S1 E13. ICE PART IV – The Marten Hartwell Story

 
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In our final episode of the season, we take to the Arctic skies for the Marten Hartwell story.

CREDITS

Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.

Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.

Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.

Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

TRANSCRIPT

Alix: Have you ever been really, really hungry?

Carmella: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.

A: I’m Alix.

C: I’m Carmella.

A: And now let’s tuck into the gruesome history of this ultimate taboo…

[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]

A: Welcome to Episode Thirteen, the final episode of the series, where we will be covering Marten Hartwell.

[Intro music continues]

A: Carmella (and our beautiful audience), would you like to have just one more story of polar survival cannibalism?

C: Oh, I think I could just about manage one more Alix.

A: You could squeeze one more in?

C: I think I could choke it down.

A: [Scoffs] In which case, let’s learn about Marten Hartwell. One of the things I wasn’t expecting when we started this podcast was quite how many songs, shanties and musical renditions there are of the stories that we’ve covered. Now, my final story has a really catchy folk song written about it – that we certainly don’t have a licence to play here – but if you look up and listen to ‘The Marten Hartwell Story’ by Stompin’ Tom Connor, I guarantee you will have it in your head for weeks. I would say ‘pause it here and have a listen’, but it does rather spoil certain elements of the story. And, to be honest, this story is quite grim, so what I’m gonna recommend: hold it to the end and use it to lighten your spirits. It’s certainly what we’re going to do after we’ve finished recording.

C: Please do, ‘cause I haven’t heard this yet.

A: It’s so catchy. Ok, I’ve got a professional, technical, sensible bit before we get into… whatever this descends into.

[Carmella laughs]

A: Because this story takes place in 1972, so a lot of the sources that I’ve used to research are from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Now, this isn’t an excuse, but it is a reason why many of them use the word ‘Eskimo’, and this isn’t a word that I’m going to be using. The etymology of the word has been said to come either come from the Cree word for ‘he who laces shoelaces’ or ‘eater of raw meat’, but while the origin is unknown, it has been used as a derogative term for years, so instead I’m going to be using the preferred term of ‘Inuit’, even replacing it in sources where appropriate. So that’s sort of my serious bit. Before the cannibalism podcast starts.

C: Yeah, before the lighthearted people-eating.

A: What we need to remember is that in the Arctic today, as in the ‘70s, there is a system of community and reliance. After all, it’s incredibly remote, in places completely desolate. You never know when you’re going to need assistance, and this is especially prevalent with pilots, with some bush pilots being willing to fly hundreds of miles out of their way in an emergency situation. People depend on communication, on transport, on technology, and on each other. The bitter irony of Marten Hartwell, is that the story begins with a mercy flight. Because technically, Hartwell, a 47-year-old Canadian-German pilot, who had flown with the Hitler Youth and the Luftwaffe in World War II-

C: Oh.

A: Yeah, I dropped that bit in there early.

C: Yeah, sneak that in!

A: Yeah, I mean-

C: Oh, pause there a second. Okay.

A: I mean, it’s worth saying, but it’s not that relevant?

C: Yeah, okay.

A: Hartwell was a ‘Visual Flight Rules’ pilot. This meant that he was not licensed to fly at night, in low visibility, bad conditions, or any other circumstance that meant that he was unable to see the ground.

C: Would you say the Arctic is probably… ticks off most of those boxes?

A: Oh no, he is licensed to fly in the Arctic. Just not under those circumstances.

C: Only in 50% of the year when there’s sunlight?

A: Yeah.

C: Right.

A: Yeah. And on the original flight of this day in 1972, the weather’s been bad.

C: Okay. Right.

A: But he makes his way to Cambridge Bay, and he’s actually had to abandon his original course to deliver passengers to a remote camp on the coast. He lands at Cambridge Bay, and was heralded by a local nurse. There was a nursing station at Cambridge Bay, but, as noted by a later New York Times article, “there are no doctors or hospital facilities” in the local area.

C: Just nurses?

A: Just nurses.

C: Okay.

A: It’s one of the largest nursing stations in the area. I think it has ten beds.

C: Okay, that gives me a picture of what nursing stations are like in the area, I think.

A: Desolate.

C: Yeah, I guess not that many people?

A: Yeah. I’m about to make it worse. There was actually a second plane that could have made the relief flight, but there was a brief discussion, and – even though Hartwell wasn’t qualified, and this would have been a more than adequate excuse, and he didn’t want to make the flight – he took the charter. It was, after all, a mercy flight. He knew the route, and it was an emergency. He had plenty of fuel. So… November 8th, 1972, Marten Hartwell loaded up British nurse Judith ‘Judy’ Hill and her two patients, Neemee Nooleanyook – eight months pregnant and suffering complications in labour – and Davidie Kootook – her nephew, who had suspected appendicitis. The mercy flight is to take the two patients to the regional capital of Yellowknife, where they’re needed to be met by an ambulance to make their way to more professional medical services.

C: Oh, so they’re going to, like, an actual hospital?

A: Yep.

C: Okay, okay. So he’s, like, doing an air ambulance kind of thing?

A: Yup.

C: Okay.

A: This wasn’t his original charter; he’s basically been stopped, he’s had to abandon his original flight – the men that he was supposed to be taking to this remote camp release him from charter so he can fly this mercy flight.

C: Okay, right.

A: He’s concerned that he’s going to lose time and endanger their lives. Even when he was unable to pick up on a radio beacon, he wasn’t that concerned – it had been faulty before. He didn’t fear being lost; he knows the area.

Now, after several attempts, he’s still unable to get a signal from this beacon which will lead him to Yellowknife. He brings his plane down 2,000 feet, expecting to pick up radio transmission or recognise the landscape. Remember, he’s not meant to fly if he can’t see the ground.

C: Yeah, ‘cause that’s all he can do.

A: Unbeknown to Hartwell, he’s been drifting west, and he’s been flying through what had been dubbed the “Land of Lost Planes”.

C: I wonder what happens to planes that fly over that land? Hmm. Hmm.

A: Yup. In the time it takes Hartwell to open a map and turn on a light, (quote): “the plane’s right wing had clipped the top of a tree, cartwheeling it into a hillside covered with nine-metre tall trees.”

C: Oooh. Ooh.

A: Yeah, they are out of the air by this point.

C: How far down did he fly to catch a radio signal?!

A: 2,000 feet.

C: Well, I know, but how- Why has he basically gone to the ground?

A: Because he’s drifted.

C: Yeah.

A: He’s not where he expects to be.

C: So he’s not at the altitude he expects to be at either?

A: Yep.

C: Right.

A: Hartwell was knocked unconscious following the accident, he’d broken his nose, broken both ankles, and shattered his left knee.

C: God, so he’s not going to be walking out of this one either.

A: When he comes to, he learns that the crash had been fatal for Judy Hill, who had died instantly from a fractured skull.

C: So this was the nurse?

A: This was the nurse.

C: Yep.

A: Neemee survived the initial crash, but she’d broken her spine.

C: Ooh.

A: Davidie was remarkably uninjured. Now, if there’s one consistency, it’s the remarkable undertaking of Davidie Kootook, who went to the aid and comfort of his aunt. She would die only a few hours later, however.

C: Now this is probably a very stupid question Alix: the unborn baby? I assume that doesn’t make it either?

A: Doesn’t make it either.

C: Okay.

A: Dies with the mother, unfortunately.

C: I have to ask, just in case there’s a baby to keep track of in this story!

A: They had crashed 180 miles west of the plane’s original charted course, and the force of the crash had damaged the plane’s automatic distress beacon. So, while there were rescue efforts made for them, these only spread roughly 100 miles on either side of the expected route. So the two survivors were on their own.

C: That’s what happens if you go off-route, I guess?

A: In a bitter irony, they were only about five miles from Great Bear Lake, which was a source of food and hope that they were unable to reach.

C: Well, Hartwell would have difficulty with all those broken bones to manage it, even if he did know that.

A: Oh yes. It does appear that not all hope was not lost, because while Hartwell is unable to walk, we have, in Davidie’s own words, what the plan was. Written in Inuktitut syllabics, and translated into English at the later inquiry court, he wrote to his parents that “in a few more days on the fourteenth, the pilot wants me to walk to Yellowknife.” Surely Hartwell will have known that that plan was impossible – Yellowknife being so far away – however we do gain a few facts that there was at least some idea that salvation could be gathered, and we do know what was happening in those few days, because Davidie goes on to write that “we eat all the time, the pilot and I. There is just two of us. We have white man’s food” – which is dried food. The food at the crash site was… limited.

C: Mmm.

A: They had six seven-ounce cans of corned beef; four packages of dehydrated chicken noodle soup; tea; a flask of coffee; cheese sandwiches; twelve oxo cubes; homemade cookies given to Hill by one of her fellow nurses; one twelve-ounce package of rice; one package of powdered potatoes; some glucose pills; and twelve packets of raisins.

C: I mean, that’s not- that’s not bad. That’s gonna last a bit.

A: A bit of time.

C: Yeah.

A: There were also supposed to be one, or possibly even two survival kits, with enough food to supply two people for 16 days. These rations were either not on board, never found, or recovered.

C: Ah.

A: And yet, Davidie says that they ate all the time.

C: I see where this is going, huh?

A: Not quite. But…

C: Okay, I’m intrigued?

A: There seems to be a slight problem with survival instincts. And there are general disparities into the sources as to what came next, due to the nature of Hartwell’s evidence being presented in writing rather than in person at the official inquiry. In some reports of the books and articles I’ve read, food ran out after ten days. Others say food ran out after 20. Personally, I think the confusion here lies as to what’s being termed as food.

C: Mmm.

A: The difference between official rations and what was being scavenged and what was being found.

C: Like, is an oxo cube food? But yeah.

A: Exactly. And we know that Davidie was collecting “Caribou moss” for the survivors to eat, and that lichens were gathered and boiled and eaten.

C: Hm.

A: We also know that a real camp was set up with Hartwell, because while prone and unable to walk or even move without assistance, he was instructing Davidie as to how to make a tent from spare sleeping bags and broken segments the plane. The temperatures could range from minus 30 to minus 40. They needed shelter, and they needed heat. it was 14-year-old Davidie who provided, gathering and chopping enough wood to keep a fire burning day and night. They ran out of gasoline for the fire 15 days in. By the 28th day, and after Davidie’s death, Hartwell would have no means of producing heat himself.

Between Hartwell and Davidie, there had been discussion of cannibalism. It’s impossible to know how far into the disaster this conversation came about, but Hartwell gave evidence on the matter. “I asked him If he would eat their bodies, we had talked about it before, but he stated he would not eat them because his aunt had been so good to him.”

C: Aww. I like Davidie.

A: Davidie is the acknowledged hero of this story. It appears that after this discussion, the matter was dropped. And when the camp was found, Neemee’s body was discovered whole, under a plastic sheet, with an undisturbed layer of snow on top of her. You can say that there are questions of gastronomic incest in the Hartwell story. Or at least, the acknowledged denial. After 20 days, food had run critically low. Soap, frozen drugs, and even candles were being eaten.

C: What kind of frozen drugs? Like, are they having a good time or a bad time on this?

A: I think it’s quite safe to say they’re having a bad time. They’re the drugs from nurse Hill’s supplies. They’re not the fun drugs.

C: Okay. I mean, you know, sometimes they have a dual purpose – medicinal drugs get used recreationally.

A: I don’t have the list-

C: We don’t know what drugs?

A: Of what drugs were in her medical bag. Some of those were the glucose tablets.

C: Yeah.

A: Some of them, I don’t think even they knew.

C: Just like, eating, what? It’s just like ‘I dunno how many antibiotics this is, but-’

A: Shotting antibiotics.

C: Yeah.

A: Calpol.

C: That was where my- That was legitimately where my brain first went. I was like ‘nice, Calpol, yeah alright’.

A: To be fair, Calpol can cure many ills. There’s not much in life that can’t be cured by flat lemonade or Calpol.

C: It has got a lot of sugar in it as well. So it’s probably quite- quite good in terms of giving you energy.

A: It’d be quite helpful to have some Calpol. I mean, Franklin would have been fine if he’d just had a bit of strawberry Calpol.

C: Yeah, it would have solved all that TB they had! And the lead poisoning.

A: [Laughs.] As the New York Times stated when they reported on the story, “only snow then remained to be eaten.” According to the final autopsy of Davidie Kootook, the boy had been eating spruce needles, wild cranberry leaves, moss, bark, and possibly synthetic fibres.

C: Aww. It’s not a nice way to go out.

A: No. No, it’s not.

C: Poor Davidie.

A: There were rumours that Hartwell had kept food back from Davidie, and the doctor who conducted the examinations stated that he saw “no reasons from [his] examination to state that [Davidie] did not get his [full] share”. Later authorities would state that Kootook, who died only days before rescue, had he eaten anything (quote/unquote) “abnormal”, would have survived as well at Hartwell.

Hartwell expressed his gratitude to Davidie in later accounts and exonerated him from the accusations and the truths of cannibalism at the camp. Hartwell publicly referred to him as “my assistant and the saviour of my life, without him I couldn’t have done anything”. And, when cannibalism was discussed, stated that “I do want to stress that it was only I who did this and that only after David Kootook’s death.” Davidie is referred to as David Kootook in an awful lot of the Anglicised accounts.

C: And just to be clear, Davidie dies of just starvation?

A: Starvation.

C: Okay.

A: Davidie Kootook would make further efforts to survive. He would even undertake an arduous two day hike, wading through waist-deep snow to try and catch fish at a nearby lake. The emergency kit did have fishing hooks and nets, but he’d be unsuccessful, just as the various traps set up failed to catch any game. Despite his great efforts, Davidie, like Hartwell, was unable to walk. He suffered from frostbite, malnutrition, and despair. 23 days after the crash, Davidie Kootook “gave up” according to the part-letter, part-diary, which was written by Hartwell during this time. This followed a plane allegedly passing directly over their camp, but failing to recognise the situation.

C: Aww. Wait- Wait a minute. So they see, like, a crashed plane, and they’re like, “I don’t know what that means – could be anything”?

A: I’m not sure that the plane actually noticed. No one came forward as being that plane; we don’t know if it really existed.

C: Yeah, you could be hallucinating by that point.

A: And we know that their distress beacon wasn’t clear. And as we’ve seen from events such as Uruguay-

C: Yeah.

A: Planes are difficult to spot. Especially, there had been snow – because Neemee’s body was covered in snow by the point of rescue – the tent could have been disguised. Although there was allegedly still a fire burning, but that doesn’t necessarily bring points together to say ‘this is a plane crash’.

C: I guess that’s fair.

A: There’s very little information about this plane that flies overhead. Written on the day of Davidie’s death, Hartwell wrote “Still alive. David is going to die tomorrow and I two or three days later. No food. My legs don’t carry me yet and lichen is not around here.” But Davidie’s death appeared to be the inspiration Hartwell needed to live, because it was the day after that Hartwell rallied the strength to move, and to start to eat the dead. “There was no way out but to eat human flesh, and this is what I did.” Judy Hill’s body had been moved to the tent entrance – whether by Hartwell or Davidie before his death, it’s unknown.

C: So possibly, even though Davidie wasn’t gonna take part – so it’s easier for Hartwell, maybe?

A: He was aware it’s going to happen.

C: Yeah.

A: The conversation had happened, and Hartwell was entirely reliant on Davidie providing food for him.

C: Mmm.

A: So it’s not unreasonable to think.

C: You’d imagine.

A: Judy Hill’s body had been partially dismembered. Hartwell removed her legs, – and this is the part that I really don’t like – her socks were still on.

C: Ooh, oh no, oh no.

A: I know! After everything we’ve talked about, the hours and hours of research and recording we’ve done, there’s something about that that… Oh, I don’t like it.

C: It’s like, normally you remove the human signifiers. And I feel like socks are somehow even more human than just a foot.

A: Yeah… Meat was found in Hartwell’s ration box. Hartwell had no fires during his last days at camp, so in order to consume the flesh, he had been (quote): “putting the meat in his sleeping bag and warming it with his body heat to thaw it out”.

C: Ooh, that’s so horrible! Like, I know that’s what he had to do but – ugh.

A: And then he ate it raw.

C: Yeah. The survival instinct there is quite strong, huh?

A: “The worst thing,” Hartwell would later say, “was to take the first bite. The horror of what I was doing didn’t bother me after that.”

C: We’ve seen that before, haven’t we, in the other accounts? It’s- eventually you get used to it.

A: You do what you have to do to survive.

C: Hmm.

A: “You won’t believe it,” Hartwell told his rescuers, “but I’m a vegetarian and look at what’s happened to me.” Hartwell was a vegetarian.

C: I guess the thing is that vegetarianism is… it doesn’t apply in an extreme situation, does it?

A: It’s a choice that you make-

C: Yeah.

A: And when you have no choice…

C: I mean, in many ways, if the issue with- with vegetarianism is “I don’t want to eat animals that have been raised to be eaten or killed unfairly to be eaten”… No, it’s like a different thing, isn’t it? It is- It isn’t the same moral reasoning behind it.

A: That’s fair.

A: Nine days after Davidie’s death, and 32 days after the crash, Hartwell had managed to get the distress beacon working. He’d been periodically turning it on and off in hopes of rescue for a few days.

C: That- that classic IT move. Turn it off and on again.

A: Yes.

C: It worked!

A: Eventually, the faint signal had been heard and Hartwell was rescued. He greeted his first rescuer with “Welcome to the Camp of the Cannibal.”

C: What was it, 34 days?

A: 32.

C: 32. You’re gonna be sliding out of reality by then.

A: Well, he does appear to have been quite lucid. But there was no way of disguising or changing what had happened. The scene was exactly as described, with Judy Hill’s body. It was clear to those who entered camp. Even as Hartwell’s rescuers were reassuring him that (quote) “it’s happened before” and “when you’re up against it you’ve just got to live”, Hartwell was, duly, concerned for his reputation, and legal ramifications, and the fate that was awaiting him back in civilisation. Later in hospital, he willingly made a statement to the investigating officers that he had been forced to consume human flesh.

Ultimately, following the inquiry, which placed the blame for the disaster with Hartwell and the company which he was flying – Hartwell’s own personal recollections stated “it was all my own fault, it shouldn’t have happened”-

C: Yeah, he chose to go on the journey he wasn’t meant to, and flew in conditions-

A: That he couldn’t fly in.

C: Yeah.

A: Recommendations were made regarding the future of telecommunications, medical treatment, and regulation of emergency locator transmitters. The jury was also unanimous in the decision that (quote) “recognition should be given David Kootook in saving the life of pilot Marten Hartwell and commends his bravery during this ordeal.” In 1994, over 20 years after his death, Davidie Kootook was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Cross for “a deed or an activity that has been performed in an outstandingly professional manner, or with uncommonly high standards.”

C: Yeah, I think that fits.

A: I think it’s very fair.

C: Yeah.

A: It took 20 years.

C: Yeah, that’s a surprise.

A: Let’s not go too much into the depth of racial relations regarding Canada and the Inuit – but that’s there; that is definitely discussed at length. There were questions raised as to whether it was his youth, his race, or the situation, that it took so long.

C: Yeah.

A: But he did get the recognition.

C: Good. In the end. That’s good.

A: After the proceedings, there were two private lawsuits brought against Hartwell and Gateway Aviation, the company he worked for, on behalf of both Judy Hill’s family and the Inuit Brotherhood, both of which were eventually settled out of court. The Judy Hill Memorial Fund was announced, and her family’s settlement money went towards the funding of scholarships for Arctic nurses.

C: Oh, that’s nice. Hartwell had been through a lot – it’s a bit harsh to bring it against him. I know it’s his fault, but…

A: I mean, he did crash the plane.

C: He did, yeah, okay, fair. It’s one of those situations where you think surely what happened is punishment enough.

A: Yeah. I mean, he never faces any legal ramifications.

C: Yeah.

A: The board of enquiry place the blame on him. He does have his license removed for a short time, but he does go back to flying.

C: Oh, okay then.

A: And Hartwell would later talk about Judy Hill’s family and the situation, and would say: “If they would not have heard anything about it, it certainly would have been much better.” But, he also acknowledged that “They sent me flowers”.

C: Aww, okay.

A: And in the same way, Denise, the daughter of Neemee – her only surviving child – and cousin to Davidie Kootook, would later reflect on the plane crash, the death of her mother, and Hartwell, that: “I try to put myself in his shoes. He sees these two people – if he can do something about them, to help them. Yes, I do sometimes feel a little bit upset about the whole situation, but at the same time it sounded like he was thinking more of the people than himself.” In order to round off this story, and I think to round off this podcast-

C: Yeah!

A: I’d like to end on a quote from As Told At The Explorers Club, because I think they are perfectly right in stating that “It is likely that Hartwell’s will not be the last case of cannibalism in the Arctic, just as that of Franklin’s men was probably not the first.”

[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]

C: Thank you so much for listening to this episode, and indeed this entire season of Casting Lots Podcast.

A: It has been a pleasure to write, record, and research these stories. I’ve enjoyed doing it; I hope you’ve enjoyed doing it, Carmella?

C: Um… I dunno, actually. I think it’s not for me!

A: That’s a shame! Because coming this Valentine’s Day, Casting Lots will be back. We are going to be looking at some of the most romantic, some of the most seasonally appropriate, and some of the most heartwarming stories. Join us on Valentine’s Day.

[Outro music continues]

A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod, and on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.

C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.

A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast, is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley – @Tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram – with audio and music by Daniel Wackett – Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @ds_wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network – search #MorbidAudio on Twitter – and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody – mikaelamoody1 on Bandcamp.

[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]

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