TV Review: Life Below Zero
There are times when I dream of living in a cabin in the woods, far from away from civilization and the noise (and okay, people). Waking up to fresh air, birdsong, and the wind in the pines would be my idea of heaven.
And then there’s reality.
For the past week, I have been obsessively watching Life Below Zero, a documentary/reality show that follows several people who live in the Alaskan wilderness. Like waaaaay out in the wilderness. This series is as much about these people as it is about the absolutely stunning nature — you might say that Alaska itself is a character in the show.
The first season takes place during the depth of the Alaskan winter and let me just see say this: we have no idea when we complain about cold. The people that you get to know are fascinating, sometimes unfathomable (living on the tundra – why??), often funny, and their lives are equally fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, and at times really scary.
(Have a bit of patience with the National Geographic links below — they can take a bit of time to get going. It helps to go full screen)
Erik moved to the Alaskan bush right after high school and set himself up as a guide. He is also a subsistence hunter, trapper, and fur trader. Favourite quote so far: “I think excessive comfort is detrimental to one's character.”
Which reminds me… If you have any opinions about fur and hunting from an ethical point of view, it helps to put these feelings aside while watching this. And most of the time, you just tend to roll with it. These people hunt because the need to survive. I’m okay with that.
Agnes and Chip live on the west coast of Alaska and I’m pretty sure that contrary to some, they can actually see Russia from their living room window. They live in a small, mostly Inuit village, and support themselves by hunting and fishing using very traditional methods. Favourite quote so far is Agnes instructing her five girls on how to kill the rabbits that she and her husband are driving towards them: “And then you club ‘em and club ‘em and club ‘em until they’re dead. OK, Princess?”
Andy and Kate live on the shores of the Yukon River near (if you can call 14 miles near) a small town called Eagle. Andy lived in Alaska for very long time and they fell in love with Kate came to the region as a tourist. In season one, they’ve been married for 10 years. They have 25 sled dogs and watching these animals raced across a frozen river with a human hanging onto the sled for dear life is an amazing sight. Favourite quote so far reflects the seriousness of these lives: “we are going to die on the river.”
I’ve saved my favourite for last. Sue is a caretaker of a weather station and camp 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, about as far north as you can get in Alaska before you hit (frozen) ocean. For nine months of the year, it’s just her, the elements, and the animals. Many of which are bears. She survived a lot of hardship, including being mauled by a grizzly. Favourite quote so far is Sue explaining that she doesn’t do well with people, instead preferring: “an honest relationship with something that wants to eat me.” Of course, there is also her statement about why the wolverine that has been sniffing around camp is particularly interested in her: “I’m an isolated individual, I’ve culled myself from the herd, and I have a limp. It’s ‘oooh, there’s a pork chop.’”
I’m just about done with the first season and much to my relief have discovered that there eight in total available. Alas, only the first two are on Netflix, but I’ll find the rest somehow
This series would appeal to anyone who has ever wished to run away from it all and live close to nature. If nothing else, it shows that staying put is probably a good idea.