Articles

Surviving Alone in Alaska


JOHN MARTIN: Hi, my name’s
John Martin. I’m the publisher of
Vice Magazine. We had heard about this
guy named Heimo Korth. He lives in an area called the
Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR for short. Heimo’s one of the
most impressive people I’ve ever met. He is almost totally
self-sufficient, and he’s one of those guys that could
survive no matter what. Now here it is. Vice presents Heimo’s
Arctic Refuge. [MUSIC PLAYS ON RADIO] VOICE ON RADIO: Four. Visibility one, zero. Patchy fog. Few clouds. at 5,000. 6,000, scattered. Temperature minus 2. Dew point minus 2. Anaktuvuk. Pass, wind zero, one, zero. At five, visibility one
and one-quarter. Ceiling 400 overcast. Temperature zero. 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 moose and caribou. It’s got a lot of media
attention because they want to drill for oil here. The vast majority of America’s
against it. Eventually, they just
want to get 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. THOMAS MORTON: Hey,
it’s Thomas. We are in the Brooks
Mountains. It’s in Alaska, a few hundred
miles north of Fairbanks and basically the rest
of civilization. We’re going to the cabin of
Heimo Korth and his wife Edna. He’s been a trapper up
here for 30 years, carved out his own life. Lives completely by his wits
with a little assistance from the occasional bush plane. Heimo Korth 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. We’re going to spend a week with
them and see what it’s like to live on America’s
last frontier. KEN MICHAELS: Just look for
a straight gravel bar, straight’s the key thing. Hopefully into the wind. Oh, there’s his cabin. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, yeah. KEN MICHAELS: Oh, there’s
his tent. Landing should be still all
right at this time. HEIMO KORTH: My name’s Heimo
Korth and this is where we live in the northeastern
part of Alaska. It’s beautiful. Three degrees this morning. EDNA KORTH: My name is Edna
Korth and I’m glad you guys are here. THOMAS MORTON: Already
breaking in the gear. This is our lifeline. It’s about to head back
to Fairbanks. HEIMO KORTH: Me, and there are
six others in the refuge that were here prior to it
being a refuge. It’s very commonly known as
ANWR, you know, it’s like abbreviated for Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. So once it became a refuge,
I guess we were grandfathered in. [DOG BARKING] THOMAS MORTON: God,
bear alarm. Oh, look at all that meat. HEIMO KORTH: People come out and
they want to do this, and they don’t realize how it is. They think, oh, I can do it. I can do it. And then they come out, and
pretty soon they realize, damn, it ain’t like this. And they build a nice place and
they spend two or three years, just to tough it out,
just to prove to themselves. I mean, for someone to trap
this far out like this? It took me years and years
and years to get what we have here. Now we come over here. The reason we set up this tent
is because if the cabin ever burns down, the tent is here. It has a wood stove, it has wood
in there, it has cots in there, it has extra clothes,
extra sleeping bag– that would actually
save your life. It’s very important. To be out this far without
something extra to get into, you’re running a high risk. Put the branches in like that. Here’s the stock market, which
really affects you out here. OK. do you think you
can get it going? THOMAS MORTON: I think so. HEIMO KORTH: OK. You’ll learn really quick. OK, close it up. Our youngest daughter and her
husband were sleeping in here when they came up
here last month. Our other daughter, her child,
we had the grandkid up here. THOMAS MORTON: That’s great. EDNA KORTH: When we built the
house when the girls were small, we put moss and logs. THOMAS MORTON: Is there anything
else between them? EDNA KORTH: No. Just moss. THOMAS MORTON: Just
moss and log? Wow. EDNA KORTH: Rhonda, she’s 24
and she’s working at the emergency room. Krin, she’s married
and she’s 20. And she works at Sportsman’s
Warehouse. She wants to go back
to college. A week before you guys
were here, they were both here for 10 days. It was nice to have them out
here, but kind of crowded. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: These are some of
the caribou that we shoot. These are the heads
from the caribou. And we eat the heads. When we’re going to eat them, we
just saw off the horns and skin the head, and then we take
the eyeballs out and then we roast the rest of it. We eat the tongue, the cheeks,
the lip, brain, everything. THOMAS MORTON: It’s
good eating. HEIMO KORTH: It is. It’s very good eating. THOMAS MORTON: What’s
in the bag? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, a bear skin. THOMAS MORTON: Oh. HEIMO KORTH: A bear skin. This bear came into the
yard to get the meat. THOMAS MORTON: How long ago? HEIMO KORTH: A week ago. A week ago. I was just– I just walked over here, and all
of a sudden, I look up and there’s a bear standing
in front of me. Edna, I need my shotgun. And so with this much meat
around, he’ll just keep coming back, coming back. It’s not good. So you gotta do something
about it. This is caribou meat,
the hind leg. A good healthy sign that– if you kill an animal and it’s
fat, the animal’s healthy. If it’s skin and bones, there’s something wrong with it. And this here’s part of
a moose neck here. Here’s a side of ribs. THOMAS MORTON: God, it’s huge. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: These fish
are all king salmon. And these are the ones in the
summertime I catch, and then we save these and use these
for trapping bait. These are used primarily for
martin, mink, lynx, wolf, wolverine, fox, weasel. [DOG BARKS] HEIMO KORTH: Kenai, huh? She’s half husky
and half Akita. To alert us when there’s
bear and stuff. So the dog stays outside,
because I don’t believe in a dog coming in the house. I’m really against that. These drums are used
for storing food. Craisins, pancake mix. And this way, a bear
can’t get into it. We have an extra satellite
phone, and it goes in there. And that is in case the
cabin burns down. THOMAS MORTON: How long have
you had this cabin? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, we built
this one in 1984. And this pole here, this
is a tree that was here and it died. But I attached the satellite
phone antenna to it. And then this other antenna,
right straight up, that’s for the aircraft radio so I
can talk to airplanes. THOMAS MORTON: And the salad
dressing and the guns? HEIMO KORTH: You know,
the shotgun in case there’s a bear. There’s a rifle here for
the caribou, and this .22 for grouse. And the salad dressing and all,
keep it cool out there. Damn, let me get my coat. I’m freezing. You guys ain’t cold? THOMAS MORTON: I’m
getting there. HEIMO KORTH: I’m getting
there now. I gotta get my coat. Hello, Edna. Oh, this is the antenna for
the radio, right here. In the middle of winter, jeez,
we pick up Europe easy. London comes in real easy. Tokyo, all that. [MIMICS ASIAN LANGUAGE] You know, China somewhere,
I don’t know. They all come in. THOMAS MORTON: Are these
all your traps? HEIMO KORTH: All? There’s maybe 1/100th
of them right here. THOMAS MORTON: Where
are the rest? HEIMO KORTH: All over. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, oh, they’re
already out and set. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah,
a lot of them. This is for marten and
mink and muskrat. And this is a beaver
snare here. We put this under the
ice for beaver. And then here’s more
snares right here. THOMAS MORTON: John and John,
they’re getting a shotgun. But I’m gonna say, if the dogs
go nuts, more likely or not it’s a moose or a caribou,
but it could be a bear. How you guys doing? JOHN MCSHANE: Doing all right. THOMAS MORTON: Basically,
they’re like our bear alarm. [SAWING] THOMAS MORTON: I’m still
wondering, when did you decide to go to Alaska? HEIMO KORTH: I was just looking
through those Outdoor Life magazines. You know what them are? Them hunting magazines? This is 1974, though,
mind you. You know what I mean? You know, I’ll write to hunting
guides and see if they could use somebody. And he wrote back, and he
said, yeah, he uses packers to pack meat. I was young, 19 then, and I
said, yeah, I’ll go for it. So I did. THOMAS MORTON: How did
you get interested in the Arctic, though? Do you remember? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, just wanted
to go someplace where there wasn’t any people. And so the Arctic is one
of the few places that there’s no people. THOMAS MORTON: Where
did you pick up all your trapping knowledge? Did you have to learn
that when you got to Alaska, or did you– HEIMO KORTH: Down in Wisconsin,
when I grew up. A lot of it was trial
and error. THOMAS MORTON: Up here? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, yeah. Big time. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah? I just think it’s weird,
that you like– you’re so social. HEIMO KORTH: That why would
I live out here? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah, I really
expected you to be– through your teeth, you were
gonna say, you know, one-word answers. HEIMO KORTH: Oh, yeah,
get out of here. Don’t ask stupid questions. THOMAS MORTON: Doing it wrong. HEIMO KORTH: You know, just
’cause you live out here doesn’t mean you have
to be like that. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: The stomach
needs food and the mind needs people. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: I mean, people
need other people. You just can’t say, I’m going
to be alone, you know? That’s not normal. THOMAS MORTON: In your first
couple years, weren’t you going it alone, though? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, I was alone. I was only here from August
until the first of March. First of August to the
first of March. THOMAS MORTON: That’s still
a very long time. HEIMO KORTH: I know it is. Oh, yeah. Tell me about it. When you’re alone, that’s
a real long time. I would never do that again. There’s no way. I mean, that’s not normal. You know, I’m glad I got
kids and daughters. And you know, just
have family. That’s important. It’s very important. Let’s say if something happened
to Edna, that I was a widower, I– I– no. I wouldn’t do it alone. This one’s done. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. All right, thank you. HEIMO KORTH: What? THOMAS MORTON: Was it my feet? EDNA KORTH: No, it’s his. HEIMO KORTH: What happened? I didn’t step on the carpet. HEIMO KORTH: Well, of
course it’s black. I’m stepping in the
mud right now. No matter what, it’s my fault. So I’ll just leave it at that. THOMAS MORTON: Do you ever think
about how long you can– HEIMO KORTH: Live out here? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah, you can
keep this lifestyle? HEIMO KORTH: Well, I hope
to die out here. How does that sound? I just do it not because I
want to be a survivalist. It’s just because it’s
a way of life. Ooh. Aah. Burned my lip. THOMAS MORTON: There you go. MALE SPEAKER: You ready? THOMAS MORTON: Shall we? THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
It’s gone now. HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING):
Yeah, it’s gone now. But I’m just listening
for something swimming across the water. That’s– you see across
the river, right where my light is shining? I shot– I shot the caribou over there. And the good pile is over
there, you see? And when I came out here just
now, I looked over there and I saw a pair of eyes
looking at us. I don’t know what it was. Right there it is. See it over there? See it? See the eyes over there? OK, nobody talk. Let’s all go over there
and get water. And if that starts swimming
across the river, then– tell me. THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
OK. HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING): Kinda
eerie feeling, ain’t it? You know, you look over there
and see two white eyes looking at us. THOMAS MORTON: We had a good
summer camp vibe going by the end of night one, but the
monster eyes across the river served as a good reminder that
we had a lot more to fear out here than constricted bowels
and shitty cocoa. HEIMO KORTH: Who saw the
eyes, besides me? THOMAS MORTON: I think
I saw them. I saw something. MALE SPEAKER: John? HEIMO KORTH: Here’s the gun. You might as well take
it, anyways. THOMAS MORTON: Being told to
sleep with a loaded shotgun also didn’t help. It’s another day
in the Arctic. We got about two inches
of snow last night. This morning I woke
up to a gunshot. [GUNSHOT] THOMAS MORTON: That
was evidently Heimo popping a squirrel. I just want to check on the
temperature before we go in. It’s 20 degrees. I think it’s good to point
out how far down these thermometers go, and that
is to negative 80. But that shit hopefully
happens months from now, not tomorrow. EDNA KORTH: There’s a
chair over there. HEIMO KORTH: Oatmeal? How’s oatmeal today? THOMAS MORTON: Oatmeal’s
great. [GUNSHOT] HEIMO KORTH: There you go. The .22 for grouse and that. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: You know,
so we can have– THOMAS MORTON: Shoot
some dinner. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah,
there you go. There you go. Right on. EDNA KORTH: We do
this every year. This time of the year, we go
fishing, Arctic grayling, so we could eat them at
the wintertime. I went fishing a lot
with my dad. I’d hunt and trap with him
because I was the oldest. JOHN MARTIN: Where
did you grow up? EDNA KORTH: Savoonga,
St. Lawrence Island. THOMAS MORTON: I mean, you’re
following the same route you normally take? HEIMO KORTH: After living out
here for 35 years, you just– you just know. It’s just in you. A person just has
a sense in him. You just know where
you’re going. Look at this. See these big slivers like
that, and this, and that? This was cut down with a stone
ax, prior to the white man coming here. Because there’s still stuff
out here like that. THOMAS MORTON: When’d you
first come to the bush? EDNA KORTH: In 1982 we got
to the lower cabin. Heimo has a little tiny
cabin that you could walk around like this. I thought to myself, what
am I getting into? And then, two days later,
I told him, we gotta do something about the roof because
I’m walking around. You hold the line, flip it back,
and then as you cast, you leave go of the line. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, did I– shoot. EDNA KORTH: What? THOMAS MORTON: I think
I put it in the tree. [SIGH] Yeah. I’ve been having a
real hard time. And then you got to remember
it’s this again, and again, and again, and again,
times 50 to 100. Which is huge. It’s mind-boggling. HEIMO KORTH: Little smaller
than an Arctic grayling. Ooh, jeez. There you go. Let me get a stick and– Look how pretty they are. See the spots on
them like that? Yellow underneath
there like that? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. Fuck, yeah. There we go. Yeah. EDNA KORTH: All right,
you caught one. Yay. HEIMO KORTH: That’s
a nice one. That’s a good-sized one, yeah. Shake it hard. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, and it
just comes right out. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: OK. HEIMO KORTH: Just hold him
like– no, you’re going to hold him, in case you miss. I don’t want get my
fingers smushed. Don’t hit your fingers,
but hit him hard. Hard. Hard, hard, hard. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, I feel bad. I feel like I’ve– wait,
that did it, right? HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: OK. HEIMO KORTH: There, see, we’ve
got a stringer of fish. Supper tonight. Fry him up with rice
and salad? How does that sound? THOMAS MORTON: Sounds
very good right now. EDNA KORTH: Well, dig
in, you boys. HEIMO KORTH: Good fish? THOMAS MORTON: Oh, it’s great. Hats off. HEIMO KORTH: We’re going
to go hunt caribou. We’re gonna go climb up to a
ridge and we’re going to look for caribou. And hopefully there’ll
be caribou. And if there are, then we’re
shoot a young bull or else a lone cow. Then we’ll have some
fresh meat. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, OK. We’re gonna– this is where
we’re gonna hunt from? HEIMO KORTH: Yeah, this
is a little rock outcropping right here. We’ve got a good view. You see all the trails
down there? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: You just keep an
eye on the trail, see if anything follows them. If they do, then we go after
them, and that’s it. Then we’ll be at it. This is the my theory
about mankind. THOMAS MORTON: Mmhm. HEIMO KORTH: Mankind was much
better off a nomadic hunter. Once he starts farming, civilization, it didn’t improve. It went downhill from there. I mean, when you look at human
beings, how long they’ve been on Earth, there were far more
hunters and gatherers than what they were farmers. We’re out to set some snowshoe
hare snares. Tomorrow we’re going to check
them and hopefully we’ll have a meal. They used the Earth’s
resources too much. It drained– I mean, crime increased,
diseases increased. Life was too easy. THOMAS MORTON: This
is the snare. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. I kind of blame, like, Europe. I mean, because everybody in
Europe was a nomadic hunter. Except I blame the Romans for
coming there and trying to make people into farmers,
just like them. There’s his tracks underneath
the snare. You want the snare
right there. Like in France, the Gauls,
they did that. And then in Britain, to him,
they conquered them. And they were all just little
tribes living off the land, like hunting. Food was semi-reliable,
so then you bred more, had more children. So then the more children,
the more mouths to feed. People lived closer together,
so in turn, disease came. See, I’d like it if you
guys catch some, too. Because then when we eat
it, you’ll feel better. It’s a good feeling. It’s better than going to the
store and buying some. That doesn’t give you the same
feeling, you know, if you go out and hunt it or something. And now, and now what happened
to the Roman civilization? THOMAS MORTON: They all
got lead poisoning. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah, that’s
right, they did. I mean, there is only X amount
of resources on this Earth, and we’re using them up at
an unbelievable rate. THOMAS MORTON: What
about drilling? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, I’m not– THOMAS MORTON: You aren’t
really for that, right? HEIMO KORTH: No, not really. No, I’m not for that. THOMAS MORTON: If there was as
much oil in there as there is in Saudi Arabia, would
you, would you think it was OK for–? HEIMO KORTH: If, yeah, but
it isn’t like that. So it’s not even
close to that. It ain’t there. It just ain’t there. So I mean, what are we gonna do
in another 5,000 years, if we’re here? How much oil is there, if
they’re going to be using oil? And then how many more people
can this Earth feed? That’s another issue. State opened the beaver season
early now, because there’s so many beaver and hardly anybody’s
trapping them. So we’re going to go trap
us some beaver. I mean, things got really,
really bad in the world over. Not just in one country,
but the world over. It’s the suburbanites
and the urbanites that’s going to suffer. The rural people, they’re
going to have the food. And they’re going to know
how to get the food. Not just planting,
but hunting. THOMAS MORTON: What’s
that tree for? Whoa. 747. HEIMO KORTH: It has to be. JOHN MARTIN: Do you like
seeing the planes? HEIMO KORTH: In some
way, yeah. Because it’s– even though we got radio, it’s
still, it’s like, there are people out there. You know what I mean? THOMAS MORTON: It’s nice to
have a little contact. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. Like when 9/11 was there, you
know, remember they stopped all air traffic for a while? And there was no jets. Zero. Nothing. Almost felt kind of
lonely, you know? THOMAS MORTON: Did you hear
about 9/11 on the radio? HEIMO KORTH: Well, I
heard on the radio. I was like, what? So you know, but I never have
seen actual footage of the jet hitting the towers. THOMAS MORTON: No? HEIMO KORTH: I’ve never
seen that in my life. Never. Because we were out here,
there’s no TV. OK, first one. Now watch. You see the bottom there
and everything? Just set this down like this,
and push it into the mud good. OK, that’s the first one. Now we put one more with a bunch
of sticks like this. That’s it. It’s just so vast, huh? It just goes forever
and ever and ever. No roads, no trails,
no people, nothing. THOMAS MORTON: I don’t know
whether that’s comforting or terrifying. HEIMO KORTH: It’s comforting
to me, but it depends the way you’re– everybody feels different
about that, you know? I feel safe that way. I feel safe. Have you checked [INAUDIBLE]
mountain? Goroy Mountain? Let me have the binoculars. Let me look over there
on them mountains. THOMAS MORTON: Heimo just saw a
bunch of caribou coming down off the ridge, so we’re going to
go up on the tundra and try to head them off. This is the Korths’ last chance
to get some meat. They’re well stocked. They could survive without it,
but you know, it would be nice for them before the herd
heads off, if they could take one more. HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING): If
something scared them, yeah. If they ran into
a wolf or bear. Shit. Yeah, oh, yeah. Oh yes. Damn. Well, when they came out,
they cut that way. That’s– no caribou today yet. Maybe on the way home. Who knows? We’ll find out. Just keep trudging along. Something killed a calf
caribou here. Either wolf– wolverine–
or bear. One of the two. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, yeah,
look at all that fur. HEIMO KORTH: The bones, see the
pelvis bone, the back one? THOMAS MORTON: How long
ago, do you think? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, I don’t know. That was probably when we– when all them caribou
came through in the end of September. THOMAS MORTON: Ooh. Grisly. [DOG BARKING] HEIMO KORTH: Let
me get the saw. See all the eggs in there? Full of eggs. [GENERATOR MOTOR] HEIMO KORTH: Oh, that’s out
here, east somewhere. I’m into movies somewhat,
you know? I like the sci-fi movies,
you know, like aliens and stuff like that. I like stuff like that. Transporter, Born in East
LA, Addams Family. Munich takes a long time. That’s like almost a
three-hour movie. JOHN MARTIN: Predator
or whatever. THOMAS MORTON: That night after
looking through family photos on Edna’s gas-powered
laptop– HEIMO KORTH: We’ll
watch this one. THOMAS MORTON: Heimo treated
us to a special screening of Predator. The irony of watching Major Alan
“Dutch” Schaefer try to trap and kill Predator in the
company of a fur trapper did not escape us. Nor did Heimo waste any
opportunity to point out when and how Schwarzenegger’s various
Predator traps were total bullshit. At this point, it was very easy
to forget that we were on the furthest brink of human
civilization and not just sprawled out on a friend’s
couch, basking in the glow of a TBS staple. Apparently there were bear
tracks near where the outhouse is. (SOFTLY) What the
fuck are they doing? The next morning, our feelings
of suburban safety and contentment were vanquished for
good by the discovery of bear tracks near the cabin. JOHN MARTIN: Here
they come again. HEIMO KORTH: Good morning. THOMAS MORTON: Good morning? HEIMO KORTH: We’ll show you. JOHN MARTIN: See, you went
to find the tracks? HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. We’ll– we’ll have to show you. We gotta get rid of him. Because otherwise he’s going
to wreck your tents and everything. HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING):
He came to right there. That’s the track, yeah. Those paws are enormous. THOMAS MORTON: This is the time
of year that bears are putting on their last few
pounds before going into hibernation. And Heimo guaranteed us that
our nocturnal visitor would not only be returning soon but
would continue to do so until either it was dead or we were. HEIMO KORTH: See where he
scraped the ground to cover the carcass? THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
Where’s the carcass? HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING):
Under all that. He covers it. THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
He’s probably nearby? HEIMO KORTH: Mmhm. And guaranteed to attack us. If he comes behind us,
I want you to duck down like that, so– ’cause I’m going to
shoot over you. [WHISTLE] Hey, bear. Hey. JOHN MARTIN: Hey. HEIMO KORTH: Pretty spooky
back there, huh? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. Just with the carcass, and– so is he eating the other
bear carcass? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, yeah. They do that all the time. One bear’ll eat another
bear carcass. THOMAS MORTON: No manners
amongst bears. HEIMO KORTH: Well, remember he
raked it all in and covered the carcass like that? THOMAS MORTON: Oh, you got
to see the carcass. All our farcical bear alarm
jokes from earlier in the week were revisited, but this
time in deadly earnest. If we so much as needed to shit,
we had to take a shotgun with us and establish that
we were in clear shouting distance of someone else. JOHN MCSHANE: Apparently there
were bear tracks near where the outhouse is. I’ve been told to carry
this with me. EDNA KORTH: Don’t
shoot this way. JOHN MCSHANE: Right. EDNA KORTH: If you see
him on that side, shoot at him that way. JOHN MCSHANE: Right. And a killing shot is where? Like head or the heart? EDNA KORTH: In the chest. JOHN MCSHANE: Chest? EDNA KORTH: Yeah. JOHN MARTIN: Good luck. JOHN MCSHANE: Thanks. THOMAS MORTON: So we’re eating
moose tacos tonight? EDNA KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: Taco night. EDNA KORTH: Heimo’s favorite. Usually I’ll just have two
taco shells tonight, and there’s 10 or 12 in a box. He’ll eat the rest. THOMAS MORTON: Do your
daughters eat a lot? EDNA KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: Were you worried
when they were little about bringing them
up out here? EDNA KORTH: Oh, no. THOMAS MORTON: No? EDNA KORTH: Uh-uh. I taught them from since
they were five. THOMAS MORTON: Heimo told me
they went to boarding school for a couple years. EDNA KORTH: Yeah. Both of the girls did,
because I think it’s time for them to move. I didn’t want– I told him I didn’t want to
teach them anymore because I don’t want to do high
school again. There. We just opened it. It’s too hot. HEIMO KORTH: It’s too cold. The first taco I ever had,
it’s like, I fell in love with it. Man, what have I been missing
all these years? Oh, it was good. Ooh, I loved it. Any kind of Mexican food,
I had to come to Alaska to have it first. Alaska. This year’s exceptionally
weird. It really is. This is the third time
a neighbor come in. THOMAS MORTON: I
think that is. There more of them? HEIMO KORTH: I think so. I think so. Until everything’s resolved,
we’re going to have to stick close. THOMAS MORTON: What’ll
it sound like? HEIMO KORTH: The dog’ll tell
us in a heartbeat. Me and Edna, and you and you,
we’re gonna have to boogie out real quick and take
care of it. EDNA KORTH: I’ll be
the last person. HEIMO KORTH: You’re gonna
be right with us. ‘Cause you and me’ll
be in the lead. Especially you. You’ll be– THOMAS MORTON: Heimo just
heard the dog bark. [DOG BARKING] THOMAS MORTON: We may, we may
have gotten our visitor. [DOG BARKING] HEIMO KORTH: Come on, come on. This is serious. He’s there. EDNA KORTH: Somebody else– HEIMO KORTH: No, I
need you, Mom. Let’s go. Come on, let’s go. Mommy, gun’s right here. Extra shells. Hey, John, in that box
up there, wooden box. Reach for some– pack of shotgun shells. There are five in there. OK? When we walk up there, quiet. Nobody talk. We just have the light. EDNA KORTH: Ain’t for
me, Mr. Korth. HEIMO KORTH: Don’t get upset. THOMAS MORTON: It
just got dark. (WHISPERING) There is a bear. [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
Oh my god. This is– [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
The bear’s making some terrible fucking noise– [GUNSHOT] THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
Ohh, it sounds like the bear’s moving. [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] [GUNSHOT] THOMAS MORTON (WHISPERING):
How the fuck is it still alive? JOHN MCSHANE (WHISPERING):
I don’t know. HEIMO KORTH: It’s dead. EDNA KORTH: He’s dead. HEIMO KORTH: Hey, you guys– THOMAS MORTON: He’s dead? Can we come? JOHN MCSHANE: We’re good? THOMAS MORTON: We can
shit in peace. The uh, the bear is dead. HEIMO KORTH: Imagine if you
got attacked by that. JOHN MARTIN: Fuck. THOMAS MORTON: Was he on all
fours, or was he up high? HEIMO KORTH: He was all fours. THOMAS MORTON: OK. HEIMO KORTH: All fours,
and then– THOMAS MORTON: That makes
it harder to shoot him, doesn’t it? HEIMO KORTH: Once he was hit, he
was rolling around all over just like a ball, and
that was even worse. THOMAS MORTON: That’s
terrifying. HEIMO KORTH: To try
to shoot him. THOMAS MORTON (SHIVERING)
Ayyyy, hey, hey. HEIMO KORTH: That could
take a chunk out of you in a heartbeat. THOMAS MORTON: Yes. HEIMO KORTH: It was so dark
that we kept shooting and shooting and shooting. And I know I missed a bunch
because I couldn’t see the bear in the sights of my gun. The dog knew there was something
amiss, and then I could hear the bear
back in there. And that’s when I ran
in the house and got Edna and everybody. Come on, we gotta go. I couldn’t see the bear in
the sights of my gun. And as you saw, it
was a big bear. It was a really big bear. And he’s gone, and– HEIMO KORTH: And we
protected our– I mean, us. And property. Otherwise he might have
killed the dog. So we lost a dog already. A bear came in the yard and ate
the dog alive, you know? And that was pretty sad. That’s, you know, that’s
life in the Arctic. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah, Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: It’s just
the way it goes. THOMAS MORTON: You guys’ll
be sleeping good tonight. HEIMO KORTH (YAWNING):
Well, everybody. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. Morning. I am really a little bit
uncertain which one. I’ve got– I’ve got no clue what day
of the week it is, either, I just realized. HEIMO KORTH: Don’t
fall on ’em. Lot of air bubbles, huh? THOMAS MORTON: How
are we looking? HEIMO KORTH: Situation
looks quite bleak. THOMAS MORTON: Oh. HEIMO KORTH: Maybe
in the morning. We’ll just come here in the
morning and see what’s there. Just have to do that. THOMAS MORTON: Gotta go deal
with that bear right now. It’s just, like, lying there
in the middle of the trail. We’re gonna have to skin it,
de-skull it, and do something with the meat that doesn’t
involve leaving it for another bear to come and try to eat. There’s the bear. Still dead? HEIMO KORTH (WHISPERING):
Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t want to fool
with a bear like this. Because you’d be in
deep doo-doo. Stinks. Whew. His belly was full. So he stinks pretty bad. One, two, three. [WHOOSH OF AIR] Whew. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, ohh. Ho, ho. He– ho, ho. (GAGGING)
Ho, oh, oh, huh, ho. Oh, no. Oh, god. Oh, that’s– oh. HEIMO KORTH: Terrible, huh? You get a good whiff
of that, huh? THOMAS MORTON: Oh,
I got plenty. He basically just deflated. And that air. Oh my god. HEIMO KORTH: Pretty rank, huh? THOMAS MORTON: That was–
that was some, that was some rank air. That was– HEIMO KORTH: OK. THOMAS MORTON: That was worse
than anything I’m going to do on this trip. Is this gonna happen
again, now? HEIMO KORTH: Yeah, he’s
kind of, kind of rigor mortis in here. THOMAS MORTON: Ohh. Ohh. HEIMO KORTH: You smell? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. Oh, oh. HEIMO KORTH: I could use
somebody else to help, too. You guys spread the arms, OK? Watch your fingers. I learned this from a hunting
guy that I worked for. He taught me how
to skin bears. Without him, I wouldn’t
be up here. He’s the one that offered me the
job, so I moved up here. OK. Now. Bend down hard, hard. Real hard. [SNAPPING BONE] HEIMO KORTH: There you go,
that’s what we needed. Now, put on a pair of rubber
gloves because you’re going to grab the meat now. I mean, this is more
than one slug. And right here, look at that. You see what I’m saying? Like I feel like a lot of people
would see this and just automatically be like, this
guy must hate animals. HEIMO KORTH: No, I don’t
hate animals. Not in the least. Because I want to see them
here all the time. I do. THOMAS MORTON: Well, you
live among them. HEIMO KORTH: Everybody,
Everybody’s ancestors were hunters and trappers. Everybody. Hold that leg, grab this one. You and me– you and me, Thomas,
pull this one. You gotta lift it up. It’s gonna be hard. One, two, three. There we go, there we
go, there we go. Just like this. OK. Tell you what. To keep that clean, fold
that there like that. That’s good. There we go. Put your fingers in
the nose and– no, really. Can you do it? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. Oh, that feels kind of odd. HEIMO KORTH: Now, OK. Now. THOMAS MORTON: Oh,
there’s the ears. There’s the eye holes. HEIMO KORTH: There you go. THOMAS MORTON: There’s
our bear. HEIMO KORTH: I gotta
cut that skull off. The skull has to be brought
to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I mushed up the skull bad. Ooh. THOMAS MORTON: These are all
shots that are gonna give me nightmares. HEIMO KORTH: It’s not
so bloody this way, you know what I mean? OK, push it down like this. OK. There. One, two, three. Once we get on the snow,
it’ll be easier. THOMAS MORTON: It is easier. JOHN MCSHANE: Funeral procession
for a bear. HEIMO KORTH: To there. That’s good. OK. Well, let’s go check snares. THOMAS MORTON: When do you start
getting really busy with the trapping? Like when does that kick in? HEIMO KORTH: November. THOMAS MORTON: November? And how long does it last? HEIMO KORTH: Until March,
I’ll be really busy, trapping every day. Nothing? First one empty. See it? Right down here. See the snare you set there? David’s is empty. Ooh. Too much fox and wolverine
hanging around. THOMAS MORTON: So that’s
why we don’t have– HEIMO KORTH: That’s why the
bunnies– you know, they either killed ’em, or else the
bunnies took off to Timbuktu. Because they ain’t gonna stand
around with all these wolverines and foxes around. Who set this one? THOMAS MORTON: Um, maybe me? HEIMO KORTH: You got a bunny. There’s part of supper. THOMAS MORTON: Look at that. These things are really big. Wow. I snared my first bunny. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. THOMAS MORTON: Oh, I’m sorry
it was a struggle, but I’m happy we have food. HEIMO KORTH: Christ, see, this
guy, he caught a fish, and he got a bunny. THOMAS MORTON: Heimo got a
bunny, but it’s alive. How are– how are you going to dispatch
this bunny? Is that the– is that the final–? I got to admit, that was
a little bit rough. HEIMO KORTH: What’s up? What was? THOMAS MORTON: You know, it’s
kind of like, buying it at the supermarket, was the first time
that we just– we found it and it was, the deed
had already been done. HEIMO KORTH: And this
time I had to do it? THOMAS MORTON: And this time,
you had to do it, yeah. So you have to– I’d have to get used to that. HEIMO KORTH: Well, I
grew up like that. THOMAS MORTON: Does it ever– does it ever affect you? HEIMO KORTH: Bother me? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. You ever feel bad for– you ever feel bad
for the bunny? HEIMO KORTH: Well,
it didn’t suffer. I mean– THOMAS MORTON: No more than
it would in the wild. HEIMO KORTH: Oh, god, no. THOMAS MORTON: I mean, I
order rabbit on menus. Just because I don’t see it
happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And it’s probably happening a
lot worse than what you did. HEIMO KORTH: You’re
darn right, it is. Hey, I’ll show you once. And then the next
one, you do, OK? THOMAS MORTON: I
do myself, OK. HEIMO KORTH: OK. Wet your hands a little bit. Right where this joint
is, there, just– just in that joint area,
pull it like this and the skin’ll pop. THOMAS MORTON: Wow. No knife cuts. HEIMO KORTH: No knife cuts. Stick your finger right here, go
right to the butthole area, and come up and around. You grab the whole tail part and
everything, the poop chute and all that, pull
it like this. THOMAS MORTON: You know, there
wasn’t a time when, like, all us animals hung out together. We treat them– HEIMO KORTH: All animals
are not people. That’s a Disney world. I mean, people that say, my cat,
or else my dog, that’s my kid, that’s my child– that’s
a bunch of baloney. It’s not even close. There. OK, just cut up, now. Cut up. Up. They can have their
dogs and pets, you know what I’m saying? I mean, that’s not going
to come close to another human being. You can’t rate an animal
with a human. That’s not right. There. Skinned and gutted
your first bunny. THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: You guys ready? Ready? Of we go into the wild
blue yonder. THOMAS MORTON: Can you
tell me where we’re walking to right now? HEIMO KORTH: Oh, we’re going to
go up in the ridge, by our daughter’s cross up there. The daughter we lost
out here, we put flowers there every year. So that’s what we’re going
up there for now. THOMAS MORTON: Heimo and Edna’s
daughters, Krin and Rhonda, are grown and live
in Fairbanks now. Heimo and Edna, however, had
another daughter named Coleen before either of
them was born. When Coleen was two, she and her
parents were crossing the Coleen river in a canoe when
it tipped over and she was swept away by the current. EDNA KORTH: We were floating
down to the lower cabin. We had that sweeper
on the bank. It tip us over. She drowned and floated. We couldn’t reach her in time. The only thing we found from
her was her little boot. We call it Goroy Mountain. We named it after
our daughter. We used to call her, in Eskimo,
little pigs that eat a lot, we say, goroys. THOMAS MORTON: Did you try to
have this hill renamed? HEIMO KORTH: Yeah. You gotta go through a
couple committees. The state said that she didn’t
do anything significant. THOMAS MORTON: That’s awful. HEIMO KORTH: They said. EDNA KORTH: She would have been
27, 28 years this year. HEIMO KORTH: [ESKIMO] That’s the Eskimo word
for “come.” [ESKIMO] HEIMO KORTH: Say it, Mom. EDNA KORTH: [ESKIMO] THOMAS MORTON: Sounds a lot
nicer when she says it. EDNA KORTH: I told you,
you make things yours. HEIMO KORTH: Oh, come on. Well, this is something we were
going to do whether you guys were here or not. We had to do it before the
snow got too deep. And it’s a beautiful
day for it. HEIMO KORTH: I don’t know how
to use one of these things. EDNA KORTH: Just press. HEIMO KORTH: Oh, there. HEIMO KORTH: You want this? Yeah. You want this? There, there you go. She’s a real picky eater in the
beginning, but once she starts, she won’t stop. THOMAS MORTON: Does it bum you
out that there aren’t a new generation of Heimos and
Ednas to come out here? That once you guys are gone,
there probably won’t be– in ANWR, there won’t
be another– another set of people. HEIMO KORTH: Another
final frontiersman? THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. HEIMO KORTH: I mean, the youth
nowadays, very few are interested in the outdoors. And a lot of them don’t know
survival skills, which is sad. Because they could run into a
situation where they need that to save their life, you know? Because you never know what’s
going to happen in life. THOMAS MORTON: Last
day of camp. We got little gifts from Edna. She made us– mine is a fox skin chain toggle,
which I’m pretty excited about. Gonna miss this old cabin. All right, this is it. Supposed to be snow coming in
tonight, and the seasons are about to change in a
really major way. It’s going to get a lot
colder than it’s been when we’ve been here. And hunting season’s going to
give way to trapping season. Folks like Heimo and Edna, and
the bush pilots out here, they’re some of the last people
from whom you can learn this dying skill set. They ain’t supermen. They’re ordinary people who
learned how to do it and then went out and did it. I’m now capable of feasting off
rabbit that I have caught. These are all, you know– these are all skills
we can rediscover. HEIMO KORTH: All right, guys. THOMAS MORTON: Bye. HEIMO KORTH: Take care. THOMAS MORTON: Have
a good winter. HEIMO KORTH: Yeah, you too. THOMAS MORTON: We will. HEIMO KORTH: All right, bye. Me and Edna, we got our– when
we go, you know, I told her if I go first, where to put me. I mean, if they find
me out here. That’s the thing. If they find me. And then my ashes are going
to be way up in there. That’s where I wanted them. And then Edna said she wants
to be here, you know.

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