Myke and Ruth are out in the middle of the Alaskan bush which happens to be a lot like the Bermuda triangle where 1200 planes crashed and some were never found. They are here during Alaska’s spring thaw which is the hardest time of the year to survive in the Alaskan Bush.
The first thing to do is determine whether to stay put or wait for a bush plane or snow mobile to find them. They salvage as much as they can off the vehicle to use for their survival. All they have are the clothes on their backs and knives. The first obstacle is how to walk in the snow. They decide to use the snow machine treads to make into snow shoes.
The spark plugs can be used to make fire. Next they need to get to high ground and out of the wind to make their camp. They continue to wear their sun glasses to keep from going snow blind. Without protection they could damage their eyes in less than an hour. The first threat is the deadly cold. Hypothermia and hunger is also a big problem because there aren’t any eatable plants out there and the animals are hiding due to the snow.
It is good to eat snow while you are dry and hot to keep from getting too hot so that you don’t sweat and get cold. They need to set up camp on a high point and out in the open so that a bush plane can see them. They fashion a shovel to dig with from parts of the snow machine.
Making a Snow Hut
They do a lot of digging to make a big mound of snow for their hut. Snow is very good for a shelter because it holds in body heat. They let their big snow mound set and bond so that it is basically one strong unit and they make sure to pack it real good. It takes about an hour to harden enough to make a solid foundation for their shelter. After an hour or so they dig out their shelter. In Alaska there are nearly 16 hours of daylight so it is easy to work yourself into exhaustion.
Making their fire
They collect what is called “witch’s hair” for tinder and tiny branches for kindling. Myke soaks the witch’s hair with gasoline and Ruth pulls the “pull start cord” on the snowmobile to ignite the Witch’s hair. The engine produces a spark , the witch’s hair is lit and they add it to the kindling for their fire. Now they have to feed the fire and get through the snow with the home made snow shoes back to their camp carrying the small fire in the snowmobile tire. They make it back to camp and slowly put the remaining kindling onto the fire. They need the fire to melt more snow for fluid to drink and keep them warm. The fire will also keep grisly bears away.
Nighttime comes and they are comfortable in their snow hut sleeping on top of branches from pine trees. The second day after sleeping in their shelter, in which they were brutally cold, they desperately need to get food and water. Myke and Ruth both have headaches which are the first signs of dehydration. They don’t need to boil the water from the melted snow because it is fresh snow. However, they do need to melt the snow so that they can hydrate fast. The worst part of being in Alaska is dehydration because you don’t feel thirsty and you don’t feel the sweat, but, you do sweat because you have to work so hard to survive.
Eating Tree Bark for Survival
Burch and spruce trees have an inner bark that you can eat. You can strip down the outer bark and underneath there is a soft layer that is eatable. Roasting the inner bark over an open fire helps make it taste a little better, but, they do need to get more calories to survive. The Native Americans used to live off of tree bark in the winter time. Ruth and Myke end up eating this inner tree bark! Ruth says, “It is incredible how hunger recalibrates your taste buds.” Here they are peeling bits of wood off the bark of trees for breakfast!
To make matters worse it is much warmer today than yesterday. They walk to the river to try to catch fish. On his way to the river Myke takes his shirt off to keep from sweating too much so that he won’t risk getting hypothermia from the wet clothes later on when it gets cold again. It is very hard to move in the slushy snow. They are burning a lot to time and energy just to get to the river. Ruth works on making the bank safer for them by packing the snow down but she almost falls into the river when the wet melting snow breaks. Myke makes a fishing hook from a safety pin he found in his jacket and a birds nest for the lour. They were not able to catch a fish due to the spring thaw and the floating ice in the lake. They are in Alaska during the spring break up when Alaska literally shuts down. The planes don’t fly out there until the thaw is over.
They make it back to their shelter and discover it is starting to melt so that can’t spend another night in it and must try to walk out of there. It is their 3rd day in Alaska and the hut has shrunk due to the melting snow. Normally they would stay by their machine because it is the best way to get found but because of the spring thaw they end up following their snow machine tracks back to the airfield strip. It is easier to walk in the snow mobile tracks because they are already trampled down. They use a birch couch to carry an ember in while walking so they don’t have to restart their fire.
Will they make it this time or have to call for backup?
Myke is dizzy and exhausted from burning so many calories and not finding food to eat. It will take 10 hours or more to get back to the air strip. Myke can’t go on due to exhaustion so they have to make a fire and set up camp where they are at.
They find themselves in a very bad situation with pretty much nothing to eat for three days. They don’t have time or energy to dig a new snow cave so their best option is to build a lien to. They end up making their lien to with tree branches and ever green leaves.
With day four battling every increasing hunger and fatigue they might not have enough strength to make it out of their at all. They end up having to call it quits due to their extreme fatigue and the fact that a storm is coming. They have to call for evacuation to get them and the crew out of there. The rescue crew brings them a sleeping bag from base camp while they wait for their helicopter. The spring thaw left them with not much hope for rescue or resource. If they would not have had a camera crew or the rescue helicopter they would have ended up dead.