Alan D. Lieberson, a medical doctor, lawyer, and the author of Treatment of Pain and Suffering in the Terminally Ill and Advance Medical Directives, explains.
The duration of survival without food is greatly influenced by factors such as body weight, genetic variation, other health considerations and, most importantly, the presence or absence of dehydration.
For total starvation in healthy individuals receiving adequate hydration, reliable data on survival are hard to obtain. At the age of 74 and already slight of build, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous nonviolent campaigner for India's independence, survived 21 days of total starvation while only allowing himself sips of water. In a 1997 article in the British Medical Journal, Michael Peel, senior medical examiner at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, cites well-documented studies reporting survivals of other hunger strikers for 28, 36, 38 and 40 days. Most other reports of long-term survival of total starvation, however, have been poorly substantiated. [Editor's Note: Reports of the 1981 hunger strike by political prisoners against the British presence in Northeast Ireland indicate that 10 individuals died after periods of between 46 and 73 days without food.]
Unlike total starvation, near-total starvation with continued hydration has occurred frequently, both in history and in patients under medical supervision. Survival for many months to years is common in concentration camps and during famines, but the unknown caloric intake during these times makes it impossible to predict survival. What is evident is that the body can moderate metabolism to conserve energy and that individual survival varies markedly. The body's ability to alter its metabolism is poorly understood, but it occurs at least in part through changes in thyroid function. This may help explain the evolutionary persistence of genes causing diabetes, which in the past could have allowed individuals to survive periods of starvation by enabling more economical use of energy.
Medical practitioners encounter cases of near-total starvation in patients suffering from, among other conditions, anorexia nervosa and end-stage malignancies, as well as in those following so-called starvation diets. In anorexia, death from organ failure or myocardial infarction is fairly common (up to 20 percent of cases end this way) and tends to happen when body weight has fallen to between 60 and 80 pounds (although it can occur at any time). This weight typically corresponds to a body mass index (BMI) approximately half of normal, or about 12 to 12.5. (Normal BMI is 18.5-24.9, and most fashion models have a BMI of around 17.) Unless other causes intervene, a patient with end-stage cancer often dies after losing 35 to 45 percent of his body weight. Markedly obese patients on near-starvation diets, such as those employing nutritional supplements and consuming less than 400 calories a day, may lose much more weight than that--but they start with great excesses of body fat, which can sustain metabolism. The medical community has generally rejected these diets, which were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, because participants were reportedly prone to acute myocardial infarctions.
I recall one particularly relevant experience that illustrates the inherent variability in people's ability to survive on very little food. Called in an emergency to see an out-of-town visitor with a throat abscess one Saturday afternoon, I noted his marked thinness, along with a belt showing twelve extra holes at about one-inch intervals, each showing evidence of use. I asked him about his weight and he told me he was five feet, seven inches tall and normally weighed about 145 pounds, but he thought he had noted ¿some¿ recent loss, ¿maybe¿ down to about 100 pounds over the prior year. He ¿wasn't trying¿ to lose weight, but it didn't bother him because he thought thinner was better. He just ¿didn't feel like eating much.¿ With clothes on, he weighed just 77 pounds. After he left town for further treatment, I never heard from him again, but he had seemingly lost close to half his body weight without noticing any ill effects.
In contrast to starvation with access to liquids, much more is known about survival without any sustenance (neither food nor hydration), which is a far more important practical consideration in medicine and ethics. This situation comes up frequently in two distinct medical groups--the incompetent terminally ill patients for whom artificial maintenance of life is no longer desired, and the individuals who, although not necessarily terminally ill, no longer want to live and decide to refuse food and hydration to end their lives.
A well-known example of the former is Nancy Cruzan, the subject of the famous 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cruzan versus Director, Missouri Department of Health. Cruzan was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for many years until she died 12 days after artificial sustenance was discontinued. Since that time, many other incidences of discontinuing sustenance in patients in a PVS have been reported and death typically occurs after 10 to 14 days. (If the individual is dehydrated or over-hydrated, the time may range from approximately one to three weeks.) In situations of voluntary refusal of food and hydration, death typically ensues on a similar time frame, although the early use of ice chips or sips of water to reduce thirst may delay this slightly.
Alan D. Lieberson, a medical doctor, lawyer, and the author of Treatment of Pain and Suffering in the Terminally Ill and Advance Medical Directives, explains.
- Vollkornbrot: 1000 g
- Zwieback: 400 g
- Knäckebrot: 1000 g
- Nudeln, roh: 500 g
- Reis, roh: 250 g
- Hafer-/Getreideflocken: 750 g
- Kartoffeln, roh: 1000 g
- Bohnen in Dosen: 800 g
- Erbsen/Möhren in Dosen: 900 g
- Rotkohl in Dosen/Gläsern: 700 g
- Sauerkraut in Dosen: 700 g
- Spargel in Gläsern: 400 g
- Mais in Dosen: 400 g
- Pilze in Dosen: 400 g
- Saure Gurke im Glas: 400 g
- Rote Bete: 400 g
- Zwiebeln, frisch: 500 g
- Kirschen im Glas: 700 g
- Birnen in Dosen: 250 g
- Aprikosen in Dosen: 250 g
- Mandarinen in Dosen: 350 g
- Ananas in Dosen 350 g
- Rosinen: 200 g
- Haselnusskerne: 200 g
- Trockenpflaumen: 250 g
- Zitronensaft 0,2 l
- Kaffee (Pulver) / Instantkaffee 250 g
- Tee schwarz, trocken 125 g
- H-Milch 3,5%
- Fett 3 l
- Streichfett 250 g (Butter, Margarine)
- Öl (z.B. Maiskeim, Sonnenblumen) 0,3 l
- Hartkäse 700 g
- Thunfisch in Dosen 150 g
- Ölsardinen in Dosen 100 g
- Heringsfilet in Soße, Konserve 100 g
- Corned Beef in Dosen 250 g
- Bockwürstchen im Glas/Dosen 300 g
- Kalbsleberwurst im Glas/Dosen 300 g
- Dauerwurst (z.B. Salami) 360 g
- 10 Eier Gewichtsklasse (à 60 g Einkaufsgewicht) 530 g
- Mineralwasser 28 l
- Frischobst (1000 g)
- Apfel roh
- Birne roh
- Banane roh
- Orange roh
- Vom Arzt verordnete Medikamente
- Mittel gegen Erkältungskrankheiten
- Mittel gegen Durchfall
- Insektenstich- und Sonnenbrandsalbe
- Seife, Waschmittel
- Zahnbürste, Zahnpasta
- Sets Einweggeschirr & Besteck
- Campingtoilette, Ersatzbeutel
- Desinfektionsmittel, Schmierseife
- Keller und Dachboden entrümpeln
- Löschdecke (notfalls Wolldecke)
- Behälter für Löschwasser
- Kübelspritze oder Einstellspritze
- Garten- oder Autowaschschlauch
- Kerzen, Teelichter
- Streichhölzer, Feuerzeug
- Camping-, Spirituskocher mit Brennmaterial
- persönliche Medikamente
- behelfsmäßige Schutzkleidung
- Wolldecke, Schlafsack
- Unterwäsche, Strümpfe
- Gummistiefel, derbes Schuhwerk
- Essgeschirr, -besteck, Thermoskanne, Becher
- Material zur Wundversorgung
- Dosenöffner und Taschenmesser
- strapazierfähige, warme Kleidung
- Kopfbedeckung, Schutzhelm
- Schutzmaske, behelfsmäßiger Atemschutz
- Rundfunkgerät für Batteriebetrieb geeignet
- Haben Sie festgelegt, welche Dokumente unbedingt erforderlich sind?
- Sind Ihre Unterlagen zweckmäßig geordnet?
- Sind von wichtigen Dokumenten Kopien vorhanden und diese ggf. beglaubigt?
- Haben Sie eine Dokumentenmappe angelegt?
- Sind Dokumentenmappe oder wichtige Dokumente griffbereit?
Outside, it's storming and surprisingly chilly for late August. "It's actually monsoon season," says Lundin over the din of rain and hail pelting the cabin's roof. The flesh-and-blood version of Lundin doesn't look much different from the poster. He's a big dude with broad shoulders, steely blue eyes, and — almost always — bare feet. He wears his sandy-brown hair in two long braids that are tied off with ribbons and held back by a red bandanna. Dressed in a green T-shirt and jean shorts, he looks like a cross between Willie Nelson, Sitting Bull, and Pippi Longstocking.
Dual Survival's premise is to drop two survival experts with opposing philosophies — one, like Lundin, trying to adapt to nature; the other, a military vet, trying to conquer it — into an inhospitable location and watch how they cope for three days while extricating themselves from the situation. When the show debuted in 2010, Lundin was paired with Dave Canterbury, who was billed as an "army-trained sniper." The show was a hit, but after Season 2, reports emerged that Canterbury had exaggerated his military credentials. He was replaced by Joe Teti, a former Special Forces operative. The ratings stayed strong, so it came as something of a shock when Lundin was replaced halfway through Season 4 by Matt Graham, another outdoor-skills expert, who had appeared on the Discovery survival show Dude, You're Screwed.
Discovery never made an official statement on Lundin's exit, but in an interview, Eileen O'Neill, global group president at Discovery Studios, said, "From time to time we've changed talent on a couple of different shows. It was a matter of freshening the show. Matt brings a different skill set to the more naturalistic approach to survival, so I think it worked out well for everybody in the end."
Well, maybe not everybody. Lundin says he was fired and that his termination was the culmination of several long-running arguments with the network, production company Original Media, and his costars regarding the show's credibility, its commitment to the health and safety of the cast, crew, and viewers, and what he calls an "appalling lack of leadership." (When asked to respond to these and other allegations, Original Media, through its parent company, Endemol, declined to comment on the record.)
"You're dealing with people who have no experience in my profession who are making a show on survival skills," Lundin says. "They asked me many, many times to do stupid s--t that I refused to do. 'Fall into cold water so you can get hypothermic.' 'Scale that cliff.' 'Can you climb that coconut tree?' I try not to put out dangerous s--t that's going to be replicated by someone to their detriment. They hated me for it."
O'Neill says that "Cody's entitled to his opinion," but "health and safety are first and foremost" on all Discovery shows.
What may seem to be simply an argument between an aggrieved ex-reality show star and his former employer is actually much more troubling. The issues at the heart of the Dual Survival dispute, it turns out, are hardly unique. Over the past few years, as the survival-TV genre has exploded, newer shows like Naked and Afraid, Survive the Tribe, and Ultimate Survival Alaska have joined already established franchises like Dual Survival and Survivorman, with many more in the pipeline.
"There's a pioneer spirit that exists in these types of shows, a sense of being the master of your own destiny when you're in a survival situation, that people really find appealing," says Brian Catalina, an executive producer of Ultimate Survival Alaska. "That's a part of our cultural DNA that we're not that far removed from."
Increased competition, though, has created an atmosphere in which each new series seems compelled to prove it's the roughest, toughest, most perilous one. This, in turn, tends to push the casts and crews toward taking more risks or at least appearing as if they're taking more risks. Either way, says Lundin, is a problem. "Reality TV is dangerous," he says, "when it involves professions that can kill people."
The roots of survival TV can be traced to England, where, beginning in 1994, Ray Mears, a British survival instructor, made several series for the BBC, including Tracks, Extreme Survival, and World of Survival. His tone was decidedly sober and instructional: Mears wasn't surviving in the wild, but rather teaching the skills — the bushcraft — needed to survive.
Survivor debuted in the U.S. on CBS in 2000, and although it was more Lord of the Flies than Into the Wild, it seemed to open the door to the idea of reality shows based around outdoor endurance. In the early 2000s, Lundin himself filmed two separate TV pilots, Lost in the Wild and Stranded, neither of which was picked up. The first series to gain traction was Survivorman, which debuted on Discovery in 2004 and is still in production today. The show features Les Stroud, a Canadian survival expert, filming himself, alone with no crew, for a week in various wilderness locales. Survivorman feels more meditative than many of the shows in its wake, but its realism earned Stroud a steady following. Early on, though, Discovery hoped to make the show appear more dangerous. "I was pressured for over a year by one high-up executive who wanted me to cheat Survivorman," says Stroud. "I just told them no every single time. I'd ruin the show if I did that.
"If I can be accused of anything, it's like, 'Les's show can be a bit slow, maybe even boring,'" he continues. "The reality is, seven days alone in the wilderness can be very slow and tedious. It's difficult to show that, but I resist the temptation to splash it all up with pranks and stunts."
In 2006, Discovery debuted Man vs. Wild, which Stroud claims was a direct result of his refusal to compromise Survivorman. Man vs. Wild was built around Bear Grylls, a charismatic former British army reservist. If Survivorman was the survival equivalent of an Ingmar Bergman drama, Man vs. Wild was a Michael Bay spectacle. During his excursions, Grylls was often seen running down mountains, sliding off glaciers, crossing freezing rivers, rappelling from cliffs, hunting large game, and, in one memorable instance, MacGyvering an enema for himself on a life raft. The show's ratings soon dwarfed those of Survivorman, but a backlash hit full force when word leaked that, among other things, Grylls was getting unseen help from his crew and occasionally staying in hotels rather than the makeshift shelters he'd constructed on the show. Grylls took the criticism in stride. "The hotel stuff was hard, and I was partly to blame for that," he says now. "I'd been away from my family for seven episodes, and suddenly, we were filming in Scotland, so I thought, 'I'll get them up and spend the night with them.' When all that came out, it was a massive can of worms. I look back now and think, 'That was a mistake.'"
Steve Rankin was a producer on Man vs. Wild, brought in to, in his words, "clean that mess up." Following the revelations, disclaimers were added to the broadcasts, "so there was no room for misinterpretation," says Rankin.
Man vs. Wild continued until 2011, after which Grylls moved on to a series of similarly inclined shows, including NBC's Get Out Alive and his latest, Running Wild, which features him trekking through the wilderness with a different celebrity each week. Grylls remains a piñata for criticism, particularly from other survival TV stars, who question his shows' authenticity and decry his adrenalized, Hollywood approach to survival. "There's a lot of bad survival taught in these shows," says Stroud, "and Bear Grylls's versions were some of the most atrocious versions of what you should do in survival situations."
Even Grylls admits his shows don't always promote the smartest wilderness practices. "The truth is, good survival requires you take no risks, stay put, make yourself safe, wait for rescue," he says. "But that's boring TV. I want to bring an adventure element to it, because that's what I love. Man vs. Wild was a worst-case scenario show. It wasn't a bushcraft show."
Rankin says many of the techniques Grylls demonstrated on Man vs. Wild aren't intended to be replicated by viewers. "That show was made with a view of, 'Here's the really cool stuff Bear does. Only Bear can do it, because he's Bear Grylls.' It's not like, 'Hey, anybody can do that!'"
In 2012, a 29-year-old man froze to death during a trek into the Scottish highlands, a trip reportedly inspired by Grylls's show. That same year, another reported Man vs. Wild fan disappeared in the Smoky Mountains. While it's unfair to blame Grylls or anyone else for viewers' foolishness, shows like his certainly make survival look much simpler than it is. Steve Watts, a North Carolina-based survival instructor who has been teaching outdoor skills for nearly 40 years, says he's seen TV's influence on his clients. "Some people have this idea that they'd like to be in a real survival situation," he says. "It's sort of glamorized." This can lead to unwise risk-taking, which in turn can result in situations that require expensive search-and-rescue operations, serious health consequences, and worse.
Lundin believes survival programming's influence on viewers shouldn't be underestimated. "In a real emergency situation, when people are scared for their lives," he says, "the stuff that starts coming back is what they see off television." Discovery Channel seems inclined to agree. Its 2010 special Discovery Saved My Life featured stories of real people who'd survived harrowing brushes with death thanks to tips they remembered from Man vs. Wild and other shows on the network. But if Discovery claims this kind of credit, shouldn't it also have to accept a measure of responsibility when things go bad? "The problem is dead people don't talk," Lundin says. "If this TV craze was about the medical profession, people would be in jail."
By the late 2000s, Discovery was clearly all-in on survival. Out of the Wild premiered in 2008, running for three seasons. Two years later came Dual Survival and Man, Woman, Wild, which followed a similar template but with ex-Green Beret Mykel Hawke and his wife as the two survivalists. Hawke hoped the show would be an extension of his work as a survival instructor. "I wanted the core to be teaching people," he says. "How do you pick where you're going to set up your shelter? How do you go about doing things the most efficient way without a bunch of stunts and crazy drama?"
Discovery, he claims, had other ideas. "The network didn't really appreciate that I wanted to keep it realistic and practical," he says. "I fought with them tooth and nail the first season."
But Hawke had only so much control. During planning for an early episode, he impressed upon the production company, Renegade 83, the dangers of filming in Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert. "I tried to explain, 'We cannot film in the middle of the desert in the middle of the day in the middle of the summer. Let's bring some night-vision equipment and film primarily at dusk and dawn.' They said no. They forced us to film in the middle of the day, and that's why my wife got heat stroke and nearly died." (Renegade 83 did not respond to requests for comment.)
Lundin initially agreed to do Dual Survival for several reasons: to correct what he saw as the flawed advice being offered on other shows, improve attendance at his school, and make some money. But on reflection, he thinks the show's premise was faulty from the start. It was immediately clear to him that neither of his two partners, Canterbury or Teti, knew much about outdoor survival and that their military backgrounds taught them few useful survival skills. "The military's main role is to take life. The main goal of an outdoor-survival instructor is to save life," Lundin says. "They are diametrically opposed. So Dual Survival from the get-go is a f---ed-up thing. It's like having Dual Plumbers and one of them is an electrician."
Hawke, who served 24 years in the Army, agrees. "There's a myth that military people know a damn thing about survival," he says. According to Lundin, during casting for Dual Survival, neither Original Media nor Discovery seemed concerned about the stars' qualifications. "We went for a chemistry test — not a competency test," he says. "You could know nothing about survival, but if we play well on camera, that's what they're looking for."
In Lundin's opinion, this attitude infects nearly all survival TV. Many people presented as experts simply aren't, and it's difficult, he admits, for the average viewer to know the difference. No organization bestows the title "survival instructor" on qualified individuals. But those who are credible should have extensive experience and the proper mind-set. "Any real survival instructor is a risk mitigator," he says. "Whenever you see a survival show that enhances or creates risk, you're dealing with either a phony, a fraud, or someone who's sold out for money and fame."
Despite his reservations, Lundin enjoyed shooting early episodes of Dual Survival. Though he didn't think much of Canterbury's skills, their oddball dynamic worked. But when he found that Canterbury had inflated his military record and Discovery hadn't properly vetted him, Lundin was "disgusted." "I've kept my reputation as clean as possible because people are trusting me with their lives," he says. "When I'm in the National Enquirer next to a guy with a yellow circle around his head, how would you feel?"
His partnership with Teti seemed rocky from the start. In Teti's first episode, Lundin explains why drinking your own urine is a terrible idea. Teti does it anyway. A few episodes later, in New Mexico, against Lundin's advice, Teti insists on killing a rattlesnake. Then in Hawaii, Teti kills a wild boar with a spear he made. The focus on the spectacular over the sensible wore on Lundin. Much emphasis was placed on hunting, despite the fact that, during a 72-hour survival ordeal, starvation is a virtual impossibility, so expending calories stalking big game is foolish. Reached by email, Teti admits, "You won't starve in three days, but the purpose of the show is to teach the viewer skills they'll need in the event they're caught in a real-world survival situation. Many times, that may go on longer."
As Season 4 began, Lundin and Teti continued to butt heads, but since the show was built on the idea of friction between two opposing personalities, Lundin's departure midway through the season was puzzling. Discovery and Original Media put together a "behind the scenes" episode they hoped would explain his exit. In it, Lundin was shown laughing uproariously at inappropriate moments, tossing their gear off a cliff into water, and appearing to have trouble coping with the show's rigors. His arguments with Teti were shown growing progressively fiercer, culminating in a colossal blowout in Norway that was depicted as the effective end of their partnership.
As Teti sees it, "When Season 4 kicked off, I started calling Cody out on things that I wouldn't have in Season 3 for the sheer fact I was brand new to TV and was knocking the rust off my survival skills. We're both type A personalities. Add some stress and polar opposite opinions about how one should conduct [himself] in a survival situation and you can have explosive results. I think Cody was just at the end of his rope with the show."
Lundin refers to his final episode of Dual Survival as the "defamation episode" and maintains it was edited purposefully to make him look bad. The Norway trip came on the heels of visits to Sri Lanka and Oman and was to be part of a run of four episodes scheduled back-to-back, a punishing itinerary that the network insisted on but that Lundin believes displayed a blatant disregard for the cast and crew's well-being.
In earlier seasons, they had taped only two episodes in a row, and even then, Lundin was hospitalized in Romania during Season 3 with extreme exhaustion and a respiratory infection. When he was told the workload would be doubled for Season 4, "I knew that was a bad idea." Because of the schedule, Lundin says, "injuries were much more common in Season 4." After the Norway incident, he met with the producers to discuss these problems. About a week later, he says, he was fired. (Discovery wouldn't confirm or deny the specifics of Lundin's departure.)
In early October, Teti's membership in the Special Forces Association was revoked following questions about whether he, like Canterbury, exaggerated his military experience. Only 10 people in the last 50 years have been similarly dismissed from the group. As of mid-October, plans for Teti to appear in Dual Survival's upcoming fifth season had not changed.
In the last few years, several networks have dipped their toes into the survival genre, including National Geographic (Ultimate Survival Alaska, Survive the Tribe), the Travel Channel (Lost Survivors), NBC (Get Out Alive, Running Wild), and even the Weather Channel (Fat Guys in the Woods), but Discovery is still the most deeply committed to it. Part of the disconnect between the network and folks like Lundin, Hawke, and Stroud may be the result of the culture clash that happens when television executives work with people who spend most of their time outdoors and often boast about how little they watch TV. Another issue, though, is simply differing priorities. According to Discovery's O'Neill, over the years, the network has developed some basic guidelines for survival programming. "There's a little acronym we use — CLAS: characters, location, adversity, and skills," she says. "Those four components are dialed up and down depending on the show, but they're generally core to any of the successful shows we've done." Perhaps most important is, "It has to be a brutally raw experience for viewers. They've got to understand and appreciate that that participant is being incredibly challenged by their circumstances and environment."
The network's latest survival blockbuster is Naked and Afraid, which pairs a different man and woman each episode, in a different location, attempting to endure 21 days with no clothes and only one survival item they've each brought along. Initial reaction to the show seemed to be a collective cultural groan. "I was offended reality TV had come to this," says Alison Teal. The self-styled "female Indiana Jones" was approached about appearing on the show and initially declined, but Teal says she was eventually convinced, "after about a year of communicating with them and realizing it wasn't about competition and money. It was about true survival in this very Adam and Eve way." She appeared on the third episode, surviving three weeks on an island in the Maldives with an ex-Marine.
Turning 21 days of filming — approximately 400 to 500 hours of footage, according to Mathilde Bittner, one of the show's supervising producers — into an hour-long show means leaving a lot on the cutting-room floor. The series was criticized after its 2013 debut episode when it came to light that producers had omitted footage of one participant getting food and fluids through an IV after she fell dangerously ill. Bittner, who worked on that episode, maintains that the information was left out simply because "it wasn't germane to the story," though later episodes have included medical interventions.
Despite speculation that cast members may have gotten help from the crew, efforts to ensure the experience is as brutal as it appears seem real. "Until I actually got on the island, I half expected them to hand us a hamburger on the side or say, 'You're going to die; take some water,'" Teal says. "But it was very much like being in survival jail, where you almost inadvertently stopped liking the crew because they're your prison guards. My partner and I had a conversation on Day 16 about who on the crew we were going to eat because we were so hungry."
Survivalists can quit — or "tap out" in the show's parlance — when they've had enough, but, not surprisingly, people who sign up for 21 days in the wild, naked with a stranger, can have a tendency to push themselves further than is healthy. On the other hand, sometimes producers are faced with survivalists who want to quit just a few days in. "It's very common on Day 2 or 3; people start wanting to go home," says Bittner. "A big part of what I do is remind them why they signed up, reminding them of their inner strength. When your will starts to dwindle, your mind will come up with any excuse for you to leave. You have to be good at reading them and figuring out if there's still a little bit more to them than what even they believe they are capable of. You push for that."
The real-life dangers of this scenario should be apparent. Although medics are on hand to consult, having producers — who have neither survival nor medical training and are tasked primarily with bringing back good footage — pushing survivalists to their limits could be a recipe for disaster. Already, there have been close calls. One Naked and Afraid cast member contracted malaria, spotted fever, and the bacterial infection leptospirosis; another, Manu Toigo, caught dengue fever and nearly bled to death.
Rankin, the former Man vs. Wild producer, is an executive producer of Naked and Afraid and has been in the field for roughly a dozen episodes. "Safety is always our primary concern," he says. "We conduct a thorough risk assessment of the area. We encourage the cast to get into the environment and exploit its resources without putting themselves at undue risk. Of course, we're going into environments where there are genuine hazards. We try to minimize risk but can never eliminate risk altogether."
He would know. While scouting the Costa Rica episode, Rankin was bitten by a fer-de-lance, an extremely venomous snake, and rushed to the hospital. He sustained serious damage to his foot. Had that happened to one of the survivalists at night, when crew members rest at their base camp, the result could have been fatal.
Most deaths in the wilderness are more mundane. Watts, the North Carolina-based survival instructor, says, "The No. 1 killer in the outdoors is hypothermia. You get wet, your body core drops, and you're gone. It can happen in hours." At times, weather conditions have prevented the Naked and Afraid crew from reaching the survivalists for days. Certainly, there's an argument that the cast members know the risks involved when they sign up, but isn't there something disturbing about watching a show that appears to be gambling with people's lives?
This, though, is the direction survival TV seems headed. One new show, Tethered, involves two people tied together with a rope. Other shows in various states of production include one that places contestants alone in the wilderness for six weeks, and still another hopes to send them out for six months. And National Geographic just announced The Raft, which will maroon two pairs of strangers at sea, and another show that will see if an average Joe can survive in the wilderness with an expert offering instruction through an earpiece. Hawke believes the networks have misunderstood the appeal of these shows. "People are interested in survival because they're scared of what's going on with the government, the world, the population, with diseases, so they're looking for every bit of edge and knowledge they can get," he says. "The networks view it as, 'These people want more danger, so let's give them more danger.' What they're creating is a culture that is fast heading toward films like The Running Man, where they become gladiator-style snuff films, putting people in harm's way in hopes that something will happen and they'll get big ratings."
Back at the cabin, the storm has mellowed and Lundin's sitting, eating tuna from a can. His cell phone dings and he shows me an email from a production company. "'New survival show,'" he reads. "'Does not involve nudity. Just 42 days in the wild relying on nothing but your skills, your smarts, and your will to survive.' Blah, blah, blah." He's also been approached about a show where he would lead 12 beauty queens into the wilderness wearing only their crowns and sashes. "I don't know what to say about that."
Lundin hasn't given up on survival TV altogether. Right now he's working on his own show, something he'll potentially distribute online. "I know it can work," he says. "I already have the fan base. I'll be my own network, my own production company, and partner with companies for distribution."
He says he'd consider appearing on another show where he wasn't calling the shots if he felt good about the people he was working with. The potential for TV is too great to write it off. Even for all the problems on Dual Survival, there was a silver lining. "I was teaching hundreds of thousands of people real skills," he says. "This weekend I led a course. I taught 12 people. You can only do so much hands-on." He puts down the tuna and nods toward the open doorway. "If I can be part of a show that gets kids to turn off the TV and go outside, I've done my job."
Two teenage boys who were thought to be lost at sea are recovering in a South Carolina hospital Monday after a six days adrift without food or water.
Long and his friend, 15-year-old Troy Driscoll, lost control of their 14-ft. sailboat after high winds pushed them out to sea off the coast of Charleston, S.C. on April 24. (A National Weather Service warning had been issued.) The teens survived nearly a week on the open ocean by eating jellyfish, drinking seawater – which actually advances dehydration – and praying.
"I asked God, 'If it's your will that we not live, take us home,'" Driscoll told the Associated Press. "'If not, send us a boat.'"
Though the friends spotted some passing boats during their time adrift, no one spotted them until Saturday when a fishing boat called Renegade noticed them. The friends were rescued off the North Carolina coast, more than 100 miles from where they set out off South Carolina to fish.
Severely sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted, but both boys, who are from North Charleston, S.C., were recovering Monday at the Medical University of South Carolina.
The boys said they huddled together at night for warmth and spent their days searching for help, praying and singing hymns. Though he was starving, Long refused to eat jellyfish, which Driscoll fished out of the sea.
"I saw them in the water and ate two little strings off of one and the next day I was fine," Driscoll said. "It was nasty and the aftertaste made me nauseous."
The Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources searched for the teens for several days but officials began referring to the search as a recovery operation toward the end of the week.
"I was in the Navy for four years. I was out there and I couldn't see them surviving," said Troy's dad, Tony Driscoll.
The elder Driscoll was the first person to hear from the Coast Guard that the boys had been found. "I screamed at the top of my lungs that they've got our boys," he said. "God had his angels around those boys the whole time."
Despite the ordeal, the teens they'll still go in the ocean. "I'll probably go out, but not anytime soon," Troy Driscoll said.
And it will be in a boat, Long added, "with a motor – or two motors."
The rescue Friday of 19-year-old Reshma Begum brought a boost to the workers who had spent more than two weeks pulling decaying bodies from the rubble. By Saturday, they had resumed their grim recovery task, as the death toll surpassed 1,100 in the world's worst garment industry disaster.
"We will not leave the operation until the last dead body and living person is found," said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units in charge of rescue operations.
Lt. Col. Azizur Rahman, a doctor at the military hospital where Begum is being treated, said she was exhausted and badly stressed when she was brought in an ambulance Friday afternoon. She suffered scratches, but no major injuries, he said. Her kidneys were functioning at less than 45 percent and she suffered insomnia.
"She is panicked, sometimes she holds nurses' hands tight," he said.
Doctors were giving her semi-solid food and saline for her dehydration. They advised complete rest, and barred reporters from speaking with her for fear their questions would worsen her fragile psychological state.
"We don't want those memories to haunt her now, so we are not allowing anybody to ask her anything," Rahman said, adding that a team of psychiatrists would examine her.
Nevertheless, Suhrawardy said Begum told him she was fine.
Several photographers and cameramen were allowed to take pictures of Begum on Saturday afternoon as she lay on her hospital bed. Her head was covered in a neon green scarf, and she looked tired but alert. A white sheet covered her up to her neck. She was hooked to a monitor and had an intravenous drip in her left arm.
Begum had spent 17 days in a room-like area under the rubble high enough for her to stand, surviving on dried food, bottled water and rainwater, Suhrawardy said. She got fresh air from some of the 27 air holes that rescuers had dug in the rubble. She even found cartons of dresses inside and was able to change her clothes, Suhrawardy said.
"Her return is amazing, miraculous," he said.
Begum's family said they — like many other families of workers still missing — had been losing hope of finding her alive. Her brother Zayed Islam said her relatives initially camped out at the collapse site and then moved to the hospital in the first days after the disaster, hoping to find her among the injured. Eventually, they moved to the school ground that had been turned into a makeshift morgue, so they could try to find her among the dead bodies.
Then, on Friday, they were told to come back to the hospital: She was alive.
"I just could not believe it when I saw her in the hospital," her mother, Zobeda Begum, said through tears. "My daughter has come back to me. God, you are merciful and I don't have anything else to ask for from you."
Islam said he fainted when he saw her.
"When I regained my senses, Reshma told me, 'Brother, I'm fine. Don't worry about me,'" he said.
Begum moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, 2 1/2 years ago to get a job in the garment industry and help her poor family, Islam said. She married a year ago, but her husband left her three months ago, he said.
Baby Moudud, a member of Parliament who rushed to the hospital Friday with Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, said Begum appeared traumatized but mentally strong. Hasina promised that the government would take care of her and make sure she gets another job, Moudud said. Hasina's government has come under criticism for its lax oversight over the powerful garment industry.
More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the April 24 disaster, but until Friday crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive before they heard Begum banging and saw a pipe shaking. They immediately stopped the heavy machinery clearing the rubble and used hacksaws and other small tools to free her.
Before Friday, the last survivor was found April 28, and even her story ended tragically. As workers tried to free Shahina Akter, a fire broke out and she died of smoke inhalation.
Officials said Saturday that 1,115 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the fallen Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. They said 780 bodies had been handed over to families.
The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.
Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed five garment factories in the building to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not designed to support such equipment.
The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.
The 18-year-old was discovered by chance on Saturday by two hikers who found him covered in leeches and mosquito bites and unable to stand after gangrene had started eating into his feet and lower legs.
He found “completely disorientated”, weighing just six stone and it has since been revealed the ordeal has left him partially blind.
A helicopter was sent in to winch him out of the dense bush land and fly him to hospital in nearby Hornsby.
It is believed the accountancy student had been suffering from mental health issues at the time of his disappearance.
Mr Allen’s parents had feared their son was dead after he disappeared from their home in Westleigh, north of Sydney, leaving behind his mobile phone and taking no additional clothing with him.
Despite a widespread search, no trace of him could be found.
“He was not living under any shelter and was exposed to the full conditions since he was reported missing more than two months ago,” said Glyn Baker of Hornsby police.
“Anyone who is missing for that length of time in those kind of conditions... you wouldn’t expect to see them again.”
Despite his poor condition upon discovery, the fact Mr Allen survived at all has left bush walkers and police in awe of his ability to survive without any real sustenance since November, in temperatures that have broken records and left bush fires raging across the country.
And incredibly, despite the extreme conditions, police believe Mr Allen must have deliberately avoided being seen by other hikers by keeping off well-used tracks.
“Hikers often walk along tracks in the area and we think he might have stayed hidden from them,” Mr Baker said.
He said that, because it had taken two months for Mr Allen to be found, “he must have kept out of the way of people”.
Mr Allen’s mother Deborah said that her family’s priority is “getting Matthew well” but declined to comment further.
Howard Ulrich and his son conquered Alaska’s mega-tsunami in their fishing boat by riding the highest wave ever recorded.
Dr Ulf Segerberg, the chief medical officer at Noorland's University Hospital, said he had never seen a case like it. The man had probably been kept alive, he said, by the natural warming properties of his snowed-in car which would have acted as "the equivalent of an igloo".
"This man obviously had good clothes; he's had a sleeping bag and he's been in a car that's been snowed over," said Segerberg. "Igloos usually have a temperature of a couple of degrees below 0C and if you have good clothes you would survive in those temperatures and be able to preserve your body temperature. Obviously he has managed to preserve his body temperature or he wouldn't have made it because us humans can't really stand being cooled down like reptiles, for instance, which can change the body temperature."
Two months was at the "upper limit" of what a person would be able to survive without food, added Segerberg.
Skyllberg was found emaciated and very weak by a pair of snowmobilers who thought they had found a crashed car. They dug down through about a metre of snow to see its driver lying on the back seat in his sleeping bag, according to Ebbe Nyberg, a local police officer.
"They were amazed at what they found: a man in his mid-40s huddled inside in a sleeping bag, starving and barely able to move or speak," Nyberg, working in Vaesterbotten county, was quoted as saying.
A rescuer told the local newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren: "It's just incredible that he's alive considering that he had no food, but also since it's been really cold for some time after Christmas."
Police said temperatures around Umeå had fallen to -30C. One doctor, Stefan Branth, said Skyllberg may have survived by going into hibernation mode. "A bit like a bear that hibernates. Humans can do that. He probably had a body temperature of around 31C which the body adjusted to. Due to the low temperature, not much energy was used up."
But Segerberg said he was "sceptical" of this suggestion. "We can't lower body temperature very much. A little bit we can, but if we lower body temperatures more than just a little bit, we lose consciousness and go into a coma," he said, cautioning that it was not his area of expertise.
Skyllberg is being treated in an ordinary ward in the University Hospital, where Segerberg said he was "feeling well". It was unclear how he had come to be stranded in the deserted lane.
Segerberg said that, even in a part of the world where sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow are the norm, this case was unusual. "There have been cases of people caught out in the mountains, and if they can dig themselves down in the snow they are able to survive and be found. But there must be something special in this case."
The man, from California, set out to climb Mount Sonder about 8:30am on Wednesday and was found dead about 750 metres from a carpark near ...