Survival on Screen is where Shadow Fox takes a look at survival and field craft practices in movies and TV. Some are great, others not so much. We break down what’s happening on screen and what viewers should or shouldn’t take away from the production.
National Geographic’s first season of its adventure series brings us an eclectic set of characters with a variety of skills trekking across the Alaskan wilderness. The beauty of the northernmost state provides a breathtaking canvas for the beginning of an unfortunately short-lived and entertaining reality series.
USA drops 8 adventurers into the Alaskan wild lands with the objective of crossing a stretch of land in 72 hours. Over 10 episodes, the men will cross 3,000 miles of terrain and battle weather, beasts and each other. While it’s not a race by traditional means, being left behind is a real consequence if they don’t make their pickup point in time. The men will cross the land in many ways the same fashion as the explorers before them working for National Geographic.
At the start of each episode, the men divide themselves into teams. Each team works on a different way to get to their destination whether it’s building a raft (or a different variation of a raft), selecting a land route. Each team member has different skills that allows them to help their team survive in the unforgiving environment. For instance, Tyrell Seavy, a fisherman, is able to build a net to catch salmon and provide his comrade with valuable protein. Tyler Johnson, a civil engineer, is able to build a primitive water filter when his team needs hydration. He’s also able to modify boats his team uses to travel on water.
The men only carry what they’ve packed. Their kits have been carefully selected to sustain them throughout the competition. A few carry handguns and rifles for hunting and dealing with bears, while one carries a bow for hunting. One man, Willi Prittie, carries a pressure cooker with him. He says the pressure cooker preserves the nutrients in the food better than traditional cooking.
Food is constant struggle in the competition. Each team has a ration of rice and beans, but that will only get you so far. The men must hunt and forage for their meals and compete with the animals that are doing the same thing. Most of all, they must rely on their resilience and wits to finish each leg of the race.
There’s a lot of adrenaline to go around as the men brave roaring rapids and gut wrenching rappels. The men are constantly at odds with bears, and every encounter causes them to double take after seeing the massive predators. There are moments when the men are dangerously close to hypothermia. Mistakes can lead to injuries and even loss of valuable equipment.
As hard as it is to move through the wilderness, staying in place is just as difficult. The men must make their own shelters each night to keep themselves warm, dry and safe from animals.
Ultimate Survival Alaska’s first season is an entertaining and insightful show. Watching each member show off their own individual skills can give new ideas on how to modify your own methods of survival. Most of all, it’s inspiring. The Alaskan wilderness never ceases to amaze the eyes, and every episode leaves you looking toward your pack and boots, plotting your next adventure.