Sunday, May 12, 2013

Do you love the great outdoors? Checkout NATGEO's Ultimate Survival Alaska

About the Show

They are some of the toughest, most extreme survivalists that Alaska has to offer. Going head to head, eight men of a rare breed are about to take the ultimate test of survival in Arctic conditions that only National Geographic could inspire. Dropped in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness by bush plane, with only their raw, mountain-man ingenuity, they’ll navigate through treacherous glaciated river valleys, barren ridgelines, and high mountain peaks, battling hunger, hostile predators, and perilous weather conditions along the way. Like the original National Geographic explorers, for those who succeed there is no grand prize, just the well-fought pride of having conquered the grueling challenges that Mother Nature can throw at them. It's an epic competition series where the only prize is survival.

Who do you think has the "RIGHT STUFF" to finish - to SURVIVE?  

Meet the Survivalists

Marty Raney

Marty Raney, 56 years old: A veteran mountain guide who has led more than 20 expeditions on and around Denali, the highest peak in North America. 

Matt Raney

Matt Raney, 30 years old: Marty’s son and an expert in survival. He helped build his family home with Marty with nothing but a chainsaw and the logs on their property. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: MATT RANEY)

Austin Manelick

Austin Manelick, 24 years old: Since the age of 5, he has practiced subsistence hunting under the watchful eye of his Alaskan wilderness guide father. 

Willi Prittie 

Willi Prittie, 57 years old: A professional mountain guide for almost 38 years, Willi is considered to be one of the leading climbing and logistical experts in the region. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: WILLI PRITTIE)

Dallas Seavey 

Dallas Seavey, 26 years old: The youngest person to ever to win the Iditarod, a grueling thousand-mile race across the state of Alaska through some of the world's toughest conditions. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: DALLAS SEAVEY)

Tyrell Seavey 

Tyrell Seavey, 28 years old: Like his brother Dallas, he hails from a legendary family, known by many as Alaskan royalty. He has run the Iditarod twice and won the Jr. Iditarod. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: TYRELL SEAVEY)

Brent Sass 

Brent Sass, 32 years old: He’s done six 1,000-mile dog sledding expeditions for the Yukon Quest, and has guided excursions through any and all of Alaska’s many landscapes. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: BRENT SASS)

Tyler Johnson

Tyler Johnson, 36 years old: From exploring Kathmandu to climbing 27,000 feet with no oxygen in Nepal, Tyler is fearless. (VIDEO BLOG LEG1: TYLER JOHNSON)

Ultimate Survival Alaska: The Map

Follow Their Journey

Explore the paths the eight survival experts take each week to test their skills against the wilds of Alaska. Along the way, learn about the history of expeditions in Alaska and how they have evolved throughout history.

A portrait of Robert E. Peary.
Robert E. Peary

Seven Tips to Survive the Frozen Wilderness

What you need to know if you ever wind up stranded on ice.
Here’s the good news: Your plane has crashed, but you’ve managed to survive. But the bad news is that you find yourself crawling out of the wreckage in the middle of the mountainous Alaskan wilderness, where the average wintertime temperature is 20 to 30 degrees below zero, and it’s been known to dip as far down to 80 below.


You might imagine that you’re a goner. But that’s because you don’t know the real-life story of a woman named Helen Klaben, a passenger on a small plane from Fairbanks to Seattle that crashed in February 1963 in the similarly forbidding Canadian Yukon region. She suffered a broken arm in the crash, and the pilot, Ralph Flores, both suffered a broken jaw and other serious facial injuries. And as a vintage Life magazine account of the ordeal details, they had no heavy winter survival garb, and their supplies consisted of a few cans of sardines and tuna, two cans of fruit cocktail, some vitamins, toothpaste, and matches. They didn’t even have any tools, except for a hammer, a chisel and the pilot’s hunting knife. Nevertheless, 49 days later, rescuers found Klaben and Flores, who were gaunt and desperately hungry, but somehow, had managed to survive. They’d reinforced the plane’s cabin with spruce boughs to turn it into a shelter, fashioned a drinking cup from a broken light reflector so that they could drink melted snow, and avoided physical activity as much as possible, so that their bodies’ stored fat could sustain them after the food ran out.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to go through such a harrowing experience. But just to be prepared, here are some tips for surviving in the frozen northern wilderness, from the University of Alaska risk management team’s Remote Travel Safety Guide.

Build a Snow Shelter. It may seem paradoxical, but snow can turn out to be one of your best protections against the wind and snowdrifts that you encounter in the wilderness. Build an enclosure that is about eight-inches thick, and inside, try to scrape the snow down to ground level, in order to capture radiant heat from the ground.

Know How to Stay Warm. There are lots of different ways that your body can lose vital heat, and you have to be on guard against them all. If you’re traveling in a wilderness area, you need to pack garments that are going to block the wind. Ideally, the jacket should have a collar and a waistline drawstring that can be tightened. As much as 50 percent of body heat can be lost by radiating from the head and neck areas, so make sure you keep your hat on and your neck swathed in a scarf or turtleneck. Perspiration is another way of losing heat, so wear layers and remove them as necessary to prevent overheating. The inner layer next to your skin should be some fabric, such as polypropylene, thermax or silk, that will wick the moisture away from your skin (cotton is a no-no). A middle layer of wool or polypropylene, both of which retain heat when wet, will help you to trap air inside your clothing and insulate your body. The final outer layer should be a material such as Gore-Tex, a synthetic whose pores will allow water vapor to escape, but prevent liquid water from getting through.

Watch For and Treat the First Signs of Frostbite. If the skin of your cheeks, ears, nose, fingers or toes redden or feel numb and tingly, you may have a precursor of frostbite, a condition in which ice crystals form in skin or deeper tissue. If this happens, heat some water to a temperature of 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and immerse the affected areas. You also can utilize the body warmth of a companion, as long as that person isn’t excessively cooled that way. Don’t rub or massage the skin, because that will damage the tissue.

Make Sure That You Disinfect Water Before Drinking It. You’re likely to find an abundance of frozen and liquid water sources around you. But unless you want to risk coming down with a water-borne disease such as Giardia, you need to treat the water. If you don’t have a purification kit or a water filter specially designed to filter out the microbe, ordinary household chlorine bleach—four drops per quart—will disinfect water in about 30 minutes. The most foolproof method, however is to boil water for 20 minutes.

There’s Safety in Numbers. Don’t be like the foolhardy Alaska newbie in Jack London’s classic story “To Build a Fire,” who ignores an old-timer’s admonitions and ventures out alone on a day when the temperature is minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and ends up freezing to death. The University of Alaska’s risk management team suggests that you never leave your camp unless you’re with at least one other person. Also, if you head out from a downed aircraft, be sure to leave a note explaining where you’ve gone and describing the direction, so that rescuers have a better chance of finding you.

Be Cautious About Ice. That frozen lake, river, or stream may look solid enough to cross on foot, but if you plunge through the ice, you can be in a whole lot of trouble. Don’t even think of stepping out onto it unless the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and check your path first with an ice chisel, pole, or another tool that you can use to tap the surface and test its solidity. If it sounds hollow when tapped, choose another route. Also remember that repeated use weakens ice, so if you’re on a route that someone else has traveled first, watch out for cracks.

Learn How to Chase Away a Bear. Make a lot of noise, and pull your jacket up around your body, with your hands raised over your head, to make yourself bigger and more intimidating. Face the bear, and don’t run—that may invite the bear to pursue you. But if the bear actually gets close or grabs hold of you, though, you may want to lie still in a fetal position, in an effort to follow the bear into thinking that you’re already dead. As the University of Alaska guide notes: “This technique has been reported to be somewhat successful for brown bear encounters. However, it has not been reported as being very effective for aggressive black bears.”

Arctic Hell Facts

A Few Factoids Related to This Episode

Survivalist Willi Prittie hikes along a river in the Brooks Mountain Range. 

  • The Brooks Range is the highest mountain range in the Arctic Circle.
  • The Brooks Range is named after geologist Alfred H. Brooks, the Chief Alaskan Geologist for the US Geological Survey.
  • The Brooks Range doesn’t contain many glaciers due to the arid nature of the area.
  • Around the turn of the 20th century, when gold was found in the Canadian Yukon, an epidemic of “Klondicitis” swept through North America and many people went up North in search of gold.
  • The Brooks Range remained unmapped long after the Alaska Purchase.
  • The beautiful cliffs of Arrigetch Peaks have been a Natural National Landmark since its designation in 1968.
  • The name Arrigetch comes from the Nunamiut language and means “fingers of a hand extended.”
  • Wilderness advocate Robert Marshall was the man who coined the name "Gates of the Arctic."
  • The total area for Gates of the Arctic National Park is 8,202,517 acres, of which 7,052,000 acres are wilderness.
  • The Brooks Range is a drainage divide meaning that water on different sides of the mountain drains into different spots, the North emptying into the Arctic Ocean while the South eventually reaches the Bering Sea via the Yukon River.
  • Wolves have never been endangered in Alaska and number around 7,000 to 11,000. They can be found all around the state.

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