Photos of a family that's lived in near isolation in the Alaska wilderness for 18 years

Photographer Ed Gold went deep into the Alaskan wilderness to meet the Atchley family, who have lived there in near-isolation for 18 years. The family of four buys groceries once a year, and live off the land by hunting black bears, wolves, rabbits, ducks and beavers.

The family keep their own time to suit their needs, putting the clock as much as three hours forward or back depending on the light.

They generally eat breakfast at 16:30, spending the short winter daylight hours busy with carpentry, cleaning and repairs. After supper at about 22:00, they fill the rest of their day with talking, guitar playing and writing, going to bed around 04:00.

If they feel short of money, 52-year-old David will sell tanned hides, build log cabins or take work in the local gold mine, about 100 miles away.

However, by living off the land and using solar power, they manage to survive on just $12,000 (£9,600) a year.

Romey Atchely is also an author. From her bio page:

For fourteen of her past nineteen years in Alaska, Romey Atchley has lived with her husband, David, and two sons in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge. They are the only people living in this remote natural wilderness area. Their cabin is over two hundred miles from the nearest road—beyond access to schools, doctors, and grocery stores. Romey and her family live among the wild animals where they hunt, fish, garden, tan hides, and home school their children. Through her writings, drawings, and photographs, she brings her wilderness experiences to life for others to share. From the Alaskan Wilderness: The Adventures of Barefoot and Boofoot is the first in a series of Romey Atchley, look out for her next book, “From the Alaskan Wilderness: The Adventures of Barefoot and Boofoot,” Summer, In Which Boofoot Finds His Herd.

Image: Oliver Kurmis

Notable Replies

  1. I'm really surprised, $12k is actually quite a lot.

  2. Saving money on toilet paper is a false economy.

  3. This sounds predictably and absolutely awful for the teenage son:

    Although he has the constant companionship of his parents and dog, Charley, Sky is far away from his peers, "I have one friend in Fairbanks [a 75-minute plane ride from Ruby] who I look forward to seeing when we go to town once a year. Her name is Ella but she's really a stranger as I don't see her much."

    He must be extraordinarily frustrated. It's fine for adults to do this, but human are social beings.

  4. Sounds like it might get pretty lonely, and your only models for behavior are your quirky parents. I bet he will have a hard time finding a place for himself in society.

    On the other hand, some of us who were raised in the midst of this society may also have a hard time making it work.

  5. Yeah, let's not pretend that "normal" is some sort of awesome. One generalization I'd make about the homeschooled people I've met is that they seem to have a more confident sense of self. Probably because they didn't have it squashed and beaten by 12 years of Lord of the Flies-crossed-with-Milgram experiment that we call public school.

    That kid is missing out on stuff that is, let's face it, not always that awesome. And he might be suffering now, but I guarantee if he gets away to college or somewhere normal for a job, he'll be the coolest, most interesting person most people who meet him will have met.

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