Heimo's Arctic Refuge

Heimo's Arctic Refuge

2009, Society  -   41 Comments
Ratings: 8.71/10 from 75 users.

Heimo Korth has been a trapper for 30 years and he lives completely by his wits with a little assistance from the occasional bush plane.

He moved to Alaska when he was 19 to get as far away as possible from human civilization. He met his wife Edna while living in an Eskimo whaling village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.

Eventually he convinced her to move with him to the harsh Alaskan interior, more than 150 miles above the Arctic Circle and even farther from the nearest roads, supermarket, or schools.

Two of last people allowed to live in an area the size of South Carolina. Their nearest neighbor is about 100 miles away, and the only chance of emergency medical care is by calling the Army for a helicopter ride.

They've managed to raise a family out here while dealing with the fearsome climate, isolation, predators, and the drowning death of their firstborn daughter.

The Korths migrate annually between three separate cabins. Rotating cabins keeps them from depleting the resources in any one spot and ensures that there should always be enough fur and meat available for them to make it through a winter.

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41 Comments / User Reviews

  1. K Day

    Maybe Francis,
    I'm curious if you could pick 1 ingredient from your breakfast, eg. and tell me:
    - how many miles did it travel to get to you
    - what were the processes involved in growing it
    - what are the wages of the farmers
    - if you eat meat protein, where and how are your animals handled and what are they fed? - and what is in the feed that feeds them? corn vs grass eg...
    - what are your survival skills? if the lights went out tomorrow, eg, you couldn't charge your iPhone?
    Curious; You seem so offended. Ever been, near there?

  2. K Day

    John Krisfalusci,
    Colleen was their first born daughter, died at age 2 swept down river, the only thing they found of her was her l'il boot... she would have been 27, would have been her 28th year... I don't recall seeing the tombstone part, that story choked me up...

  3. Kathy Hanson

    Love the show.I think Edna should wrote a book about her and Heimo's life there. She should write a cook book.

  4. Tony

    Love the series, especially The Korths since Hiemo was from Wisconsin where I grew up and have lived my 61 years of life. They are survivors in the true sense of the word. I always dreamed of living that lifestyle but it's way too late for me. Maybe in another life. I wish them a bountiful and safe life until the end. Thank you for sharing this wonderful documentary.

  5. Stan

    Thirty years ago, the Korths lost a child in a river accident when she was 2.

  6. martin

    John Krisfalusci , colleen died when she was 2. she WOULD HAVE BEEN 27 when this was filmed, is what heimo said. he did not say she died at 27.

  7. WhisperinPints

    If you're NOT a pantywaist sissy, this episode will make you PUKE. Why would anyone watch a "reality" program about living in the wild and want scenes blurred out/censored? If you want that kind of programming, I suggest you just stick to watching the cartoon channels.

  8. Bushy

    You have to ask yourself why it is that everyone who is against hunting, or firearms in general is completely ignorant and dismissive of ALL the facts relating to hunting or firearms .

  9. Bushy

    Willfully ignorant I might add..

  10. Bushy

    For someone to reduce this doc down to some absurd expression of male superiority, or equate the complete harvest of wildlife resources to some out of control act of brutality is utterly rediculous and a good example of politically correct crazyness by an ignorant , dillusional public. Bon appetit :-)

  11. gaboora

    Way to go. Excellent documentary. Good way to live.

  12. MaybeFrancis

    This doc is mostly about slaughtering. You can choose isolation without being a predator. Their presence there is simply disturbing.

  13. Timothy Petty

    What an interesting fulfilling life those two must have with one another. They both seem very satisfied, Not complaining or wanting for anything but a full belly and a warm place to sleep. Personally love the idea but form personal experience i know i cold not do what those folks do. Would like to see more about this couple and the enduring life they have.

  14. bringmeredwine

    Well, this was interesting.
    Edna and Hiemo are very resourceful and intelligent people. It is amazing how they have adapted to their environment and can make use of everything they hunt and gather, Edna was raised that way, fortunately for her husband.
    Edna was a very good sport to go off and live in the middle of nowhere with just Hiemo for company. She must have missed her family and community terribly, but she never mentioned it.
    I don't think Hiemo missed anyone, except when he lived all alone the first few months, many years ago when he first went out there.
    I 'm assuming Edna gave birth to all her children in one of their cabins. Lordy, can you imagine?
    They have a dog, but he is their "bear alarm" and is kept tied up at all times. Their previous dog was eaten alive.
    My little dog sleeps under the blankets against me and would still let me know if a bear was coming.
    The Alaskan/Arctic landscape was impressive and majestic. Miles and miles of snow- covered forest and mountains; clean gorgeous water, endless blue skies.
    Really beautiful scenery and two unique individuals.
    The steaks and salmon looked scrumptious!
    The moose and caribou heads did not.
    Weak stomach alert: I was very grossed- out near the end, watching the bear and bunny skinning business.

  15. disqus_j79EExQMli

    The very premise is false: he's not surviving "alone" at all as he's found a wife. A perfect example of how the sexist Vice documentarians exalt the male and almost-disappear the female perspective, as I guess half the planet barely deserves a mention from them. The only contribution she makes, I guess, is to enhance his stature as a male, and how could he be truly a male if he didn't have a live sex toy to objectify? My irritation was so great I couldn't even watch the whole thing. I took some refuge by learning something about Vice as a company, as I'd seen another one or two of their documentaries that had been similarly non-acknowledging of any female contributions (but not quite as blatant as this one). Yep, the company seems as faddish and self-aggrandizing as this doc...or penis-worshipping, if you prefer.

    1. Eve Vee

      I agree that it was very sad to see Edna be pushed to the background of this doc. For them to have lived out there in the wilderness together, lost a child together, spend every moment together for years and years... but it's "Heimo's arctic refugee"?
      More-so than just sexism, I believe its in line with vice's love of the white penis in particular. He mentions he learned from people and from trial and error but they frame it as if is a frontier man blazing out his own path in a way that echoes of manifest destiny. A self made WHITE american man who works with what he learned "growing up in (whichever state, sorry americans)". He learned what he needed to know on the farm and shows them lazy eskimos how it's done. In reality he is just living in some well worn, albeit these days forgotten and discarded, mocassins.

    2. TomazZzz

      Maybe you are wise... otherwise. here you missed it totally, it has little to do with her sex, alot with her race. Those that boss us around have since the dawn of time problem with other races, much less with the sex of person. It is sad, but it is the way it is.


    so, Belinda... are you 100% vegan? If not, you are kidding yourself.

  17. Aldo Solari

    Under such adverse conditions -I believe- we humans preserve "the original goodness" which we lost, along the path, due to some "butterfly effect".

    Thank you for your documentary.

    1. Eve Vee

      Or maybe competition in such harsh conditions is what causes us to fight in the first place.

  18. Belinda Frank

    To each his own, having said that I do not respect anyone who thinks trapping is a good thing for any reason. Hunting and fishing for ones survival is natural and I have nothing against that but to hunt an animal for it's fur, to sell for money in order to perpetuate a life style one has decided to lead, is wrong. As far as the dog goes, there are as many thoughts on the role our domesticated canine plays in the lives of humankind. I for one honor and love Dog and Wolf and all life on this plant. I feel sorry for anyone who will capitalize on unnecessary death of any of our Earthly relation just to enjoy a certain way of life.

    He talks of tribes and civilization, of our natural resources on this planet as if he is doing something right for them by living off the land. Truth is he is not living off the land, he is living off the wild animals who belong to the land. He is not sharing, he is dominating. This is the old story of man versus nature. This old way of life, thanks to human evolution, will soon be a thing of the past.

    1. wald0

      Just because you trap an animal doesn't mean you are going to sell the hide, fur, or whatever. Just because you didn't trap an animal doesn't mean you wont sell the fur, hide, or whatever. Some animals are very difficult to hunt in a traditional manner and are about the only thing available at certain times of the year. Besides, what if your need is something other than what the animal can provide? Some things have to be purchased and this guy has to find a way to make that money. Satellite phone, fire arms, ammo, certain other survival gear are a must were he is, how is he to get them?
      I don't trap but it is for different reasons than the ones you site. When you trap an animal it suffers for what may be up to 24 hours, depending on when it gets caught and when you go check the trap. For this reason, and because I have no real need to trap, I feel it is inhumane an refrain from doing it. However, if you are to live where this guy lives and truly be self sustaining it very possibly would be a necessity. You seem to think that he doesn't eat what he traps, that selling the fur or hide is the only reason for trapping it- I don't think that is the case.

    2. Geoffrey Grekin

      @ Belinda Frank,

      Seriously? you think that this man trapping animals and using the fur or food is wrong, that somehow we have evolved from this archaic past.

      I've got some bad news for you!, we haven't evolved. Civilization kills animals en mass to supply most of what we eat. And no they don't trap one or two animals, they breed them by the billions for our consumption.

      Furthermore, what hes theorizing is the agricultural revolution thesis, one that emanated in Egypt as the cradle of civilization.
      Thanks to the agricultural revolution, we survived, conserved most of our energies and could build permanent settlements.
      as a result humans thrived and multiplied at an outstanding rate far surpassing the cyclical boundaries of the prey-predator equation.

      Therefore, I don't see how it wrong to live off the land, the hunter-gather mentality is instinctive, and he does considerable less damage and wrong to the planets resource and animal species than your average sub-urbanite.

      You judge him and feel he does wrong to animals, appalled by the gruesome trapping and killing of a bunny for example, while eating chicken nuggets or hot-dogs and hamburg sitting on your leather chair perhaps, unable grasp the hypocrisy.

  19. OldVandal

    Thank you. Qui an ak. Mossi sho.

  20. Roy Rain

    Envious of the Solitude,,,

  21. Carl Hendershot

    Looking for more info on this vid.

  22. wald0

    As humans we often tend to think our experience of the world is universal, which is completely understandable because what we experience ourselves is all we have to base our intuitive understanding of the world on. The problem is that this simply isn't true, what we experience is simply that and nothing more, it is entirely subjective and has very little to do with someone else's experience of the world. This man states at about 44:42 that no one could possibly love an animal as they do a human. This is simply not true and if this is what he needs to tell himself in order to not feel guilty he really needs to rethink things in my opinion. I live on a farm that is positioned right in the middle of a wildlife management area that is huge, I mean huge. Killing animals is a part of my life and has been since I can remember. I never had a problem excepting that life feeds on life, which is true regardless of what kind of food you eat. Not that i don't make a difference between vegetable and animal life, of course I do- everyone does. Anyway, my point is that even though I have had to kill animals all my life I have also loved dogs, deer, and even a pig as if they were human, no matter what this guy says.

    The deer we have raised are really difficult because they get to a certain age and you have to release them back into the wild. If you don't they will literally kill themselves trying to get away. They all came from accidents, some had there mother killed by hunters and some had them killed by traffic. Since our farm is surrounded by the management area they asked us to raise them and then release them, its a state program. The pig was also difficult as we usually sell them to the slaughter for money, this is a farm after all. But i couldn't do that with Strawberry, I loved all 600 pounds of her like a child. I raised her on a bottle because her mother died and she turned out to be one of the best pets I ever had. Lots of people love their dogs so I won't go into that one, its "normal" as they say.

    1. Imightberiding

      Come on Waldo. You love animals like you do humans? You sell animals to slaughter & kill others for food? You said as much in your comment. Would you do that with humans? Get a grip of reality. We have exchanged comments over the last couple of years on this site & you always seemed to be grounded in reality. I have most always respected what you had to say on any given subject. You are now making a statement that you, I & everyone reading this knows to be untrue. If it were even close to true, you would be eating human flesh for breakfast as sure as you do bacon & sausage. Gotta love that southern BBQ where you come from.

      Sure animals are special & even precious to us depending on the history, bond, interaction, time spent & unique relationship we develop with them. I have grown up with many pets. One dog for example was like a brother to me. He eventually died & I was devastated but I ultimately grew up & went on living realizing that dogs don't live as long as humans & that he was in the end just a dog.

      Come on dude. I have no doubt about your love for animals. I have an affinity for animals as well. But damn, are they ever tasty! I bet you "Strawberry" was very delicious in the end as well.

    2. wald0

      You are acting as if I said I loved every animal as if they were human, I never said that. What I did say, and know from personal experience to be true, is that it is possible to love a particular animal as you would a human. The circumstances have to be right but it can and does happen. Is it typical human behavior, not really. I wouldn't even say it is entirely healthy in many cases, but it happens. Just because you have never experienced it doesn't make it impossible, believe it or not.
      You seem a bit upset, are you angry because I had such an experience? Strawberry died of old age and was laid to rest in my pet cemetery, since you bring it up. It was really tacky of you to try and purposely anger someone by saying what you did about her by the way, though it didn't really bother me. Growing up on a farm also gives you tough skin, a strong back, and a real indifference toward guff. (Guff- a local slang term meaning negative, pointless dialogue serving no other purpose than taunting another individual.) Your entitled to your own opinion, but its cheap to purposely insult what I love and serves no real purpose. Bad form, I'm disappointed, in the past even when we disagreed you were respectful.

    3. bringmeredwine

      Wald0, I'm embarrassed to admitt that I was sadder when a beloved pet died, than when certain relatives died.
      I get you.
      And I'm a carnivore.

  23. Imightberiding

    Nice. It would be even nicer if they did a follow up story about where they are & how they are doing now. Those journalist boys were just with them in the north for a week in the fall. That couple stayed & lived through the winter & several since I'm sure. Always interesting to get a glimpse of life on another page from what I am living & especially people who choose hardship over comfort & convenience for a quality of life that is essentially long past & at best enjoyed or endured by very few in this day & age.

    Even the majority of Inuit now live in towns & have modern conveniences, snowmobiles, trucks, community centres, neighbours, stores & such.

  24. Carl Hendershot

    WTH is up with Thomas.... How is he now... He seemed a bit confused after visiting Africa's cannibal war lords. I would just say tweaking coke heads. Than again every american thought is hated even though it is truth at its best.

  25. Carl Hendershot


  26. Pysmythe

    They had me 100% with this one, right up to l'ours Grand ├ęcorcher et la d├ęcapitation and BUNNY STRANGULATION, at which point I must own I felt a considerable urge to put my powdered wig, waistcoat, and knee-breeches back on and hobble off to the familiar domains of drawing rooms and polite society.

  27. TheDanishViking

    Yes!!!! It's "Woody from Williamsburg". I missed you, man.

  28. dewflirt

    It's just too cold and messy. Blood, sticks, mud, wet mud and bits of dead thing all over the place. At least the snow makes it all look tidy again, a freshly laundered sheet over an old mattress. I'd maybe last a month at most but then I'd probably pine for a washing machine and radiators and Internet and other people. Think I'd miss people more than anything, I don't know enough about bears and beavers to keep the conversation fresh all winter. It is all very beautiful though and I'm glad there are at least two pairs of human eyes to see it, I'm fairly sure animals don't appreciate it the same way. It would be sad to think all those views were turning out in their finery every day and never being complimented for their efforts :)

    1. John Krisfalusci

      @dewflirt It's called survival lol... get over it. People have been doing this for thousands of years before technology such as the 'washing machine' and 'radiators' and the 'internet'.

      Oh and by the way, Heimo said that Colleen died at age 27. Her birthdate on the cross stone said 1982. That does not equal 2013, so please fix it. Thx ^_^

    2. dewflirt

      He and his family don't need to live that way, it was their choice. I'm not knocking their ways, just saying it's not for me. I've killed a couple of animals (mercy killings) and seen plenty slaughtered, found it a strange experience to be somethings cause of death. If you want to eat meat you ought to be prepared to kill it, only fair really. I'm a vege, have been since I was a kid. Kept all my kids vege until they started school too, something almost macabre about feeding flesh to tiny people, they're too pure for it. Each to their own :)
      You want me to fix the dates on the cross? It's a bit of a schlep, you should ask Blue as he lives close by ;)

    3. cdnstnr420

      It was said that she would have been 27, 28. Makes sense with the dates, as the doc is dated 2009 and she was born 1982.

  29. Daniel Robinson

    surely that is not the end?!