Tor Eckhoff (22 November 1964 – 27 November 2021), also known as Apetor (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈɑ̂ːpəˌtuːɾ]), was a Norwegian industrial worker and YouTuber known primarily for his videos where he drank vodka while performing daring activities on frozen waters, like ice skating, swimming in ice holes and diving. He died in 2021 after he fell through the ice of a lake west of Kongsberg, Norway, while recording a video. At the time of his death, he lived in Sandefjord where he worked in a paint factory run by the chemicals company Jotun.

Apetor
Apetor face.png
Apetor in 2019
Personal information
BornTor Eckhoff
(1964-11-22)22 November 1964
Kristiansund, Norway
Died27 November 2021(2021-11-27) (aged 57)
Oslo, Norway
Occupation
Partner(s)Tove Skjerven
Children1
YouTube information
Channels
Years active2006–2021
Subscribers1.36 million
Total views427 million
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers
YouTube Gold Play Button 2.svg 1,000,000 subscribers 2020

Updated: 18 May 2022

His YouTube career lasted from 2006 until his death in 2021, though his channel first started gaining popularity in 2011. His videos, in which he remained mostly silent, save the occasional noise, were popular worldwide, especially in Poland. The ones he recorded during the winter were his most well-known, though also being controversial in nature due to their perceived danger—drinking alcohol before swimming near-naked in below-freezing temperatures—but some also characterised them as artistic for their presentation and content. Despite his success, he did not make a living out of his videos, creating them primarily for his own enjoyment.

Personal lifeEdit

Tor Eckhoff was born in Kristiansund, Norway,[1] on 22 November 1964,[2] and moved to Sandefjord at the age of 6. He studied history, philosophy, and nordic literature at the University of Bergen,[1] graduating in 1993 with a cand.mag.[‡ 1] According to his YouTube page, he worked at a paint factory in Sandefjord,[2] which was run by the chemicals company Jotun.[3] This would remain his long-term place of employment from 2008 until his death in 2021.[‡ 1] He had one child with his long-time partner, Tove Skjerven,[4] who he lived with for 30 years.[5]

Eckhoff was highly interested in evolutionary biology, having a great fascination with the close genetic relationship between humans and apes. He had an affinity for the outdoors, often going camping during the summer, along with mountain climbing, especially around Jotunheimen. He was fond of the Volvo 240 and 142 series of cars, owning a 1968 model of the latter.[1] Despite the frequent appearance of winter swimming in his videos, he rarely did it in his spare time,[6] nor did he drink alcohol often outside of his videos.[7]

In June 2013, Eckhoff reported that he had been robbed of his recording and camping equipment after he left them at a quay to moor his boat. He suspected two men piloting a large motorboat of the theft,[a] noting that their boat had run full throttle into the port when he was gone. He reported the incident to the police, though he did not notice the brand of the boat.[9] A few days later, he wrote on Facebook that his belongings had been returned, and that they had been taken unintentionally by someone from Kongsberg.[‡ 2]

In November 2018, Eckhoff uploaded a video to YouTube revealing that he had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in March of that year, and underwent surgery later in June. He clarified in the video that it was not due to lifestyle choices, but from chronic inflammatory bowel disease.[10][11] After the surgery, he had to use a colostomy bag.[11] He was focused on enjoying the small things in life through his videos, a feeling reinforced by his survival from cancer.[12]

YouTube careerEdit

 
Eckhoff ice skating on a frozen lake, propelling himself forward using a chainsaw, an example of the type of stunts he became most well-known for

Eckhoff joined YouTube on 10 October 2006[‡ 3] and posted his first video a day later.[‡ 4] The moniker he used online, Apetor, consisting of the word ape[b] and his given name Tor, stemmed from his aforementioned interest in the close relationship between humans and apes.[14]: 3:09  He used his channel to document his trips, sharing footage of wildlife and scenic views, both domestically and abroad.[c][15] At first, his videos were filmed with a compact camera, before upgrading to a higher quality video camera in 2009, when he also started editing his videos[6][16] in an effort to get more views.[14]: 8:21  He stated that other people were not present during the filming of his videos, despite people being worried for his safety.[14]: 1:49  The software he used to edit his videos was the free Apple-developed application iMovie.[14]: 8:05 

His first breakthrough video, uploaded in 2011, was "On Thin Sea Ice 2",[d] acquiring over one million views in the span of a week. It featured him ice skating, drinking vodka, diving through sea ice, and making seal-like sounds with his mouth.[17][18] For parts of it he had other people present acting as helpers, but was completely alone when he went under the ice. Despite claims that he had not done extreme sport or winter swimming before the video,[19] he had filmed himself practicing falling through frozen waters safely before.[20] Following the strong positive reactions to the video, he was encouraged to upload more videos like it.[21] He established the business Apetor Film in March 2011 to facilitate the "production of film, video, and television programmes."[e][23][24] The follow-up, "On Thin Sea Ice 3", featured him supposedly swimming to a ferry to buy alcohol in the middle of winter.[25] In the fourth "On Thin Ice" video, he continued by cutting a hole in the ice with a chainsaw before dunking his head in it and diving into it, in addition to cutting out an ice doughnut and wearing it around his neck.[21][18] He would end up uploading a total of thirteen videos in the "On Thin Ice" series,[f][‡ 7] many of which gaining millions of views, with "On Thin Ice 4", for instance, earning 351,000 views in a single day after appearing on the front page of Reddit in 2013, at that point having reached 4 million views in under three years.[24]

The most popular video on his channel was "The First Snow 4", acquiring over 94 million views before his death.[5] Part of the annual "First Snow" videos started in 2014,[26] it featured him submerging himself in a frozen bathtub while drinking vodka.[5] In a similar video, "A day in November",[g] uploaded in 2014 after a year long break, he also got into an icy bath, earning 610,000 views in 5 days.[24] Another popular series on his channel was the Christmas videos,[27] where he performed various stunts of similar calibre to his "On Thin Ice" series, like skating across ice using a chainsaw.[28] His vodka of choice, Vikingfjord, made frequent appearances on his channel,[29][30] though he claimed that he had no connection to the brand, and that he had never been in touch with the company that produces it.[h][‡ 3]

 
Jonas Lihaug Fredriksen (pictured) collaborated with Eckhoff filming a video for Norwegian broadcasting company NRK

He collaborated with Jonas Lihaug Fredriksen [no] of the Norwegian state-sponsored entertainment YouTube channel NRK 4ETG [no] in late 2019, when they went swimming together in winter conditions.[32] In a 2021 interview, Fredriksen attributed much of Eckhoff's international success to him not speaking often in his content beside making strange noises, and to what Fredriksen deemed to be the absurdist humour present in his videos.[32] Despite this success, Eckhoff remained humble,[16] and did not make a living off his videos, earning a few hundred dollars a month in 2015.[33] He expressed that he only made videos for fun, and that he had not been trying to impart any messages with them.[17] His video production was, by his own words, a continuation of his interest in photography, which he developed in the 1980s.[16]

ReceptionEdit

Eckhoff's videos were popular internationally, with the largest sections of his viewership being from European countries like Poland[i] and Russia, but also in the United States;[35] in 2016, Eckhoff recounted the story of how two Polish fans arrived at his home in the rural village of Kodal, where they bathed in a bathtub featured on his channel after enquiring about it. He posited that his popularity in Poland in particular was due to their cultural tendencies of vodka-drinking and winter swimming.[34] He became the first Norwegian YouTuber over the age of 50 to acquire one million subscribers,[36] which alongside his subscriber count of 1.2 million by the time of his death,[32] made him one of the most popular YouTubers in Norway.[33] In spite of his international success, only 1.5 percent of his views came from his own country.[37]

Clips of his videos have appeared on major television channels in Norway and internationally, including on the Norwegian news channel TV 2, on the American network G4, and on the American news network CBS, all in 2011,[1] in addition to an appearance on the Australian breakfast show programme Sunrise in 2016.[38] On a 2012 episode of the Norwegian entertainment programme Norge Rundt [no], he talked about several TV stations getting into contact with him, notably the British TV show Rude Tube, alongside several other unspecified American, French and Japanese ones.[39]

Eckhoff has remarked on the ability of his content to affect the global perception of Norway: "[H]ere the tourism industry is, working to bring tourists here, and then I arrive tearing the whole thing down. It's become a bit like "polar bears in the streets"[j] because of it all. Do they really believe all Norwegians do these kinds of things?"[k][1] Others have corroborated these thoughts, like Kåre Gåsholt of Sandefjords Blad, referring to him as the likely biggest private disseminator of nature in Norway.[33] Tourism in Sandefjord, the town he lived in, experienced a surge due to his channel. In 2018, for example, a group of 16 tourists arrived from Szczecin, Poland, to swim in the waters, with Eckhoff showing up to greet them. Many of the tourists also made recurrent visits to the town.[41]

The unique content featured in Eckhoff's videos has been labelled artistic, with Ivar Steen-Johnsen [no] of Nordic Screens [no] noting his ability to "strike a nerve that crosses borders" with his videos. He continued that Eckhoff's humour will "live long across the entire world".[36] Writing on his silent, yet humorous demeanor, Rafał Krause of Newonce [pl] compared him to Mr. Bean, adding further that his dynamic editing, with frequent changes of perspective, was akin to avant-garde cinema.[7] On a similar note, his video "On Thin Sea Ice 2" was featured at the 37th annual Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2013 under the tagline "Slide away with simple pleasures: skating, bathing, and a little vodka!"[42] Out of the 380 films entered, it was one of 28 to be screened at the festival,[43][42] which took place in 285 locations in 30 countries,[44] for example at the Arlington Theatre in California,[45] and the Queenstown Memorial Centre in Queenstown, New Zealand.[43]

DangerEdit

For all their popularity, his stunts had not been without criticism, with some comparing them to Russian roulette.[46] Analysts on Discovery Channel, for example, stated that his alcohol intake mixed with extreme cold to be deadly, concluding that the reason he was able to resist the cold as well as he could while swimming was due to being intoxicated, after noting the diminishing amount of alcohol left in the bottle between video takes. Eckhoff refuted their comments, stating that they were "inventing facts" about the circumstances. He explained that he had only drunk a few sips, adding that the decreasing alcohol level was due to him filming on separate days with different bottles.[47]

In February 2021, after the production of a video at lake Eikern, Eckhoff described being scolded after clambering out of the lake by someone concerned for his safety.[46] Although frequently acquiring scrapes and cuts in the video process,[35] he disagreed with the sentiments that the stunts he performed were dangerous, saying "Many regard falling through ice as life-threatening, but if you know what you're doing and have ice claws, then it's usually fine."[l] He further added with a smile: "I shouldn't be cocky, I could very well die out here someday."[m][46] On previous occasions he had mentioned rehearsing falling through ice adequately enough to justify his activities.[48] This was in light of a near-fatal ice-skating accident he experienced in 2007, when he fell through the ice at lake Goksjø at night, after which he became determined to practice "going into the water, and getting back out again".[1]

Other venturesEdit

In May 2020, the video service Memmo, an online platform offering personalised video messages from celebrities, launched its Norwegian branch, with Eckhoff being one of the many taking part.[49] By December, he had created and sent 263 videos to buyers, with a large part being birthday and Christmas greetings, for 250 kr apiece. He noted that he only made around 50 kr for each video due to the platform paying 75%, and having to pay income tax on it. According to him, the videos were harder to make than they seemed, stating that they often took many takes to perfect, having to memorise the short ones so he could look into the camera instead of reading off the screen.[50]

In an August 2021 video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Eckhoff revealed that he would partake in the 2022 Harald Zwart film Lange Flate Ballær 3, the sequel to Lange Flate Ballær [no] and Lange Flate Ballær 2, with him playing a villain.[‡ 10] Later the same month, he was pictured by press at a shooting of the film in Fredrikstad.[51] The following month, he uploaded a teaser for the film to his channel.[‡ 11] Premiering in theatres on 1 April 2022,[52] Eckhoff starred among Samantha Fox, Ulrikke Brandstorp, and Harald Rønneberg, among others.[53]

DeathEdit

On 26 November 2021, Eckhoff fell through the ice at Jakobs dam, a lake west of Kongsberg, while recording a video for his YouTube channel. After a witness reported hearing him calling for help, he was rescued by divers who performed CPR,[54] before he was flown to Ullevål University Hospital by air ambulance. He died on 27 November at the hospital despite resuscitation attempts.[55] The police reported that a hole had been cut into the ice of the lake, that he was alone at the scene of the accident, and that foul play was not suspected. His identity as the victim of the drowning was not disclosed until 28 November, when police reported on his death in a press release, with his family aware that his death was to be made public. At the time of his death, his channel had 1.2 million subscribers.[56]

His last video, entitled "I am Not Dead, I am 57 Today", was uploaded on 22 November 2021, five days before his death.[2] He had been uploading similar videos since 2017, celebrating his birthday every year.[57] In the comment section of the video, he received an outpouring of support after his death, including comments from the aforementioned 4ETG, and from notable individuals like musicians Alan Walker and PelleK.[32] Similar sentiments of grief were expressed in the comments of his other videos for several days after his death, in addition to various other social media platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, and the Polish Wykop, where internet users conveyed how their holidays would be sad in his absence. Candles were also lit in his memory by fans outside the Norwegian embassy in Prague [no], Czechia.[58]

His funeral was held at Orelund chapel [no] in Sandefjord on 7 December.[59]

Selected videographyEdit

Top 10 most-viewed Apetor videos on YouTube
# Video name Views (millions) Upload date Video
1. "The First Snow 4" 100.5 17 November 2017 [‡ 12]
2. "The First Snow 5" 27.4 8 November 2018 [‡ 13]
3. "The Haircut" 19.1 7 August 2018 [‡ 14]
4. "On Thin Ice 9" 18.1 12 February 2019 [‡ 15]
5. "The Dog" 15.9 15 November 2014 [‡ 16]
6. "The First Snow 3" 14.4 13 November 2016 [‡ 17]
7. "The First Snow 6" 12.0 15 November 2019 [‡ 18]
8. "Trip to Car Cemetery, Båstnäs Sweden" 11.2 15 June 2019 [‡ 19]
9. "The First Snow" 8.5 15 November 2012 [‡ 20]
10. "A Day in June 2016" 8.3 3 August 2016 [‡ 21]
Video view counts sourced from YouTube; accurate as of 16 March 2022.[‡ 22]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The vessel he described was a skjærgårdsjeep [no], a small motor boat used in Norway.[8]
  2. ^ The word is the same in both English and Norwegian.[13]
  3. ^ International destinations where he has made videos include Warsaw[7] and New York City.[‡ 5]
  4. ^ The video was originally titled "På tynn sjøis 2 (on thin sea ice), Sandefjord in Norway".[‡ 6]
  5. ^ He registered the business on 9 March 2011 at the Brønnøysund Register Centre, but deregistered under a month later on 7 April.[22]
  6. ^ Three titled "On Thin Sea Ice", and ten titled "On Thin Ice"
  7. ^ Later changed to "A Day in November 2014"; compare this 2014 archive[‡ 8] to one from 2019.[‡ 9]
  8. ^ He adds that advertising alcohol is illegal in Norway, specifically above 2.5 percent alcohol by volume.[31]
  9. ^ In 2016, 70 to 80 percent of views came from Poland.[34]
  10. ^ A stereotype of Norway.[40]
  11. ^ Original Norwegian quote: "[H]er jobber reiselivsbransjen med å få turister til å komme hit, og så kommer jeg og river ned hele greia. Men det har blitt litt sånn "isbjørn i gatene" over det hele. Tror de virkelig alle nordmenn gjør sånn her?"
  12. ^ Original Norwegian quote: "Mange ser på det å gå gjennom isen som livsfarlig, men hvis man vet hva man skal gjøre og har ispigger, går det gjerne greit."
  13. ^ Original Norwegian quote: "Jeg skal ikke være kjepphøy, og kan hende dør jeg der ute en gang" [sic]

ReferencesEdit

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  51. ^ "Se hvem som var på filminnspilling" [See who was at the filming]. Fredrikstad Blad (in Norwegian Bokmål). 20 August 2021. Archived from the original on 5 December 2021.
  52. ^ Berge, John (4 April 2022). "Slik ble Lange flate ballær III-åpningen" [Opening day for Lange Flate Ballær]. Kinomagasinet (in Norwegian Bokmål). Archived from the original on 8 April 2022.
  53. ^ "Den norske filmvåren 2022" [The Norwegian Spring of Film 2022]. Radio Rjukan [no]. 11 February 2022. Archived from the original on 16 March 2022.
  54. ^ Neira Torres, Mario Andrés (28 November 2021). "Tor Eckhoff omkom etter drukningsulykke i Kongsberg" [Tor Eckhoff died after drowning accident in Kongsberg]. Nettavisen (in Norwegian Bokmål). Archived from the original on 28 November 2021.
  55. ^ Walnum, Amanda Nordhagen (28 November 2021). "Tor Eckhoff gikk gjennom isen - døde" [Tor Eckhoff went through ice - died]. Dagbladet (in Norwegian Bokmål). Archived from the original on 28 November 2021.
  56. ^ Gjerde, Elisabeth; Strand, Tonhild S. (28 November 2021). "Youtube-profil døde etter å ha gått gjennom isen" [YouTube profile died after falling through ice]. Sandefjords Blad (in Norwegian Bokmål). Archived from the original on 7 December 2021.
  57. ^ Zhāng, Yòuníng (1 December 2021). "百萬Youtuber生日喊:我沒有死 5天後意外墜湖亡" [Mega-YouTuber's Birthday Shout: "I'm Not Dead", Dies 5 Days Later After Falling Into Lake]. EBC News (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 1 December 2021. 他從2017年開始,每年的11月22日都會發布一支以「我沒有死」為標題的影片為自己慶生。 [Since 2017, he had been releasing a video entitled "I Am Not Dead" every year to celebrate his birthday]
  58. ^ Godziński, Bartosz (7 December 2021). "Śmierć Apetora zdruzgotała fanów, ale jego twórczość podzieliła widzów" [The death of Apetor devestated fans, but general audiences were divided]. Spider's Web [pl] (in Polish). Archived from the original on 7 December 2021.
  59. ^ "Tor Eckhoff" (in Norwegian Bokmål). Bøe Begravelsesbyrå. Archived from the original on 4 December 2021 – via Våre Minnesider.

Primary sourcesEdit

In the text these references are preceded by a double dagger (‡):

  1. ^ a b Tor Eckhoff on LinkedIn. Archived 6 December 2021 at archive.today
  2. ^ Eckhoff, Tor (12 June 2013). "My Stuff Is Back!!!". Facebook. Archived from the original on 8 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b Apetor. "About". Retrieved 30 November 2021 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Eckhoff, Tor (11 October 2006). "In my boat". Apetor – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Eckhoff, Tor (7 November 2019). "Going to New York". Apetor – via YouTube.
  6. ^ An archive of the original YouTube video can be located here: "On Thin Sea Ice 2". YouTube. Archived from the original on 9 February 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ Eckhoff, Tor. "On Thin Ice Videos". Apetor – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "A Day in November 2014". YouTube. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "A Day in November 2014". YouTube. Archived from the original on 20 April 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Eckhoff, Tor (2 August 2021). "Trip to Island 8". Apetor. Event occurs at 3:40 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Eckhoff, Tor (29 September 2021). "Teaser Long Flat Balls 3". Apetor – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (17 November 2017). The First Snow 4. Apetor – via YouTube.
  13. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (8 November 2018). The First Snow 5. Apetor – via YouTube.
  14. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (7 August 2018). The Haircut. Apetor – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (12 February 2019). On Thin Ice 9. Apetor – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (15 November 2014). The Dog. Apetor – via YouTube.
  17. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (13 November 2016). The First Snow 3. Apetor – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (15 November 2019). The First Snow 6. Apetor – via YouTube.
  19. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (15 June 2019). Trip to Car Cemetery, Båstnäs Sweden. Apetor – via YouTube.
  20. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (15 November 2012). The First Snow. Apetor – via YouTube.
  21. ^ Ekchoff, Tor (3 August 2016). The First Snow. Apetor – via YouTube.
  22. ^ Eckhoff, Tor. "Apetor videos - sorted by most popular". Apetor – via YouTube.