Human remains discovered in Adak
The human remains discovered in Adak last month are likely those of a Navy veteran, reported missing six years ago, who had returned to his former military base to pan for gold and live off the land, but disappeared soon afterwards.
The skeletal remains were reported at the bottom of a ravine on June 18 by two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who were studying birds in the area, according to Beth Ipsen, of the Alaska State Troopers. The remains were preliminarily identified as those of Samuel Arrington, 57, based on identification in a wallet found at the site, she said.
"For all intents and purposes, it seems like he moved up there, and was living off the land in Adak," Ipsen said. "There's every indication he was there to stay."
His remains were sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage by local police, and were then sent to a laboratory in the Lower 48 for positive identification and to determine the cause of death. There is no indication of foul play, Ipsen said.
The remains were found about 1.3 miles from Lake Betty, and his family has been contacted, she said.
Arrington arrived on Adak on July 10, 2008, and was last seen on July 15. A missing person bulletin was issued on Aug. 1, and a search party was unable to find him, Ipsen said.
"Samuel Arrington was last seen July 15, 2008 in the community of Adak. Mr. Arrington had arrived in Adak on 7-10-08 via a one-way ticket on Alaska Airlines from Anchorage.
Mr. Arrington spent time in town purchasing camping equipment and supplies and was last seen at the trail head to Lake Betty. A staging area was located on the north side of Lake Betty and a campsite was located toward the south side of Lake Betty. Both belonged
to Arrington and appeared to be abandoned," according to the troopers' missing person bulletin.
Adak police chief Darrell Tannehill said it seems that Arrington was from Texas, and had moved to the island to pan for gold, according to a conversation with his son. The man, a Navy veteran, had been stationed at the former Adak Naval Air Station, he said.
The discovery of the remains brings closure to his family and local residents who went searching for him over the years, the chief said.
The remains were found in very rugged county, a six-mile hike from town, Tannehill said, adding he tried to hike out to the scene but had to turn back because of bad weather.
The area has "probably the worst hiking conditions I've ever seen," Tannehill said, describing the terrain as steep and covered with moss and loose rocks, and deep ravines. Based on photos, he said the man could have fallen a hundred feet from the ridgeline to the ravine bottom. Several well-used hiking trails wind through the area, and he said it's not uncommon for local hikers to head out dressed in nice clean clothes, and return "caked in mud, head to toe."
The remains were subsequently recovered by two people, one with Fish and Wildlife, and other a Navy representative overseeing a military unexploded ordinance cleanup project. They recovered a body clad in rubber boots and chest waders and rain jacket, Tannehill said.
Adak city manager Layton Lockett said that although he wasn't there at the time, it was his understanding that Arrington arrived on Alaska Airlines, and spent a few days in town before heading out. While Adak is not a major camping destination, Lockett said caribou hunters sometimes camp out on the tundra-covered island.
Refuge official Dave Bolin in Homer said recreational camping is allowed free of charge and without permits, provided the campers follows a "no trace" practice of packing out all their trash. He said the body was discovered while refuge staff were looking for bird nests of Kittlitz's murrelets.
While Lockett said he'd never seen any reports of gold on the volcanic island, that doesn't mean there is none and if so, he said, it could provide future economic development. He added that for all he knows, there could be diamonds beneath the surface.
The Navy closed the Cold War outpost in the mid 1990s, and turned it over to the Aleut Corporation for re-use for civilian purposes. About 7,500 military and dependents lived on the island in the western Aleutians.
The majority of the island is owned by the federal government, as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Lockett said.