Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* Home from home – living alone in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve

If you haven’t already heard of the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, at the north-west tip of North America, chances are very good that you will be hearing a lot about the Reserve from oil companies and politicians pushing to get the area opened up to drilling for oil.  But here’s a great new documentary about the last couple to live year round in a cabin in the Reserve.

According to the fabulously informed Sarah Palin, erstwhile vice-president running mate of McCain in the last US presidential election and foermer governor of Alaska, the oil under the reserve could save America from poverty.

In fact, this is nonsense.  The best estimate is that there might be 15.6 billions of barrels of recoverable oil under the ANWR.  sounds a lot.  But it’s only enough to supply the United States profligate industrial juggernaut for 300 days.  Right!  Less than one year!  And where to then, folks?

In 1980, Jimmy Carter established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaskan Interior, cutting off 19 million acres of prime boreal wilderness from the mitts of fur trappers, oil tycoons, and would-be lodge owners alike. Only six families of white settlers were grandfathered in and allowed to keep cabins in the refuge—of them, only one still stays there year-round living off the land. His name is Heimo Korth.

Raised in suburban Wisconsin, Heimo set off in his teens to the Alaskan Bush to pursue the Davy Crockett lifestyle in more or less the only place it was still possible. Amid numerous setbacks and misadventures, Heimo gradually learned how to master his terrain, provide for his Eskimo wife, and rear children in one of the most inhospitable environments in North America.

“I just wanted to go where there were no people,” Heimo says.  But he’s not anti-social – “The stomach needs food and the mind needs people.” Heimo and Edna have two daughters and grandchildren. He rejects any suggestion of a survivalist mentality.  “I’m not here because it’s a survivalist thing, but because it’s a way of life.  I hope to die out here.”

Hemo and his wife Edna are the first to agree that such an isolated life is not easy and that it took them a long while to get themselves established.  Most would-be hermits abandon their cabins after two or three years, according to Heimo.

But he and his wife have been there for 35 years.  The video is a ten-day drop-in look at their lives – fur-trapping, caribou-hunting, caribou-eating, river-crossing, boredom-staving, bear-avoidance, and bear-defense to live happily over 100 miles from the nearest neighbors.

WATCH FULL VIDEO: Heimo’s Arctic Refuge at www.vbt.tv

One comment on “* Home from home – living alone in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve

  1. Michael Faulkner
    March 5, 2010

    Dennison – I can’t beieve the life you’re living, good on you! It’s a dream. Love the current project/adventure and have put you on my blogroll so I can keep an eye on you. Kuan Yin looks beautiful, and an excellent seagoing boat. Curiously enough Strangford Lough, where I’m living the island life, was once known as ‘Cuan’ meaning ‘safe haven’ or similar – I wondered about the derivation of Kuan Yin?


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This entry was posted on March 4, 2010 by in Hermits, Hermits & Solitude, Life Skills and tagged , , , , .
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