“The most dangerous things you won’t see coming.”
Across the remote and isolated corners of Alaska, the light is fading, the temperatures are dropping, the land is freezing and winter is looming. Here in the Arctic, winter is no wonderland, but for some of its residents it’s the preferred way of life. It’s a place where the only chance of survival is to depend on your primitive skills.
Hit series LIFE BELOW ZERO returns for a new season on National Geographic on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 9/8c. Premiering on the heels of winning its third consecutive Emmy this weekend, the fall season will build to a celebration of the 100th episode milestone with a full-day marathon featuring the most popular episodes, airing on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.
Since first airing in 2013, the series has won three Emmy awards and received six nominations and has been hailed as a fan favorite for the channel. Fans have gone wild for the show on social media since its first season debut: “My favorite TV show” (@JasonFrancis71); “Obsessed” (@SrslySketchy); “Completely fascinated with this lifestyle” (@BrownSarahlee); “Biggest bad asses in the world” (@ScarlesBarkley).
The daring and creative crew work tirelessly behind the scenes to capture the lifestyles our tough Alaskans live, putting themselves through the most daunting and challenging situations. They’ve shot the series in temperatures as low as minus 40 F, and often carry backpacks of batteries that weigh more than 100 pounds. The crew masterminded a technique, powered by solar energy, that withstood the harsh climate to record a 17-day long time lapse. In the winter months they may see a few hours of twilight — no full sun — each day.
Each Alaskan’s extreme remote lifestyle gives viewers a whole new appreciation of the word “rural.” With the race against time, the Hailstones, Sue Aikens, Andy Bassich, Jessie Holmes, Glenn Villeneuve and our newest Alaskan, Ricko DeWilde, must utilize years of bush knowledge to ensure survival. In this unforgiving extremity of America, these individuals are some of the toughest in the world, and their jaw-dropping lifestyle in unthinkable circumstances never ceases to give viewers chills … literally.
Sue Aikens lives 500 miles from the nearest city and 80 miles from the closest road, with 83 grizzly bears as her neighbors. She owns and operates Kavik River Camp, a base of refuge on the North Slope that she calls home. She has spent most of her life in Alaska, and loves to share the unique experience of her camp during hunting season, while the rest of the year she lives alone. Some women collect shoes — Sue collects bullets, beer, blood and guts. Although she considers the area’s arctic foxes her friends, she is aware that, if something bad were to happen, there is no one to help her. Her motto: “If it hurts, don’t think about it.”
Chip and Agnes Hailstone live on the Kobuk River in the northwest of Alaska, where they have raised their seven children. The Hailstones move seasonally to track down the best hunt, setting up tents in the snow or on the ice, each of them playing an active role in keeping the family alive. Many of Chip and Agnes’ skills have been passed down to their children, giving them the ability to survive and continue to live using Inupiaq traditions. The family that hunts together survives together.
Andy Bassich lives on the Yukon River, where the only way in or out is by boat or snow machine. Andy moved to Alaska from the Washington, D.C. area, to explore this region, which he knew little about, and wound up staying indefinitely. To live and survive in the Alaskan bush Andy learned to make something out of the raw materials available in this environment. He has a team of 12 sled dogs he uses for transportation and to work around his homestead. He hunts, harvests, grows and brews 80 percent of what he eats and drinks — moose, black bear, caribou, wolf, salmon, mountains of vegetables and beer.
Jessie Holmes lives in Nenana, Alaska, along the river with his team of 44 sled dogs that he has bred, raised and trained on his own. He left his home of Alabama at age 16, making his way to Alaska by jumping freight trains. Jessie has acquired many skills from Alaskan “old-timers,” including carpentry, which has enabled him to not only sustain a remote lifestyle but also make a living by building boats, fish wheels, sleds and cabins. He relies on his neighbors of the Nenana community to trade and barter as needed, often working in exchange for materials. Training runs and preparing his dogs for the 1,000-mile Iditarod race has become his main focus to fulfill a lifelong dream.
Glenn Villeneuve is a lone, primitive subsistence hunter living in the Brooks Range by a lake that is surrounded by mountains and is a 60-mile walk to the nearest road. Glenn has truly left civilization behind, but this year will be bringing his family, including a newborn baby, into the Brooks Range so he can teach them his ways of survival. Together, they will live in a primitive cabin that has no power, no running water, and no heat except from the wood they chop. He lives 100% off the land, hunting moose, caribou, porcupine, ptarmigan and sheep, that will now support his family. He picks berries, roots and leaves, but is unable to grow his own vegetables because of the altitude at which he lives. He uses his natural surroundings, the sun and lake to track time and the seasons.
Newcomer Ricko DeWilde was born and raised in the Alaskan bush, and has lived away from any form of civilization for 18 years. He is a native Quoi Can Athabascan Indian, and was brought up with his 13 brothers and sisters in a remote cabin his family built, 40 miles from the nearest village. After a rough transition from the village to civilization, Ricko moved back to the wilderness, and prides himself on being a family man with five kids of his own. Ricko practices native traditions and ways of hunting and fishing that have been passed down from generations of elders. He’s a master of his environment, using fear as a tool, even when he’s face-to-face with a hungry grizzly bear. His life motto: “Every day, you work to survive.”
As winter’s wrath hits, final preparations are underway before darkness and isolation set in. LIFE BELOW ZERO covers every obstacle, both expected and unexpected, as Mother Nature wreaks havoc on the Arctic. The all-new season of LIFE BELOW ZERO will follow our Alaskans living off the grid as they battle whiteout snow storms, man-eating carnivores and questionable frozen terrain, all with limited resources to survive through the spring.
LIFE BELOW ZERO is produced by BBC Studios for National Geographic. Executive producers for BBC Studios are Travis Shakespeare and Joseph Litzinger, and for National Geographic the executive producer is Kevin Tao Mohs.
For more information or full episode screeners, visit www.natgeotvpressroom.com, or follow us on Twitter using @NGC_PR.
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