Biggest nincompoop: Timothy Treadwell, Chris McCandless, or Vitaly Nikolayenko?

I’m in one of those special moods where I hate everyone, even the dead.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. "That’s your usual mood, isn’t it, Skaldirimus? Well, my response to that is … um, okay, I don’t actually have a response to that.

For persons who do not recognize the names in the thread title, I will offer brief summaries taken from Wikipedia, along with the links to the entire article. If you’re not already familiar with them, I encourage you to read said links.

You may define “nincompoop” for your ownself. Of course I don’t mean the biggest nincompoop in human history; compare the three men to one another, not the rest of Man-the-Kind.

Christopher Johnson McCandless (February 12, 1968 – mid-August, 1992) was an American itinerant who adopted the name Alexander Supertramp and hiked into the Alaskan wilderness with little food and equipment, hoping to live a period of solitude. Almost four months later, weighing only 67 pounds (30 kg), he died of starvation near Denali National Park and Preserve.

Timothy Treadwell(April 29, 1957 – October 5, 2003) was an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, eco-warrior and documentary film maker. He lived among the coastal grizzly bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska, USA, for approximately 13 seasons. At the end of his 13th season in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and eaten by brown bears.

Vitaly Nikolayenko was a Russian self-educated natural scientist and photographer notable for his extensive research on the ethology of Russian bears. He spent 33 years living with the Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) native to the Kamchatka peninsula. He was found dead in December 2003 at the Kronotsky state reserve, one of two managed by the federal government, 110 miles (177 km) north of Petropavlovsk. Authorities concluded that the cause of death was an apparent bear mauling.

If dying in pursuit of your interests makes you a nincompoop, then I guess that makes most of the American settlers and pioneers pretty stupid.

That said, this McCandless fella maybe could have educated himself better on how to survive in the environment he was putting himself into. The other two guys had at least made sure they knew how to find something to eat. But maybe McCandless had reached a point in his life where he thought “Fuck it, I’ll put my life in the hands of Fate.”

Treadwell by far. If Ron White does a routine on you, it’s because You Can’t Fix Stupid.

Having read Into the Wild, it’s impossible for me not to vote for McCandless. The thing that’s clear from the book is that he wasn’t even in a particularly remote part of Alaska. He was near a road, and not far from a town. He could have easily gotten out of his bad situation, and there was apparently quite a bit of edible vegetation near where he died. He was just so clueless that he wasn’t able to take advantage of any of this.

Frankly, I feel no pity for him (although I do for his family). He purposely put himself into harm’s way with absolutely no idea of what he was doing and died as a result. Grade-A stupidity.

IMHO the choices are a bit stacked. You have two naturalists who had years of experience and would have been the first people to tell you that bears can be dangerous, who finally fell afoul of the law of averages. Then you have a latter-day hippie who thought getting back to Mother Nature would be groovy. Now if the two other examples had been imbecilic “bears are our friends” types, then it would a closer contest.

I don’t know much about the Russian guy. Treadwell however liked to pretend he had some sort of mystical connection with wildlife. He did, too, he just didn’t like to admit it was based on bacon. The man was just begging to be bear food and fulfilled his place on the food chain.

McCandless though was a really special kind of stupid. I can’t respect his desire to live off the grid because he never made any attempt to understand what that was about. He had no respect for that life himself.


If by “naturalist,” you mean “professional field biologist,” I’m not sure Treadwell qualifies. Moreover, he made more than a few mistakes that led to his ultimate fate as bear-meat.

McCandless. Treadwell likely had mental problems but at least he and the Russian were able to keep themselves fed when they went into the wild.

It’s a toughie. I voted Treadwell, mostly because his stupidity (and hers) got another person (and 2 bears, oh! the irony!) killed as well. Actually though, McCandless was naive, loopy and hopelessly unprepared - so probably should have gone for him.

I’m going with the guy who died within half a year over the two that survived for at least a decade.

I can’t decide between Treadwell and McCandless.

In one corner: Mr. Treadwell, who from everything I’ve read was dangerously close to thinking that really grizzlies are just poor, misunderstood creatures who want to be our friends. He would occasionally carry bear repellant spray, but refused to use it because it might hurt the bears (which, uh, I thought was the point). He was pretty much a constant pain in the ass to the NPS, because he was too special to follow the rules. He also was just stupid in that he resisted ever moving his campsite (bad idea in bear country) and also regularly kept food in his tent (super incredibly bad idea). To add insult to injury, his gross stupidity resulted in the destruction of some of the bears he was so in love with. So, high nincompoop levels there.

In the opposite corner: Mr. McCandless, the moronic rich kid who decided that because he had the power of, I dunno, being a stupid rich kid who was resisting being a stupid rich kid, he could wander out into some of the harshest wilderness in the country and…well, I guess survival was his ultimate goal, but I have no idea what any other point was. He broke multiple cardinal rules of backcountry survival, and was too much of a pussy to even achieve his presumed goal of living off the land, because he was sleeping in a goddamn bus. Bonus nincompoop points for the part where he killed a moose, but he had no idea how to preserve that much meat, it pretty much all rotted. Related nincompoop: John Krakauer for writing a stupid goddamn book that, instead of saying, “My god, this kid gave us like the perfect ‘what not to do if you don’t have a death wish’ story”, said, “Oh, this noble young man ventured out into the unknown, how noble and glorious! (ps he died)”.

I voted for Treadwell and McCandless together. McCandless for all the reasons cited by others (especially what he did to his family) and Treadwell given extra points for getting his girlfriend turned into bear chow, also.

This. I feel terrible for his family who (though I’m sure there is a good chunk of story we’ll never know) seemingly cared for him and gave him every possible advantage. I respect the guy’s desire to unplug for a bit, but to not let your family know where you are and then arrogantly blunder into the Alaska wilderness without even a hint of knowledge about your surroundings… :rolleyes:

Darwin wins. Fatality.

Fucking idiot.

I voted for Treadwell. McCandless and Treadwell were both colossal morons, but Treadwell’s stupidity got his girlfriend killed as well. McCandless only killed himself.

I have no knowledge of Nikolayenko, so didn’t consider him.

I’ll go with McCandless. Treadwell’s taking his girlfriend with him gets consideration, but I think that is something worse than nincompoopery, and thus doesn’t earn points on the OP’s scale.

Treadwell. I mean come ON! The guy named them, and on occasion even thought it was okay to PET them. It’s amazing he lasted as long as he did.

I don’t know anything about the Russian other than the linked wiki article. From that he doesn’t seem in the same league as the other two. Of the two Americans, at least Treadwell seemed to know basic wilderness craft and survival.

Treadwell seemed to know on some level that he was risking his neck every time he was around bears. He just didn’t care.

Same with McCandless, I suppose. He pretty much killed himself by wandering into the bush without knowing how to take care of himself. That was part of the point–if he took too many precautions and tools and so on, it wouldn’t be a test, it would be an exercise. Well, he failed.

Both seem like they didn’t care if they lived or died. If you don’t care whether you live or die, pretty soon you’re going to make a choice where you end up dead. And if that’s the way you want to go, fine with me. Treadwell gets extra points for getting his girlfriend eaten, but it’s not like he kidnapped her or anything.

I voted Treadwell because that movie, Grizzly Man, mind fucked me pretty hard. I mean. . . there’s just so much crazy.