The Man Behind Alone In The Wilderness

Samuel Reason | September 8th, 2019

A well-documented naturalist Richard Proenneke may be one of the earliest modern survivalists. Born in 1916 he learned all his survival techniques himself and lived out in the mountains of Alaska for over 30 years in a log cabin he built with his own hands. Everything he ate he hunted, fished or grew himself – gathering his supplies from nature around him.

Another interesting aspect was that he recorded all the meteorological data, which has been studied intensively by researchers. His journals and film have been used by many authors and film directors to produce amazingly detailed documentaries around living alone in the wilderness.

Proenneke enlisted in the United States Navy after the Pearl Harbour attack, where he served as a carpenter. He was extremely skilled with diesel mechanics and was sought after by many teams and companies even after his time in the army. However, he always loved nature and moved to Oregon to work in a sheep ranch before moving to Shuyak Island in Alaska in the 1950s. There he worked as a repairman at a Naval Air Station before moving out to the Twin Lakes for retirement.

Here he constructed his hand-made cabin and noted for its beautiful craftsmanship. Due to his skills as a carpenter and woodworker, and the films he took during its construction, his style has been copied all over the world. And he also had ingenious methods to survive, such as putting 1 US gallon cans cut into basin shapes buried under the frost line. This meant he could store fruit and perishables for prolonged periods while keeping them accessible during the winter months.

In 2003, much of his film, narrative, and journals were used to publish the documentary Alone in the Wilderness. Which many truly believe was the start of the great naturalist and survivalist modern movement.

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