Nat Geo's "Ultimate Survival Alaska" continues to up the ante by sending the explorers into the "Belly of the Beast," home to one of the world's largest brown bear populations. In 2003, "Grizzly Man" Timothy Treadwell was killed and partially eaten by a bear in this region. The survivalists will have to balance speed and caution to reach the rendezvous point, Katmai Bay, within the 72-hour limit.
Now that the honeymoon phase is over, the explorers are more vocal with their opinions as they strategize and break into groups. Iditarod racers Dallas and Tyrell Seavey leave the group right away. They have a simple plan: skedaddle. The brothers choose the fastest route even though it offers the least protection from bears. Dallas concedes he will eventually die in the Alaska wilderness, and he does not plan to let a bear stand in his way. The brothers speed through the brush, whooping and hollering to shoo any nearby bears.
Expert climber Willi Prittie, dog musher Brent Sass, and survivalist Austin Manelick avoid the most densely populated bear zone by taking a longer, safer course. When the gang notices a huge bear only 300 yards away, Willi wants to give the bears a wider berth. Brent disagrees, suggesting a fast, direct trek out of this dangerous area. Following Brent's advice, they reach safer ground by nightfall.
Mountain man Marty Raney, his son Matt, and climber Tyler Johnson want to emulate the hardships faced by the original National Geographic explorers. They burn their map and use the environment to guide them through the barren valley. Romance seems to eclipse the reality of a looming deadline, as the men slowly move forward.
Food and lodging
Although the Seaveys must spend their first night near a high-traffic route for hungry bears, they cook dinner over an open fire. They spread their shelter, cooking area, and food supply over a 100-yard triangle to improve the odds that a curious bear will approach their supplies, not the sleeping brothers.
The volcanic valley remains ashy and inhospitable nearly 100 years after the eruption. The only available water is thick and grey with ash, but Tyler fashions a filter that leaves it as clear as tap water.
The finish line
When Prittie's gang reaches Katmai Bay, there is no sign of the float plane. They hike along the beach and find the Seaveys already hunkered down for the night. Low visibility and strong winds make it obvious that the plane is not coming any time soon. They pool resources to help each survive, but brutal weather keeps them from reaching the third team.
Marty's group is three miles away, stranded and out of food. Cold and weak, all eight explorers must conserve their energy. Nearly 76 hours past the deadline, helicopters finally retrieve the grateful men.
"Ultimate Survival Alaska" airs Sundays at 9 PM on National Geographic.
- Nature & Environment
- Timothy Treadwell