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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Review: Alone – In the Artic

I try to avoid television as much as possible. Sure I watch every Meateater episode I can and like to watch movies from time to time. However, I live in a world short on time and full of goals. I find that typically my time is better spent learning about the outdoors, practicing outdoor skills, and being outdoors. Despite my best efforts to avoid tv, recently, my wife and I watched a reality show called Alone. We started with season 6.

The show is unlike the typical reality show. Ten people are placed in different spots in the Arctic region, an area far up in the Northwest Territory of Canada.  The temperatures in winter can hit negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the Arctic. The participants in the show are individuals who are vetted and have significant wilderness survival experience. They are all alone with a box of camera gear and batteries to self film their journey. Each of them has a satellite phone and PLB (personal locator beacon). They can call anytime on the sat phone to request extraction and end their journey. The final contestant left gets half a million dollars for surviving longer than the other 9 people.

Contestants bring ten items with them, but they must be primitive items. For example, they can bring a traditional bow and arrows, but not a compound bow. All of the participants brought some type of knife, fishing line and hooks, and all but one of them brought a Ferro rod for starting fires. No tents are allowed, but they did all choose to bring a tarp.

The show starts in September when the weather in the Arctic is just starting to cool off. They all begin constructing a shelter and looking for food. Some of them have luck fishing, while others set snares and bowhunt small game such as rabbits and squirrels. Right off the bat, one of the participants falls and suffers a severe broken leg and is unable to move. He calls for help and is extracted. This demonstrates the very real danger that the contestants are in.

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The only contact they have with the outside world is a visit from the show’s doctors regularly to ensure they are healthy enough to continue. Several of the contestants are removed due to medical reasons as the season goes on. After basically starving for weeks they are at risk of organ failure when their body begins digesting their muscles. Several of the contestants make it past the 70-day mark as the temperatures begin to drop below 0 and food becomes very scarce.

This show is a great look into what it is like to be alone in the wilderness and vying for survival. As hunters, we go out and kill animals to eat, but most of us know that if we don’t get a deer we will not go hungry. In Alone life mirrors the life of the predators in the Arctic more than that of modern humans. If they are smart and lucky they find food. However, in the harsh environment, they often go hungry and can spend weeks in between meals. As time goes on more of the contestants are forced to consume unorthodox foods like rabbit intestines, moss, and squirrel tails just to try and get some calories.

When thinking of finding myself in a survival situation, it is easy to imagine hunting a large animal like a deer to provide food. In reality, the most successful contestants on Alone tend to focus on catching fish or hunting small game. In the harsh wilderness of the Arctic large animals are hard to come by and hunting them requires a large caloric investment. This is the same reason that black bears do not typically hunt large mammals and instead eat many insects, fish, or already dead animals. While a bear is certainly capable of killing a deer, the energy expenditure is not worth chasing the larger prey.

The show Alone is unique among reality shows in that it features experts pitted against a harsh wilderness. Everything that happens is captured by the contestants self filming. There is no added drama for ratings here—trying to survive in the Arctic creates plenty of excitement on its own. It is a great show that makes you question how you would survive if you found yourself alone in the wilderness. Available streaming on Netflix, I highly recommend checking out season 6 of Alone.

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