Everything You Need To Know About The Alaska Triangle

Experts and eyewitnesses have spent decades attempting to unlock the mystery of the Alaska Triangle, a remote area infamous for alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings, paranormal phenomena and vanishing airplanes.

August 25, 2021
The Aurora Borealis, Orion and Jupiter over Denali National Park in Alaska.

Eerie northern lights dance across the sky in Fairbanks, Alaska. The state is home to nearly half of the nation’s designated wilderness. [Daniel A. Leifheit via Getty Images]

Eerie northern lights dance across the sky in Fairbanks, Alaska. The state is home to nearly half of the nation’s designated wilderness. [Daniel A. Leifheit via Getty Images]

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Alaska, the last frontier. America’s 49th state is twice the size of Texas, hosts 17 of the U.S.’s 20 highest peaks, over half the nation’s federally-designated wilderness, and an estimated 100,000 glaciers. It is also home to a stretch of wilderness where more than 16,000 people have vanished without a trace.

In Alaska, people go missing at a rate that is twice the national average

The “Alaskan Triangle”, an area between Utqiagvik, Anchorage, and Juneau, is comprised of vast boreal forests, barren tundra, and icy peaks. In the past four decades, people have gone missing from the region at a rate of about 4 from every 1000 individuals, two times the national average. Hundreds of coordinated search-and-rescue missions take place every year to find missing residents, hikers, tourists, and airplane passengers, often to no avail.

The Alaskan Triangle has become notorious for disappearing aircraft

In 1972, Congressman Hale Bogg’s private aircraft disappeared without a trace in the triangle.

Plane Crash in Alaska

Plane Crash in Alaska

The men and their plane’s wreckage were never found. Were these men the victims of Mother Nature … or were there more sinister forces involved? [via Discovery Inc.]

The men and their plane’s wreckage were never found. Were these men the victims of Mother Nature … or were there more sinister forces involved? [via Discovery Inc.]

The expanse has a long history of enigmatic losses. In 1950, one of the nation’s largest disappearances of military aircraft and personnel occurred in the region. A C-54 Skymaster, carrying an 8-man crew and 36 passengers, left Anchorage at 1:00 p.m. on January 26th. The airliner made a routine radio check-in two hours later as it flew over a small town in Yukon. It was the last communication anyone ever received from the flight. A search effort was mounted incorporating US and Canadian planes aided by thousands of volunteers on foot, but nothing was ever found of the C-54.

Later, the disappearance of U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs’ private aircraft in 1972 would shine a spotlight on the region. The plane lost contact amidst a storm somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau. The ensuing effort to find wreckage or survivors was one of the largest in U.S. history. Unfortunately, after 39 days with no traces of the passengers or plane, the investigation was ended.

Almost as perplexing as the sheer volume of vanishings are the theories as to what causes them.

A 1986 report made to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from a Japanese cargo flight provides the basis for one extraterrestrial theory. Allegedly, Japan Air Lines Flight 1628 encountered three unidentified aerial phenomena above the expanse. The pilot reportedly thought the craft were military and paid them no mind. Moments later he realized that the objects were keeping pace and moving erratically around his own jet. Over the next 50 minutes, the strange aircraft shadowed Flight 1628’s every move while emitting bursts of blinding lights. The statements made by the crew were verified by civilian and military radar, and the FAA report went on to garner national attention.

Another theory postulates that the triangle is home to massive swirling energy vortexes. These energy centers are believed to impact human emotions and behavior based on their rotation. A clockwise spinning vortex creates positive effects, while a counterclockwise spin promotes negativity and bewilderment. Electronic readings have indeed found higher intensities of magnetic irregularities in Alaska, and search teams have reported compass malfunctions up to 30 degrees off. Volunteers often recount experiencing mysterious symptoms while searching the area, including disorientation and audio hallucinations.

A raft of sea otters in water near Boulder Island, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA

In Native Alaskan folklore, some otters can shapeshift into a terrifying creature that preys on explorers lost in the wilderness. [Andrew Peacock via Getty Images]

In Native Alaskan folklore, some otters can shapeshift into a terrifying creature that preys on explorers lost in the wilderness. [Andrew Peacock via Getty Images]

The native Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples have their own explanation for the disappearances. The “Kushtaka” is a shapeshifting cryptid that stalks Alaska’s wilderness looking for human prey. While often compared to the mythology of bigfoot, the Kushtaka seems to operate in a much more sinister manner. According to lore, the otter-like creatures disguise themselves as a trusted relative or friend and appear to those who are lost or injured. They lead their victims deeper into the wild, ultimately tearing them apart or turning them into another Kushtaka. The legend is especially popular in Southeastern Alaska.

A big ice calving at Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm.

Unstable glaciers throughout the triangle provide a more natural explanation for the disappearances. [Daisuke Kishi via Getty Images]

Unstable glaciers throughout the triangle provide a more natural explanation for the disappearances. [Daisuke Kishi via Getty Images]

Despite the plethora of paranormal theories, the terrain itself offers the most likely explanation for the disappearances. The massive glaciers that populate the area typically have a brittle upper crust. This layer can fracture at a moment’s notice, opening deep crevasses or moulins that can stretch all the way to the bottom of the glacier. As global ice recedes in response to climate change more and more evidence is found of people and planes that have vanished into these massive fissures.

Travel Channel’s series The Alaska Triangle delves into these theories and more as experts and eyewitnesses continue to investigate all the possibilities behind the expanse's bizarre disappearances.

Season 2 premieres on Travel Channel Friday, September 10. Stream Season 1 of The Alaska Triangle now on discovery+.

Alaska’s wilderness is beautiful and worthy of exploration, but the immensity of the rugged landscape demands the respect of would-be voyagers. Adventure safely and if you find, or need help finding, a wayward traveler, be sure to contact Alaska’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse.

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