If you’ve never been to Alaska in the winter, you’ve not experienced the raw environment (I’ve been there during a summer and that was an experience – talk about raw).
The film is a treasure of life in Alaska and is now on video. It is a silent film but in color. The film starts with a map of the territory and then shows their cabin home and how they lived and got by during the harsh winters.
It’s an amazing display of nature and a wonderful story. Ice fishing, scraping 5-foot snow off roofs, taking the airplane for a ride through the country…wouldn’t you want to live in Alaska after watching?
Places always look nice from a distance. But these conditions in Alaska look harsh on this side of the story. Following the outlined details, is a great filmed documentary of life in Alaska, filmed in 1949.
Bud Helmericks and his first wife Constance (Connie) Helmericks spent more than a decade living in and exploring northern Alaska during the 1940s and 1950s. Constance was the best-selling author of eight non-fiction books, five detailing their lives and adventures in the far north. Films that the couple shot on 16mm color film were the subject of national lecture tours. Shot with great care and artfulness under extreme living conditions, these films depict the unique lives of the Helmericks family, as well as the rapidly-changing lives of Iñupiat peoples during the era of pre-Statehood and pre-pipeline Alaska.
Detailed summary information for “We Live in the Arctic” was provided by the filmmakers. According to these notes, the film includes scenes of the “Arctic Tern” (Cessna 170 airplane) on skis; Six different airplanes, all named the “Arctic Tern” and all painted with a bird symbol, were used in the production of the three Helmericks films over seven years; Upon return to Brooks Range cabin in Alaska after many months away, Bud takes down hanging empty gas cans left to scare bears away; Bud shows how the arctic dweller uses an ice chisel — it takes about one hour to cut through the four-foot ice of Takahula Lake; Lifting out net and fish catch; Icy lake water is hauled to the house; Tramping down an airfield for the plane with snowshoes; It is necessary to push a small piece of stove-wood under each ski of the airplane when parked to keep it from freezing down; Oliktok Point on the Arctic Ocean; Friends run out of their door waving joyously; Bud and George work with shovels and flags to make a more safe airplane field; Oolak returns hours later with a load of small driftwood sticks for fuel; Sled with a big sail approaches out of the frozen ocean; Carrie with her boy Maugulauk and husband Jacob; When Carrie becomes ill, Bud flies her to Point Barrow Hospital during wind storm; Back at Oliktok Point camp, Connie directs the airplane to safety; Dog buried in snow in a spring blizzard during month of May;
Another dogsled visitor arrives, and all shake hands with Colliak, who has come from 100 miles inland; Caribou butchered; Sawing out new sled from driftwood as Lydia plays about; Apiak, older son, builds sled flooring — it is necessary to make an entirely new sled almost every season; Flight out over the polar ice fifty miles; Landing fifty miles offshore where Apiak had designated a hunting camp in his earlier explorations by sled; Pitch tent; Rifle close at hand in case of polar bears; Travel via dogsled and hunting for seals; Polar bear tracks; Connie comes up to her dead polar bear — shot from the tent at 1 a.m. in late May — feasting (not shown) followed immediately after butchering; Seal meat goes into modern pressure cooker; Apiak serves dogs their meal; Starving seal has lost its diving hole and can’t find the ocean — carried in a sack on the sled to the nearest seal hole and it finally dove down into the ocean; On shore after two months at sea; Summer tent; Lydia, Nannie and George; Saying goodbye; Home to cabin at Takahula Lake; Unloading cargo from Hughes, the trading post (100 miles away), at the new dock at Takahula Lake; Bud cuts moose hide into strips and makes chairs; Connie casting for pike at tent camp at nearby Iniakuk Lake; Broken airplane tail — Bud fixes it by taking off part of the tail and then fortunately it flew OK; Connie catches a grayling; Geese migrating; Grizzly and moose and other animals; Roasting caribou ribs; Connie uses the little yellow kayak on Takahula Lake before winter; Ice pans float down the adjacent Alatna River; Arrigetch Peaks rising above the house; Bud and Connie, in full winter dress, are prepared for winter again; Connie reads contentedly by the blazing hearth. (Color/Silent/16mm film).
This sequence contains excerpts from AAF-16009 and AAF-16010 from the Constance Helmericks Film collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives Department in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information please contact the Alaska Film Archives. For more information about this film, other Helmericks films, and related holdings from the Jean Aspen Papers, please contact the Alaska Film Archives.