Nat Geo's "Ultimate Survival Alaska" continues with a 200-mile adventure along the historic Yukon River, home of the Klondike gold rush. With only 72 hours to reach the extraction point, the explorers decide handmade rafts are the quickest way to navigate the turbulent water. The legendary river's lure invigorates the men, but raging rapids and food deprivation challenge their resolve.
Tortoise vs. hare
Iditarod racer Dallas Seavey teams up with his brother, Tyrell, and survival expert Austin Manelick to build a small raft for speed and maneuverability. Confident with the calculated approach, Dallas adds an improvised sail before finally launching the raft on the second day of the journey.
Mountain man Marty Raney, his son Matt, mountain guide Willi Prittie, dogsledder Brent Sass, and climber Tyler Johnson want a massive raft to withstand the rapids. They use fallen trees to build a rustic vessel complete with a rudder and fire pit. After spending less than five hours on construction, the men launch their nearly two-ton raft. Although this is not a race, the two groups are eager to outdo each other.
The five-man crew joyously feasts on a single salmon loaded with eggs, but Willi knows they need much more to sustain their health and energy. Fortunately, they happen upon the tiny village of Rampart. A boomtown bustling with modern amenities during the gold rush, the remote village is now home to a few dozen residents who live a subsistence lifestyle. The locals welcome the crew and treat them to smoked salmon. Meanwhile, Austin savors fish eyeballs -- another wilderness delicacy that repulses his teammates.
The finish line
Equipped with a sail, the Seaveys and Austin travel up to 10 miles per hour. Things turn sour when they speed toward a partially submerged sandbar. Due to sheer determination and the raft's small size, they are able to maneuver into open water. By the second day, they are on the heels of the colossal raft. All five men paddle with whatever they can find, but the small raft sails ahead.
On the final day, both crews enter the rapids. Fast water and rocks challenge the smaller vessel, but the two-ton raft skates through without a problem. The methodical approach pays off as Austin and the Seaveys are first to reach the rendezvous point. Tapping into the lure of the legendary Yukon gives the explorers the thrill of a lifetime, but the grueling expedition is taking a toll. Will they survive eight more challenges?
"River of No Return" airs on Sunday, 5/19 at 9 PM on National Geographic.
- Yukon River