Stranded Man Survives 3 Weeks in the Alaskan Winter Wilderness

The 30-year-old's cabin had burnt down, leaving him with only some canned food and debris for a shelter.
Fabienne Lang
Jason Steele's SOS sign on the snow helped State Troopers find him.Alaska State Troopers

Imagine the cold of the Alaskan winter. Now, imagine living over three weeks without much food or shelter in those sub-zero temperatures.

That's exactly what happened to 30-year-old Jason Steele when his remote cabin burnt down in mid-December. Steele was stranded with little food or shelter to keep him alive and warm.

It was only after his family warned the authorities to check on Steele that they discovered he'd been stranded in the cold.


How did he survive such a long time and in such critical conditions?

Steele's cabin was based in the remote area of Susitna Valley, north-west of Anchorage, approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the town of Skwentna.

Stranded Man Survives 3 Weeks in the Alaskan Winter Wilderness
Steele was rescued by State Troopers, Source: Alaska State Troopers

Living there since September last year, Steele wasn't certain of the exact date the fire happened, but he guessed around 17 or 18 December. The fire started because he had placed a big piece of cardboard into his wood fire stove.

Upon waking up to "fiery drips of plastic" falling from his roof, as Steele put it, he ran outside only in his long johns, boots, and a sweater. This is when he noticed his entire roof was ablaze.

Steele quickly ran back inside to grab what he could in order to survive before rushing back outside to notice his entire cabin was roaring furiously.

Stranded Man Survives 3 Weeks in the Alaskan Winter Wilderness
The area where Susitna Valley is located in Alaska, Source: David Benbennick/Wikimedia Commons

Steele told the Alaska State Troopers he had hoped his chocolate lab, Phil, had also made it outside — only to heartbreakingly realize he could hear him barking in panic inside the flaming wooden cabin. 

In Steele's own words to the authorities, he said "I have no words for what sorrow; it was just, just a scream. Just a visceral — not angry, not sad — just … all I could express, just scream," he said. "Felt like I tore my lung out."

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In order to survive the bitter cold of the Alaskan winter, Steele built a makeshift shelter from what he could scavenge from his burnt cabin. He lived off the canned foods he had managed to rescue when he had run out of the fire.

He dug an SOS sign onto the snow next to the cabin, in the hope of being seen from above.

Stranded Man Survives 3 Weeks in the Alaskan Winter Wilderness
Alaska on North America map, Source: TUBS/Wikipedia

The only way to rescue him in that area was via the air. The Trooper helicopter, prompted by Steele's family to go looking for him, managed to find him in time and airlift him out of the area.

Steele has always been an avid outdoorsman, but as he recuperates from his ordeal he plans on joining his family in Salt Lake City.

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