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Surviving Winter In Alaska At -50

Living off-grid during winter is never easy, but when you’re in the Alaskan bush and facing temperatures of -50 degrees Fahrenheit, it can get downright dangerous.

That’s the life of Danny Whittle and SueJean Heinz, a married couple who live in Alaska and who have stories of survival many of us only see on television. They are this week’s guests on Off The Grid Radio, as they tell us what it’s like to battle Old Man Winter during a season when they get only about four hours of sunshine.

Danny and SueJean also tell us:

  • How they survived when their water pipes froze.
  • How they use snow to keep their house warm.
  • How they cook when it’s too cold to use propane.
  • How they use a pellet stove to complement their wood stove.

Danny and SueJean also share stories of Alaska wildlife, including what they did when a bear showed up on their doorstep one day. Finally, they give advice to anyone who has dreams of moving to Alaska!

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One comment

  1. I went from 7th to 9th grade in Fairbanks in the 1956 to 1959 time period. My father was based at Ladd Field then. It was much colder then. The first winter there I walked to the 7th grade down to 64 below zero.
    Science Digest was talking about the coming Ice Age. Twenty below zero felt warm. That was jacket weather for me. We were warned to avoid any puddles at 50-60 below zero because they would be propane
    or butane from a cracked fuel tank. The cold war was a bit warmer then. when the F-89’s flew over and had a white missile under each wing you knew each dad a 2 Kiloton nuclear warhead. They also carried 4 Radar guided Falcons. If you were on the base and heard popping noises and looked toward Birch Hill and saw puffs of smoke, it was just the radar 75mm antiaircraft practice. We had over a hundred intercepters
    on base.
    There was an Army division including tanks on base. The Army did pull winter exercises in 20 to 40 degree below zero weather. The Army had dogsleds and would be the first to break trails after the freezeup.
    Everybody had .battery chargers and somekind of engine heater in their cars. In Fairbanks All the parking spots had two plugs for your charger and heater. I f you car was always plugged in, it would start easily.
    I was in the Civil Air Patrol Alaska Wing the 2nd and 3rd winter we were there.
    There was a fair bit of woods on the base. In the summer High Bush Cranberry, Blue berry, Rose Hips,and Rasberrys were common. In the winter, I knew where to find frozen Rasberry and rose hip
    patches. In the woods I saw Moose, Muskrats, and Porcupines.
    Every Spring Breakup, the Air Police had to rescue young Moose from the ice in the Chena River near the Western end of the Runway.
    I did as a CAP member get a flight to Bettles 30 miles above the Circle. On that path in 1959 You saw
    no sign of man from 20 miles out until you got near Bettles. The C-47 was carrying avgas to the bush planes based at the airport or nearby river. The runway at Bettles was gravel.
    The C-47 we flew on was more normally used for Smoke-jumpers. We didn’t have a door in the back.
    There was no partition between the cockpit and the back of the plane.
    I was not off the grid. Alaska was an interesting place then.
    Things have changed a lot. Ladd Field is now Ft Wainwright. The hanger my CAP: squadron met in is a National Historical Register Building. The Officers Quarters we lived in are also National Historic Register Buildings.

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