With the departure of Dave Canterbury last year from Dual Survival, the show lost some of the dynamic that made it enjoyable to watch. Don’t get me wrong – Cody is an incredible naturalist and indisputably knowledgeable, but let’s face it, Dave was the more entertaining and engaging of the pair. Cody is the master of the desert, but it seemed that Dave could cut it just about anywhere. This past season, I did watch the first two episodes with Joe Teti. They were fine, no complaints really, but the show suddenly seemed far more scripted and full of created conflict. I get it, even the name of the show hints at the contrast of different survival methodologies, but as a TV viewer, I want the show to either convince me the drama is real or leave the drama out altogether. It didn’t. I nearly always end up thinking as a show wraps up, Why can there just be more seasons of Les Stroud?
So it was a good day when someone on Blades and Bushcraft mentioned the new NatGeo show, Life Below Zero. We don’t have cable, so I was a bit late to the party, and by the time I started watching there were five episodes already, and I think there have been eight now. The show highlights the lives of six people living in four different settlements of northern Alaska. I sit here and watch it during the 90 degree weather we’re having, and I shiver as one man sets a beaver trap in a frozen lake, or another hunts fox in knee deep snow. Just snow and ice everywhere! I like cold weather, but these folks live at the extreme. Life Below Zero isn’t a “survival” show in the same sense that Survivorman or Dual Survival are – in my opinion, it’s better. This show focuses on the lives of people who have learned adapted to the harsh environment, and stay by choice. Chip Hallstone, one of the homesteaders, said in one of the early episodes while speaking of his native father-in-law, something of the tune of “If it weren’t for my father-in-law (an Inupiaq native) I’d be doing everything wrong up here.” He was fortunate enough to have married into a family that have lived, hunted, and fished the area for generations, and his guide for survival in an unforgiving place like northern Alaska was to learn from and emulate them. The Inupiaq have the distinction of being the people group living the farthest north in the world, by the way. He and his wife Agnes live the modern lifestyle of Eskimo in the region, which is still pretty darn primitive when compared to how most American’s live. They rely on hunting, trapping, and trade to acquire what they need from the land and the community near them. Another interesting character highlighted by the show is Erik Salitan. His cabin is some 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle where he lives alone, hunting, trapping, and running a small guide business. I don’t know much about his background, but he makes no attempt to hide his pride in living an independent, simple life, even though he didn’t grow up in Alaska. The common thread between them all is that they love the hard, dangerous life up there and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can read a bit more about each of the featured cast here. Amazon doesn’t seem to have the season available to watch online yet unfortunately, so you may have to catch it when it airs or DVR it.
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