Into The Wild Essay
The Silent Fire
ODAP and the death of Christpher McCandless continued...
Significance of ODAP in Hedysarum Alpinum Seeds
The conclusion in this seems apparent: Christopher McCandless had contracted lathyrism. Whether or not he had confused “safe” hedysarum alpinum with its reportedly toxic cousin hedysarum mackenziei is moot. Instead, he managed to find himself at the nexus point of every line for those destined – or doomed – to be most affected by ODAP poisoning, and the results for him of eating the hedysarum alpinum seeds were inevitable. He was a young, thin man in his early 20’s, experiencing an extremely meager diet that was deficient in specific trace elements and vitamins such as vitamin C, A, and magnesium; who was hunting, hiking, climbing, leading life at its physical extremes, and who had begun to eat massive amounts of seeds containing a toxic protein. A toxin that targets persons exhibiting and experiencing precisely those characteristics and conditions, and which is found in even larger quantities in the seeds of hedysarum alpinum than it its notorious and deadly cousin, lathyrus sativus. For Chris, the result seems to have been forgone. And disastrous.
It might be said that Christopher McCandless did indeed starve to death in the Alaskan wild, but this only because he’d been poisoned, and the poison had rendered him too weak to move about, to hunt or forage, and, toward the end, “extremely weak,” “too weak to walk out,” and, having “much trouble just to stand up.” He wasn’t truly starving in the most technical sense of that condition. He’d simply become slowly paralyzed.
And it wasn’t arrogance that had killed him, it was ignorance. Also, it was ignorance which must be forgiven, for the facts underlying his death were to remain unrecognized to all, scientists and lay people alike, literally for decades. Under the proper circumstances, in other words, the seeds of hediysarum alpinum cause lathyrism, a crippling and commonly deadly disease.
Chris McCandless seems to have sensed what was happening to him without understanding precisely how or why. What brought about his death was lathyrism, induced by the ingestion of the toxic protein agent called ODAP.
Hopefully, to his thousands of advocates and
admirers, there is now provided some measure of final resolution as
to this young man’s demise in the wild.
Note: I humbly harbor hopes that this information, coupled with the death of Christopher McCandless, might in some ways be put to positive use both to publicize and address the ongoing problems that the affliction of lathyrism is posing to many thousands of individuals in the poorer nations of the earth.
R.C. (Ron) Hamilton
December 10, 2012
I am retired staff member of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a published author. I have won numerous awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry including: The O. Henry Award, the Golden Quill Award and the Westmoreland Award. I am the co-editor of a textbook series for gifted Korean schoolchildren that was funded and published by the Government of South Korea and a published book The Seventy Seven Year Good Deed. I have a second book, Jeff and Jimmy: A Vietnam Epistolary currently in preparation for publication.
I have participated in triathlons and distance
foot running races and have performed as a multi-instrumentalist in
a Scottish and Irish traditional folk music band for over 30 years.