You might imagine that you’re a goner. But that’s because you don’t know the real-life story of a woman named Helen Klaben, a passenger on a small plane from Fairbanks to Seattle that crashed in February 1963 in the similarly forbidding Canadian Yukon region. She suffered a broken arm in the crash, and the pilot, Ralph Flores, both suffered a broken jaw and other serious facial injuries. And as a vintage Life magazine account of the ordeal details, they had no heavy winter survival garb, and their supplies consisted of a few cans of sardines and tuna, two cans of fruit cocktail, some vitamins, toothpaste, and matches. They didn’t even have any tools, except for a hammer, a chisel and the pilot’s hunting knife. Nevertheless, 49 days later, rescuers found Klaben and Flores, who were gaunt and desperately hungry, but somehow, had managed to survive. They’d reinforced the plane’s cabin with spruce boughs to turn it into a shelter, fashioned a drinking cup from a broken light reflector so that they could drink melted snow, and avoided physical activity as much as possible, so that their bodies’ stored fat could sustain them after the food ran out.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to go through such a harrowing experience. But just to be prepared, here are some tips for surviving in the frozen northern wilderness, from the University of Alaska risk management team’s Remote Travel Safety Guide.