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Arctic Film To Have Its Premiere Here

Arctic Film To Have Its Premiere Here


La Crosse's Hollywood Theater and its manager. Joseph Bronk, are hosts to a world premiere movie which begins March 31.


It's “Edge of the Arctic Ice,” a true-life adventure of Harmon (Bud) and Martha Helmericks, who live in one of the world's truly remote areas, deep within the Arctic Circle.


The couple was in La Crosse this week and regaled us with spine-chilling (literally) stories of their home where part of the year daylight is 24 hours long Twenty-five years ago. the Helmericks went to the site 185 miles east of the United States’ northernmost community. Barrow, Alaska.


For the first three years they lived in a tent on an island a few yards off the southern shore of the Arctic Ocean During that period they made extensive plans for their future, permanent home.


ARCTIC VISITORS BARNSTORM Harmond Bud Helmericks, left and his wife, Martha, were in La Crosse

ARCTIC VISITORS ‘BARNSTORM’ — Harmond (Bud) Helmericks, left and his wife, Martha, were in La Crosse this week to tell about their new movie, “Edge of the Arctic Ice,” which has its world premiere in the Hollywood Theater March 31. Their host for the day was Joseph Bronk, manager of the Hollywood. Mrs. Helmericks’ coat is of seal; her husband wears a parka coat of otter trimmed with wolf and wolverine fur. — Tribune Photo.


Every bit of the buildings’ structure had to be "imported." Each board, piece of plumbing fixture or light bulb was included in the growing list of needs and had to be brought from Seattle, Wash., more than 1.000 miles away.


When materials arrived, the couple worked from 7 a.m. until midnight each day; it was during the summer period, when daylight, it seemed, was unending.


"We now have all the necessities of a beautiful home,” Helmerick said. “We have carpeting, beautiful furniture, books and records, oil heat and radio. No television is beamed that far, but our radio connections with ‘the outside world’ are complete, competent and dependable.”


The Arctic life of the family consists of fishing and hunting, with sportsmanship and conservation uppermost as a controlling influence on what they "take" for either sale or use by themselves.


Martha Helmericks is educator for their boys. Son, James, now 26, received his training through secondary education by correspondence courses; 13-year-old Mark and 10-year-old Jeffrey now have specific “schooling hours and study periods” under the tutelage of their mother and similar correspondence-accredited methods.


That education, under the tutelage of their father (he’s a graduate engineer of Tucson, Ariz.) necessarily includes survival training in the land which has proved implacable to some.


Helmericks is an author, too. He has written four books, the most recent, “The Last of the Bush Pilots.” Helmericks also is an expert photographer and a licensed pilot. The oldest son has photography work in the March edition of the National Geographic Magazine and also is a licensed pilot.


The “variable weather” experienced by residents of the Coulee Region is tropical when compared to that of the north. When the Helmerickses left their home March 8 for this; current barnstorming tour to promote their film, the temperature was 55 degrees below zero.


When we asked what the “wind chill index” would be at that temperature, Helmericks said they “ignore” the index, because "at that temperature, even without a wind, the results could be lethal if one isn’t adequately protected.”


Later this month, the couple flies from Minneapolis to Seattle, Wash., then to Fairbanks. From Fairbanks there’s another flight to Barrow; the last leg of the trip is directly from Barrow to their front door. Hannon and Martha will be home March 31.


In late June and until early July, the Arctic residents have something in common with this area: the mosquitoes move in... voracious and large. The Helmerickses have two greenhouses at their home in which they raise a large variety of vegetables (and some flowers). "Radishes, though,” they said, “refuse to cooperate. They simply will not grow.”


Martha's accessibility to a supermarket just isn't. Once a year, an imposing list of needs is reviewed and “everything is purchased at once.”


That “store” is in Fairbanks, 500 miles from home.


The family enjoys good health. "Germs have little survival chance there,” the couple said. But just in case the advice of a doctor is needed, radio communication in the family's airplanes is used; it would take a medical man only an hour and a half to arrive in case of a real emergency.


Their diesel-fired transformers generate electricity in abundance; the two pieces of equipment use about 15 gallons of fuel each day.


Fishermen would be delighted with the catches possible. The family though, uses nets rather than lines. Trout, char, greyling, white fish and the Arctic cisco provide both food and funds. The fish is taken to Barrow to sell.


Wild animals are in abundance, too. To list only a few, there are the ugrug, (a giant bearded seal), whales and walrus, bears (polar, grizzly and black), foxes (white, red, cross, blue and silver), wolves, wolverines, lynx, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, beaver, muskrat, sable, mink, otter, ermine, parka and red squirrels and the tiny shrew.


“W’e have yet to find a vicious animal”


Helmericks said. "We know that any creature will defend itself if the occasion arises, but we respect them and they accept us.”


One animal shares their home. It’s “Mister,” a two-year-old lhasa apso, a long-haired terrier breed, “sturdy, small, inquisitive and lovable. The incredible life of a Helmerickses is excitingly told in the film, a National General Pictures release.



Tribune Staff Writer

La Crosse Tribune, Saturday, March 25, 1972—7

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