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Surviving Alone in Alaska: Heimo Korth

 

“Me and Edna are the last ones left to actually live out here. The rest live in Fairbanks and they just commute from Fairbanks out here, spend a month or two and then they go back. And, this is the only national wildlife refuge that has polar bears and wolves and caribou, and it’s got a lot of media attention because they want to drill for oil here. The vast majority of Americans are against it. Eventually, they just want to get the people out of the land here, that’s why this permit for us to be here is only good up until the death of our last child, and then after that, that’s it.” –Heimo Korth

Heimo and Edna Korth

Heimo Korth and his wife, Edna, have lived alone in the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for more than 30 years. Their only neighbors are polar bears and caribou in the Alaskan wilderness. Heimo left suburban Wisconsin at the age of 19 to pursue a Davy Crockett lifestyle in the Alaskan bush. He endured numerous setbacks before learning how to master the terrain and provide for his wife and children in one of the most inhospitable environments in the world. Heimo met his wife Edna while living in an Eskimo Whaling Village on St Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. Eventually, he was able to persuade her to move north more than 150 miles above the Arctic Circle.

In 1980, US President Jimmy Carter established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaskan Interior. The establishment of the refuge removed access to 19 million acres of boreal wilderness for fur trappers, oil tycoons and lodge owners. Only six families of white settlers were grandfathered in and allowed to keep their cabins in the refuge. The Korth family is one of those families. Their closest neighbour is more than 100 miles away.

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