Alone in the Wild: Survival Experiment or Psychological Trap?
On July 3, adventurer-filmmaker Ed Wardle was dropped off by floatplane on a remote lake in the Yukon and left alone. For 90 days. He is not a survival expert. He had never even seen a bear, let alone a hungry grizzly, which is how they were when he arrived. “It’s going to be huge physical challenge,” says the 37-year-old Scotsman. “But it's also going to be a big psychological adventure, too. An exploration of the wilderness within, if you will.” But don’t let the modesty fool you. Wardle is a two-time Everest summiteer. He also filmed hardcore Norwegian explorer Rune Gjeldnes's trek to the North Pole and grew up skinning rabbits on a farm in northeastern Scotland. “People are going to appreciate the reality of it, if they believe it,” says Wardle. “I don’t have a hotel room around the corner.”
Fully unsupported with just meager rations mainly of rice, oats, and two kinds of oil, Wardle will be completely on his own, filming his exploits for the forthcoming National Geographic Channel reality TV series Alone in the Wild. To diversify Wardle's filming capabilities, the crew developed two custom camera rigs: one that attaches to a pole in his backpack; the other, a “follow-me” camera that can be mounted to a tree to track Wardle’s movements.
While the ace cameraman is not a survival sage, Wardle did cram before this ultimate wilderness test. Prior to departure he met with a bear behavior expert, a foraging specialist, and a First Nations elder. The psychologist he consulted called the plan “psychologically dangerous” and advised against being alone without human contact for such a long time. Wardle took note, but the prospects of "going bushy," a Canadian term used for folks who have been alone in the wilderness too long, is probably unavoidable. “I don’t know enough to understand if I should be afraid or not. It’s like diving into a beautiful lake, thinking about diving in for a swim, and someone coming up behind you saying, ‘It’s full of crocodiles.”
Watch the experiment unfold with video dispatches at channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/alone-in-the-wild/. Then tune in for the TV series on the National Geographic Channel starting on July 26 (see the schedule online). Wardle is also posting daily tweets and filing his GPS locations with a SPOT Satellite Messenger.
- Nat Geo Expeditions