Looking back at episode 3 of “Alone in the Wild,” one might have been fooled in its early stages that Ed Wardle was turning a corner. He was finding food, finding things to lift his spirits and, in general, seemingly adjusting.
But it was just a tease. In time, those old companions — hunger and isolation — finally won out.
The show follows Wardle as he tries to see if he can survive 90 days in the wilderness of Canada’s Yukon Territory. The drama of the show, as well as how it’s put together, is stuff for real reviewers (though I love the Spartan use of a narrator and music). I’m always looking for something to learn. So here goes (SPOILER AERT):
Isolation does weird things to people. Forty-two days in, Wardle finds a moose skull. He names it “Bruce.” Kind of reminds of Tom Hanks’ friend in “Castaway,” the volleyball he named “Wilson.” Wardle also tries to meditate, but finds himself instead having long, imaginary conversations with his girlfriend. Wardle also admits, via a Twitter feed, that he often talks to bugs, the forest and himself. With that in mind…
…People are social by nature. So prolonged deprivation of contact with other humans can be debilitating for most folks. Wardle admits, “I miss people so much.” He later says that his stay, absent of people, is more like surviving than living. Even when he’s feeling great about his circumstances, he admits, “This place is pretty amazing. I’m living the dream now. But I miss people.”
Hunger keeps pounding away. The expected salmon run never came. He caught fish, but they were small, and were always trout of grayling. Even with a bounty of berries and leaves, Wardle still wasn’t eating enough. As I watched, I wondered if he mistimed the salmon run. He mentioned that the river where he camped fed into the Yukon River, which eventually empties into the ocean. But the Yukon River is huge, nearly as long as the Mississippi. Could it be that the salmon run didn’t come yet simply because the fish had so far to travel? Not sure, but it’s a guess. There was game to be had (caribou, moose, ducks and other waterfowl), but Wardle chose to follow the local hunting laws and not shoot anything out of season. In a true survival situation, I’m sure he’d have chosen otherwise. Even with the fish and another porcupine, he still has to dip deep into his rations which begin to run out.
Closing thoughts… It seemed that Wardle’s loneliness and hunger were just too much. His crew, on medical advice, dropped off extra rations. I think accepting these rations was the final straw. It appeared he saw this act of “kindness” as a sign that he’d failed. And with that, he made the call and asked to be picked up.
The episode didn’t reveal much in terms of survival lessons (like the first two), but did show the effects of being out there and suffering through the hardships of wilderness survival. If a person was truly marooned, I wonder if the isolation and hunger (and the lethargy and cold that come with it) would eventually cause that person to simply give up, lie in his hammock and wait to die.
Ed Wardle made it 50 days out there, a little over half the time he’d hoped to spend. He said his goal was to live an extraordinary life, do extraordinary things. I’d say this qualified.
For us, the viewers, the show definitely gave us a lot of food for thought.
So what did you think? Reply here or e-mail me.
Also, check out the conversation on last night’s live blog here: http://ngccommunity.nationalgeographic.com/ngcblogs/inside-ngc/