Halfway through the expedition, Nat Geo's "Ultimate Survival Alaska" is taking an obvious toll on the eight explorers, who appear slimmer and weaker after hazardous weather conditions left them stranded without food for three days in Katmai Bay. Collecting food is their primary goal as they embark on a 72-hour trek through the bleak terrain of Nunivak Island.
"Desolation Island" strategy
Since the tundra is rich with hunting opportunities, the men break into three groups to maximize their efficiency. Mountain guide Willi Prittie, survival expert Austin Manelick, and climber Tyler Johnson head south to pursue waterfowl. Brothers Dallas and Tyrell Seavey join fellow dog musher Brent Sass to establish a base camp on the beach. Father-son duo Marty and Matt Raney go fishing along the Mekoryuk River. They will reunite at base camp to process their bounty before heading to the extraction point.
As the youngest teammate, 24-year-old Austin is eager to prove his mettle by using his bow and arrow. He misses his first shot, and the men hungrily watch the flock of seabirds flee. They dine on a meager meal of rice and beans before going to sleep in the damp wilderness.
After a Mekoryuk resident advises the group to hunt near the cliffs, overzealous Austin teeters along a sheer cliff above the Bering Sea. He aims for a bird directly below him but slips as the ground crumbles beneath his feet. With nerves of steel, he manages to regain his footing and ready his bow. He shoots one cormorant, then another. Later, he and his group proudly arrive at base camp with four birds in tow.
Brent and the Seaveys build a dome smoker from driftwood and moss. They have a small window of opportunity to procure and preserve extra meat for upcoming journeys, but having only one shotgun between them impairs their hunting efforts. Fortunately, they encounter two local hunters who guide them to the best hunting spots. The Seaveys bag a goose or duck for each teammate. They rush to base camp to smoke the meat.
Marty and Matt hike through harsh terrain and cross the Mekoryuk River in pursuit of salmon. Hunger and overexertion incapacitate Marty. After two unsuccessful days of fishing, Matt catches a 15-pound salmon. The mere anticipation of eating a sumptuous salmon steak restores Marty's vitality.
The jubilant mood sours when the Raneys realize the tide already came in, making the river impassable. Three miles from the finish line, they are stranded on the wrong side of the river. Their only option is to wait for the high water to recede.
The finish line
With the clock ticking, the others must forge ahead without the Raneys. As they pass through Mekoryuk, Nunivak's only village, they inquire about their missing teammates. Meanwhile, the Raneys summon a passing boat. The fishermen kindly transport them upriver. Thanks to Alaskan hospitality, all eight members make it to the finish line with plenty of protein for the next excursion. Will the protein boost sustain them as they navigate through 40 miles of icebergs, fog, and glaciers in Prince William Sound?
"Ultimate Survival Alaska" airs Sundays at 9 PM on National Geographic.
- Sports & Recreation