Arctic Wisdom: Axe Man

Keeping a family running is expensive for the Hailstone clan. For the past 20 years Chip Hailstone has been hunting, fishing, and gathering raw material in the Arctic, helping support his family while learning to understand the tundra as a newcomer to Alaska. Now, he’s gained a keen eye for ways he can support his family while maximizing the land’s resources and saving him money.

On this week’s Life Below Zero, the temperatures in Noorvik have fallen below zero, and Chip’s worried about heating his home. In town, heating oil costs just over six dollars a gallon, a considerable expense for the subsistence-living family. Every dollar Chip saves on fuel is money that he can spend on his large family’s needs.

So when it’s time for Chip to restock on fuel, he weighs his options – spending more money on heating oil or heading out into the cold in his snow machine to chop down firewood. Chip opts for the land’s natural fuel, free of charge. After repairing his utility cargo sled, which he uses to haul his gear, he heads out in search of firewood. With his chainsaw not working correctly, Chip has no choice but to go low-tech, taking an axe with him.


Chip has learned to fear the power of the axe. Last summer, he was cutting wood in his yard when his axe handle got out of his control, breaking and flying into the air. The axe struck his forehead, missing his eye by inches. He was left with a scar and dislodged bone – and is lucky he can still see.


Luckily, this time Chip knows how to handle his axe safely. To look for fresh firewood, he scopes out a patch of woods that’s been drying out all through the summer, leaving trees that are easy to cut down and ready to burn as fuel.


Felling dead pine trees left and right, Chip quickly stocks up the wood he needs for three days of fuel. That’s a lot of stove oil he doesn’t have to purchase. After getting home and stoking a fire, it’s time for the Hailstones to indulge in a feast of native foods.


Catch an all-new Life Below Zero Thursday at 9P.


  1. Marlene A. Mersch
    June 4, 2014, 10:33 pm

    My husband and I really enjoy watching your shows, but why does there have to be so much fake suspense? I get so tired of hearing all that nonsense. Make the show a learning experience for both children and adults with some intelligent information and not a lot of fake dialogue that is supposed to make it”exciting”.