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About the show

A battle against the elements

What does it take to survive life in an extreme environment?

Life Below Zero follows seven people as they battle for the most basic necessities in one of the least populated states in the US – Alaska.

Living in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the nearest road, they battle snow storms, man-eating bears, frozen terrain and limited resources through the long, cold and lonely winter. When spring comes, it's a race against the clock to collect enough food and supplies to see them through the next freeze.

Some of them battle the elements alone; others have their families beside them.

Only the mentally fit will be able to endure the extreme test of isolation and endless work required to survive in this remote and merciless land.

These are the stories of the everyday struggles of life below zero – where one wrong decision could cost you your life.

Facts

The word ‘arctic’ comes from ‘arktikos’, which is Greek for ‘near the bear’. It refers to the two constellations Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear), which can be seen in the northern sky.

The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude on maps of our planet.

The Arctic Circle is the farthest southern region that experiences polar day and polar night. A polar day is 24 hours of continuous daylight, and a polar night is 24 continuous hours of darkness.

Winter temperatures in the Arctic can drop to below −50 °C (−58 °F).

The position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed. This is because it directly depends on Earth's axial tilt, which fluctuates within a 2° margin over a 40,000-year period.

The land on the Arctic Circle is divided among eight countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland), and Iceland.

Very few people live north of the Arctic Circle due to the extreme conditions. Despite covering 6% of the Earth’s surface, the total population is only 4 million.

If all the Arctic ice melted, the sea levels would not rise considerably because the ice floats on the Arctic Ocean. However, if all the ice sitting on land melted, that would be a different story. Scientists predict that if Greenland’s ice sheet melted, the sea level would rise by 7.2 metres (24 feet).

Despite being the smallest of the world’s five oceans, the Arctic Ocean is larger than you may think. It spans 5.4 million square miles (14,056,000 km2) across Earth, which is almost the size of Russia.

Characters

Life Below Zero

Sue Aikens

Sue Aikens is the lone resident of Kavik, a town that lies about 32km (20 miles) from the Arctic Ocean on Alaska's North Slope. The closest city lies 805km (500 miles) to the south and the nearest road is 129km (80 miles) away. The town is only accessible by plane.

Sue has lived in Alaska for 30 years and has been the warden of Kavik River Camp for the last six. The camp is a base for hunters, hikers and researchers who wish to explore the arctic terrain.

Sue is a tough cookie. She lives alone so if the electricity generator goes down, as it often does in the extreme weather conditions, there's only her around to fix it.

Although she considers animals her friends, Sue is aware that she lives in bear country, not the other way around.

Outside of hunting season, Sue faces the freezing temperatures, penetrating winds and savage bears all alone, and realises that if something bad were to happen, there is no one to help her.

Her motto is, "If it hurts, don’t think about it." This was certainly put to the test when a grizzly bear attacked her six years ago and left her for dead – she had to sew her own head and arm together and wait for 10 days before help came.

Life Below Zero

Andy and Kate Bassich

Andy and Kate Bassich live on the Yukon River in Eagle, a town located on the southern bank and lying 9.6km (6 miles) west of the border between Alaska and Canada.

Andy moved to Alaska from Washington D.C and built his life from scratch from a vision he had. His survival knowledge is self-taught and Andy quickly acquired the skills to make his own bullets, knives, beer and build his own house.

Andy and Kate live miles off the grid and together they hunt, harvest, grow and brew 80% of what they eat and drink. Although they have solar power, they bathe in an outdoor steam bath and sauna that is heated by wood.

The couple run a survival and dog mushing school and have 26 sled dogs.

They find living in remote Alaska the best place to be and are passionate about their self-sustaining lifestyle.

Life Below Zero

Chip and Agnes Hailstone

Chip Hailstone and his native Inupiaq wife, Agnes, live with their seven children on the Kobuk River in Noorvik, north-west Alaska.

Chip grew up hunting and fishing and is a skilled hunter. He came to visit Alaska 25 years ago from Kalispell, Montana and although he did not plan to stay, he never left.

Chip’s motto is, live for the day but plan for tomorrow. Chip says that worrying is the first step to protecting himself and everyday he takes a calculated risk. Part of living off the land is being ready and going with nature’s flow, weather, and available materials.

Chip’s family moves seasonally to track down the best hunt and they each play an active role in keeping the family alive. The family use the entire animal that they harvest, even turning the skin, teeth and bones into arts and crafts that they can trade and sell.

Chip is happy to have stumbled his way into this world and call it home.

Life Below Zero

Glenn Villeneuve

Glenn Villeneuve moved from Vermont to Alaska in 2000 to pursue his dream of living close to the land. He lives in Chandalar in the Brooks Range, the northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains, lying at an elevation of 571m (1,873ft).

It's 322km (200 miles) north of the largest city, Fairbanks, and a 96km walk (60 miles) from the nearest road. Isolation comes with the territory and Glenn can often go more than four months without seeing another human.

Glenn opts for the simple life and lives in a one-room cabin with no running water. He cuts his own firewood and only uses electricity for a few items, like a satellite phone, headlamp, and camera. He travels by foot, snowshoe and canoe to hunt moose, caribou, small game and fish. He shares his hunting territory with wolves and he was once charged by a pack of 20.

Glenn values his simple lifestyle that affords him a close connection with the natural world that surrounds him.

Life Below Zero

Erik Salitan

Erik Salitan lives 108km (67 miles) north of the Arctic Circle in Wiseman – about 418km (260 miles) away from the nearest major city and 21km (13 miles) from the nearest service area.

Erik came to Alaska at the age of 18 because he did not want to get stuck in a factory job. He lived in a primitive tent with no floor for his first two years – it was simply shelter from the weather.

Nowadays Erik is a professional hunter and registered guide in Alaska. He is fully self-sufficient and personally kills every piece of meat he eats, using the remains of the animal for tools and clothing.

Erik's favourite things to do are walking around, looking at animals, climbing a hill, sitting on a mountain edge and taking in the beautiful scenery. He feels fortunate to be able to live as close to nature as he does and he enjoys his solitary lifestyle, as it gives him a chance to be alone with his thoughts.

Although not born in Alaska, Erik believes it is where he will die. He lives a modest life and Alaska presents real challenges, but Erik is living his dream. So long as he has his rifle by his side, he fears nothing.

Next on...

Episode 15, Series 6

Monday January 25 at 10:40

The Thaw: The Great Changeover

Sue rips out her old kitchen to build a new one. The Hailstones go picking for vegetables. Ricko takes his kids out for a fishing trip and Jessie goes beaver hunting. 15/22

Episode 16, Series 6

Monday January 25 at 11:35

The Thaw: The Nightmare

The Hailstones pull together to build a footbridge. Meanwhile, Jessie goes fishing while looking out for some good spruce trees and Ricko has his children over to stay plus an extra…

Episode 17, Series 6

Tuesday January 26 at 10:40

The Thaw: Treading Water

Hailstones pull together to fix their fishing net. Sue rushes to clear away a stream gathered on the surface of the airstrip runway and Jessie goes in search of some good wood to make…

Episode 18, Series 6

Tuesday January 26 at 11:30

Highways Of The Arctic

Sue goes adventuring for a bucket load of coal. The Hailstones sail back to Kiwalik with a string of new boats. Jessie chops down some trees to get him through the winter. Ricko lines…

Episode 19, Series 6

Wednesday January 27 at 10:40

Back in the Saddle

Andy returns home to pick up the pieces. Jessie must harvest salmon before the close of the fishing season. Sue searches the local waterways for winter food. The Hailstones gather key…

Episode 20, Series 6

Wednesday January 27 at 11:35

Race Against Time

Sue tracks a lone predator. The Hailstones have a chance at a key resource. Jessie builds a new cabin, and Andy fights the clock. 20/22

Episode 21, Series 6

Thursday January 28 at 10:55

No One Fights Alone

Chip Hailstone goes on a duck hunt while Agnes and the girls pick berries. Sue looks out for some caribou meat. Jessie goes looking for a big bear. Andy and Denise collect water with…

Episode 22, Series 6

Thursday January 28 at 11:45

Cost of Winter

Ricko DeWilde heads out on a proxy moose hunt. Sue Aikens builds an arctic entryway. The Hailstones pass down family fishing techniques. Andy Bassich revives his land after his injury…

Episode 1, Series 7

Friday January 29 at 10:35

Adapt or Die

Sue pursues a bear. Jessie hunts small game. The Hailstones build a sled for baby Wade. Glenn hunts a moose. 1/19

Episode 2, Series 7

Friday January 29 at 11:30

Darkness Approaches

Sue wolverine-proofs her camp. Ricko hunts Moose. Jessie rescues his boat. The Hailstones prepare for winter. 2/19

Episode 3, Series 7

Monday February 1 at 10:40

The Freeze Up

Sue searches for food. Ricko teaches his children to hunt. Jessie packs down a trail for his dogs. The Hailstones go ice fishing. 3/19

Episode 4, Series 7

Tuesday February 2 at 10:45

Weather the Storm

Sue secures her camp before a long trip. Ricko helps repair his uncle's cabin. Jessie competes in a sled dog race. The Hailstones prepare for an intense storm. 4/19

Episode 5, Series 7

Wednesday February 3 at 10:30

Hard Knocks

Sue repairs her cabin in Chena. The DeWildes set a net. Jessie spends time with his young dogs. Chip receives medical attention after an accident. 5/19

Episode 6, Series 7

Thursday February 4 at 10:30

Best Laid Plans

Sue continues to restore her cabin. Ricko travels with his son to the family cabin. Jessie gathers firewood. The Hailstones go muskox hunting. 6/19

Episode 7, Series 7

Friday February 5 at 10:30

New Horizons

Sue collects firewood. Ricko and his son Skyler go beaver trapping. Jessie explores his newly purchased land. The Hailstones move up river. 7/19

Episode 8, Series 7

Monday February 8 at 10:25

Ahead of the Game

Sue travels home to Kavik. Andy and Denise return to Eagle. Jessie prepares for the Iditarod. The Hailstones do chores in Kiwalik. 8/19

Episode 9, Series 7

Tuesday February 9 at 10:30

Arctic Discipline

Sue clears her runway of snow. Denise learns to dogsled. Jessie snares rabbits. Ricko teaches his son Skyler to hunt. 9/19

Episode 10, Series 7

Wednesday February 10 at 10:30

Ultimate Sacrifice

Sue goes ptarmigan hunting. Andy and Denise battle jumble ice. Jessie races in the Iditarod. 10/19

Episode 11, Series 7

Thursday February 11 at 10:30

Winter Inferno

Sue transports a new generator. Andy and Denise gather wood. Ricko and his kids hunt for muskrat. Chip and Agnes move camp. 11/19

Episode 12, Series 7

Friday February 12 at 10:35

Winters End

Sue hunts waterfowl. Andy and Denise fight the river breakup. Ricko and his kids hunt geese. The Hailstones hunt small game. 12/19

Episode 13, Series 7

Monday February 15 at 10:30

First Blood

Sue expands her garden. Andy and Denise hunt waterfowl. Ricko teaches his kids to hunt. The Hailstones go on an egg hunt. 13/19

Episode 14, Series 7

Tuesday February 16 at 10:45

Shock and Awe

Sue fixes her Nodwell. Andy and Denise install solar panels. Jessie repairs his boat. The Hailstones go fishing. 14/19

Episode 15, Series 7

Wednesday February 17 at 10:30

Domino Effect

Sue cleans up her river and goes fishing. Andy and Denise repair a Jeep. Jessie falls trees and prepares wood. The Hailstones build a trapping cabin. 15/19

Episode 16, Series 7

Thursday February 18 at 10:30

Bear Scare

Sue repurposes a snow melter. Ricko repairs his cabin. Jessie builds a new dock. The Hailstones go beachcombing. 16/19

Episode 17, Series 7

Friday February 19 at 10:35

New Country

Sue is out to hunt caribou. Ricko travels to a natural hot spring. Jessie moves to Brushkana. The Hailstones build a wall tent and go fishing. 17/19

Episode 18, Series 7

Monday February 22 at 10:25

Beware the Wild

Sue builds a drainage system under her runway. Ricko explores old family land. Jessie sets up camp in Brushkana. The Hailstones go boating. 18/19

Episode 19, Series 7

Tuesday February 23 at 10:25

The New World

Sue travels to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ricko hunts moose. Jessie builds a cabin in Brushkana. The Hailstones all gather in Kiwalik. 19/19

Episode 1, Series 5

Monday March 1 at 08:10

Unfamiliar Territory

With the last of the longer days coming to an end, the Alaskans must travel through unfamiliar territories and stockpile resources before the waterways freeze and winter's brutal…

Episode 1, Series 5

Monday March 1 at 13:25

Unfamiliar Territory

With the last of the longer days coming to an end, the Alaskans must travel through unfamiliar territories and stockpile resources before the waterways freeze and winter's brutal…

Episode 2, Series 5

Tuesday March 2 at 08:10

Howl of the Wild

From scouting for resources in sub-zero temperatures to hiking the countryside in search of food, those who dwell on the frontier of the Arctic must do whatever is in their power to…

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