Sunday, June 12, 2011

OJD's Hero of the Month: Richard (Dick) Proenneke

Dick lived in this handmade cabin in Alaska for 30 years.
Survivalism, preparedness, self's all over the internet today. There are scores of survival podcasts, youtube channels and blogs available at your fingertips 24 hours a day.

You wanna talk about self sufficiency and survival? Let me introduce you to Dick Proenneke. He was born in 1916 in Lee County Iowa. He served in the United States Navy as a carpenter during World War II and worked as a diesel mechanic most of his first 50 years.

What makes him a hero from my point of view?  Around age 52, he moved to a remote part of Alaska, Twin Lakes, and with only a handful of tools, built everything he needed to survive...for the next 30 years. He built a cabin by hand from local trees. He built his food storage on 20 foot stilts so animals couldn't get to it and used a removeable ladder for access. He either grew or caught everything he ate with  few exceptions. Alaskan winters came and went, but he handled it all by himself.

The unique dutch door on his cabin.
The best part of Dick's adventure is that he captured it all on his little 8mm video camera. He documented the whole experience in his personal journal. He took thousands upon thousands of photographs. You can read his writings from 1974-1980 thanks to a link from the National Park Service. He and a brother ended up donating over 90 pounds of journals to the Park Service for posterity. The cabin he lived in is now a popular tourist attraction and kept up by the National Park Service.

At the age of 82, he returned to California to live with his brother. The cold winter months in Alaska had been getting harder and harder for him to endure. He lived four more years and died of a stroke in 2003 at age 86.

A video documentary of his story can be read at IMDB and a copy shows up on youtube from time to time. I'd post a direct link but I'm sure it wouldn't last long due to copyright. I recommend you search youtube for Dick Proenneke and watch some of his life's work. If you like it, order a copy from Bob Swerer.  I recommend Alone in the Wilderness and Alaska, Silence and Solitude.

If you enjoy the outdoors, being self sufficient and prepared, or want to see how one man survived 30 years in the worst weather conditions with only a small amount of hand yourself a favor and watch Alone in the Wilderness.


  1. I still watch his videos from time to time. This man was legendary.

  2. I saw the two movies and liked them very much. Well worth the time. PBS sells them on DVD.


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