The Everett Ruess DNA Miscalculation


Photograph of Utah’s Comb Ridge by Dawn Kish
(National Geographic Adventure)

The discovery of explorer Everett Ruess’s skeletal remains, as detailed in the April/May 2009 issue of Adventure (“Finding Everett Ruess“), appeared to be a slam dunk. A team of forensic scientists laid out an impressive case, backed by a DNA test that linked bones found in the Utah desert to the long-lost explorer, an icon of the American Southwest. Well, DNA results are only as good as the process that produces them, and in this case, a peculiar set of blunders managed to complicate, rather than solve, a 75-year-old mystery. (David Roberts National Geographic Adventure)

For the romantics out there who’ve been following this story through the years, it’s easy to agree with Everett’s nephew, Brian Ruess: “Everett,” Brian says, “just doesn’t want to be found.” Not when he was alive; not now.

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