The whole "going to Alaska to find himself" thing seems like an invitation to madness, but hey, people go all kinds of places for the same reason. Some go to Manhattan, some come to Hollywood and the outcome is the same. Alaska is a big place and anything could have happened to him. People have disappeared on the JMT (John Muir Trail) or while paddling off of Malibu for no apparent reason (happened to a friend of a friend). Not sure there is a lesson to be learned in any of it.

10:27 a.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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JerseyWreckDiver said:

 I've no intent to discount valid training or the fact that despite his age he could be as your 24 year old hiking partner, a very quick & natural learner. ... nothing can replace hands on & repetitive field experience, most of which just comes with time. 

I don't think we're disagreeing here. I was comparing courses that would add skills (such as those required for professional guides) to the sometimes questionable information that John Doe Outdoorsman would gather from his friends, the internet, and word of mouth.

There is no substitute for practising your skills in a real-life situation, but it is important that those skills be correct first.

11:38 a.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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I think Tom D raises an interesting question in that people have disappeared in less "wilderness" settings, too. Why is one any more significant than the other?

For that matter why is a survival coarse put on by a First Nations person any more relevant and usefull than one taught by a non-aboriginal. Isn't it the curriculum that matters? Knowledge is not inherited, after all.

In my particular part of the Far North, we respond to 8 to 12 search and rescues a year. Most of these people in need are locals who get lost or run out of gas while in their boat or snowmachine. The reasons are usually embarrassingly simple and many don't bring adequate supplies to overnight. So, I would never assume that ones ancestry or place of habitation gives an edge over someone else. I happen to live in the Arctic, but I live in a house. So does everyone else around here. You would be hard pressed to find someone who knew how to build an igloo let alone survive for any length of time outdoors without at least a few essential modern devices. Also, it should be remembered that when people go missing, for what ever reason, it not only costs thousands of dollars to find them, but also risks the lives of those who are searching for them.

Erich, I am glad you pointed out Dr. Rae's comments; I might add reading the history of Etah, Greenland as well, or the more resent photos taken by Richard Harrington, to help illustrate the harsh conditions up here.

12:32 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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We may all be happily surprised when Siebold walks out of the bush next week. And temperment along with experience, has a lot to do with surviving in the bush. Scott and Hornby perished because they were overconfident. Scott in modern technology(he brought tractors too) that was untried, Hornby because he relied too much on a set plan. Franklin as well, succumbed in part because of modern technology(lead soldered cans). And he had been on several Arctic expeditions before. What experience teaches us about the bush, is that one cannot predict anything with much certainty. Chris McCandless had never learned to hunt and skin out a moose, had learned from talking to people. That he survived as long as he did, is a wonder. Contrast him with Richard Proeneke who spent 30 years living in the bush. Of course, not without some supplies.

My thoughts are with Siebold's friends and family and hope that his is safe.

1:43 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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Erich I agree with you in part. Scott's use of tractors, in a way, lead to the development of the snow machine, upon which people up here have become almost totally dependent. Would I have used them back then? Not in your life. But, everyone today, in one way or another, is dependent upon modern technology.

Much of surviving anywhere alone, whether Alaska, the Canadian Arctic or even in the tropics, is dependent on luck. Case in point, a young man I know recently slid down a hill outside his camp and broke his left femur. If he had also punctured his femoral artery, very likely in his case, he would have exsanguinated (bled out) in seconds. Fortunately, he was not alone and close to town so could get the medical attention he needed. Alone, he would not have survived.

Temperament or attitude is another factor. History is full of stories of people who survived ordeals with little or no previous knowledge or experience but simply had the right attitude to see them through. Personally, I would rather travel with someone with a cheerful disposition and an ability and desire to learn, rather than a "survival expert".

3:41 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, Scott's use of tractors was innovative, if poorly timed. Amundsen succeeded, as did Steffanson, by adapting proven Inuit technology. Luck does have a lot do with it. Like Hornby's bad luck of missing the caribou migration. Unfortunately Hornby had similar luck on previous trips and almost starved to death twice before. His luck finally ran out. Amundsen had good luck, but also was cautious, and succeeded because of his detailed plan. Lt. Bligh completed one of the most spectacular voyages in an open boat with no charts. But his experience in seamanship and command ensured that he and 18 of his crew made it Timor.

There are many stories of experienced people who go missing in the bush, some are more experienced than others. Albert Faille had many close calls in his time on the Nahanni, yet he survived to an old age, as did Richard Proeneke. Survival is often a matter of luck, skill and temperment...a combination rather than blind reliance on one or another.

I also choose my companions carefully. Often, the most experienced experts, and I'm talking about people with decades of solid experience, also exhibit a cheerful disposition and a desire to learn. They know that these things are as important to survival as bush dentistry and the like. Attitude is a skill like any other.

8:26 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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I like to think attitude is the foundation to all the other skills. Temperament is actually an excellent choice of words Erich. There's something that some people just have as part of their make up and some don't, and no class is going to put it into them while others can glean more from a course than the instructor knows he's giving.

I tell new divers all the time, "If something goes wrong down there, your dead the second you start to panic, the lack of heartbeat thing is just a technicality after that. Keep your cool, think through your options and you'll be surprised what you can work through". If nothing else, it's funny to watch their face go quickly through several different expressions and very telling which one is last.


Peter, Agreed on all counts.

Hopefully, as Erich said, he will just walk out in the next several days and give everyone a bewildered look, shrug his shoulders and say "What?"

8:34 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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"Survival is often a matter of luck, skill and temperment...a combination rather than blind reliance on one or another."

You hit the nail on the head, Erich. My own experiences have taught me that no matter how well trained and experienced we are, there may always come events, stochastic in nature, which we cannot control. If luck is on our side, we will only be humbled by them.

1:51 a.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, most of what we encounter in nature and life is random. The time my camera equipment was delayed and went down in a crash in Detroit. I was not fortunately, one of the victims, but I still had to do the shoot, albeit with rented gear.

Temperament is important. The question then evolves to would you rather  be stranded with Scott, or Amundsen? Scott was probably better company and Amundsen would eat you to save rest of the party. But I'd rather be with Amundsen.

2:38 a.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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I ran across these two sayings a few years ago and resurrect them from my files every now and then when we have one of these discussions-

"Adventure is just bad planning." — Roald Amundsen (1872—1928).

"Having an adventure shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone wrong. An adventure is interesting enough — in retrospect. Especially to the person who didn't have it." — Vilhjalmur Stefansson, My Life with the Esquimo.

12:06 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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I always liked that quote from Stefansson and agree wholeheartedly with both. Understanding that luck plays a role in survival is important. But failing to plan well and relying on the idea that nothing will go wrong, can eventually lead to disaster.

1:26 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Scott and Amundsen were poles apart in their thinking. (No pun intended.) As for whom I would want to be stranded with, I would much rather be alone than with anyone. This contradicts the current meme of never travelling alone, but all of my travels, and I have been on many both in summer and winter, have been solo. I know myself and I know my limitations and I am very much at ease with my own company. But that's just me.

One of the major factors in Hornby's demise was the fact that he had two extra mouths to feed with his two companions; neither of whom had ever done anything like survive in the far north before. If he had been alone, he may have survived the winter. Inevitabley, though, I think Hornby's fate was sealed.

As for Stefansson, I wonder what the crew of the Karluk would have thought of his statement about adventure. He abandoned them all to die, taking the best dogs and equipment with him. Bob Bartlett was the real hero of that trip. Stefansson wound up siring more than a few children with the local women up here; I know some of his grandchildren. But, I guess that was the custom of the day as Amundsen, Peary, Henson, Cook, Hall, etc. all stirred the gene pool, too.

To steer this discussion back on course, though, I kind of shudder when I hear about someone comming up here to "find themselves". With all due respect, the North is not a psych-couch and we don't need the kind of media attention that is often the inevitable conclusion of such activities.

 

2:09 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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Well, to really get back on the subject, any further news on the search? I've been looking at the weather for the area, it's been consistently well below zero day and night. Other day the windchill was -25. Doesn't bode well.

In defense of the guy who's lost up there, it was the schmuck that runs the "school" that said he was going to find himself. I think most of us here feel more at home and at ease in the backcountry.

11:58 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Last I heard, they were nearly giving up the search because they had no idea where to look. As I had mentioned after my research earlier, Siebold had been a student at the Three Lakes school and returned the last year as an assistant. He has some winter experience, to be sure, outside Dan Konen's school.

2:56 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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There is a difference between experience, and experience in Alaska.  I hope this guy is not another one of the overly-confident self-proclaimed survival gurus.

3:04 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Seibold, searchers say, is lost in a vast wilderness area without trails, and officials have about run out of ideas of where to look for him. A survival instructor from a Wisconsin school that teaches old, American Indians skills, he was on a spiritual journey into the Alaska wild. His disappearance has attracted national and international attention. The Daily Mail Tuesday reported friends of Seibold are confident he remains alive.

But the search for him is not expected to continue much longer, given searchers really don't know where to look. The obvious routes from the cabin where Seibold was staying on the Ambler River to the village of Kobuk, where he planned to catch a flight home, have been examined. There was no sign of the missing man. Search and rescue professionals say they now need at least some new clue of where to look so they can focus search efforts. A trooper in Kotzebue noted it is near impossible to effectively search hundreds of square miles of wilderness. Searches are more successful when rescuers have some idea of where to go.

Alaska Dispatch 

6:58 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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oh boy...this doesn't look good...the guy could be dead of exposure by now.

10:30 a.m. on November 26, 2012 (EST)
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I sincerely hope he is ok, and up to the challenge of living in those conditions. I feel for his family and friends who must be concerned for him, and hope their fears are not realized. 

A cynical part of me wonders if the whole thing isn't a publicity stunt for the school, and the optimistic part of me says not to be so ungracious. 

Either way, I pray no one ends up hurt or killed from the whole ordeal. 

1:34 a.m. on November 28, 2012 (EST)
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gonzan said:

A cynical part of me wonders if the whole thing isn't a publicity stunt for the school, and the optimistic part of me says not to be so ungracious. 

 Your not alone there, I had a similar thought.

6:54 p.m. on November 28, 2012 (EST)
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I find it strange that the guy just up and disappeared. makes me wonder. I just hope that if this is a sham, he doesn't get some sar people hurt or killed.

8:20 a.m. on November 30, 2012 (EST)
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I have not read any updates on this story.

3:52 p.m. on November 30, 2012 (EST)
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i read the search was formally suspended.  Also, the area where he is believed to have gone is fairly remote and difficult to travel in, even for Alaska.  temps down into the -20 to -40f range this time of year. 

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