Dec 4, 2017
Marooned by Ed Stafford
Without much to do in Ubay, I sometimes default to watching Discovery/Nat Geo programs on tv - What on Earth, NASA's Unexplained Files and Marooned by Ed Stafford. Ed's claim to fame was being the first ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon River in 2010. At the apparent level, there isn't much to celebrate about Ed. He doesn't have the killer looks of a movie star, he doesn't have a commanding modulated voice of a news anchor and he doesn't have the physique of a body builder. But he grows on you. There's something real about him. Ed doesn't play for the camera or for his audience. What you see is the inner mental chatter going on inside his head as he struggles through his ordeals. Some challenges come out pretty easy and some are excruciatingly difficult.
Ed had an episode done in Coron, Philippines. He was left on a secluded small beach in a limestone island. He survived and thrived for the next 10 days using brilliant approaches. He used a nail to break the bottom of a glass bottle, which he used as a magnifying glass to create fire from the sun. He cut a soda plastic bottle into 2, reversed the position of the spout and put them back to make a fish trap. Without a hook, he devised a snap mechanism baited with clam meat, to catch big fish. He goes inside a cave and gets a bird's nest which he made soup with. I particularly like this episode for 2 reasons:
- I had been in Coron many times. I always imagine how I could survive there on my own. Now I actually see Ed Stafford faced by the same challenges and how he dealt with it. That's like having him for a personal teacher on a specific challenge. I learned a lot.
I used to like Bear Grylls when he was the only deal in town. But when fame happened to him, I learned that after a day's shooting, he retires to his comfortable hotel and returns the following day to resume shooting. Perhaps before he became a celebrity, he was just as hardcore. But with newfound wealth, it doesn't seem necessary for him to take the same risks or discomfort. It's no longer credible to me. In his episodes, I don't see the mental agony and emotional turbulence that happens when you are really committed to the challenges in its entirety. But I give him credit for spawning this survival tv genre.
There has been a few offshoots of this series, all starring Ed Stafford - Left for Dead and Into the Unknown.
Ed Stafford is not the only survivor on tv. After Bear Grylls, there have been countless programs with different permutations - tethered together, husband and wife, military and a naturalist, tribal vote-out elimination, etc. What I love about this program is that it is real - it doesn't only show the physical hardship but the emotional and mental toll it exacts on Ed. The mind games, the negative self-talk when things are gloomy, the emotional roller coaster ride from extreme drought to finding water, etc. He takes me with him on his ordeals - I get to go inside his head. I don't think he'll become another Bear Grylls because he doesn't have the movie-star looks, which assures me that he'll always be genuine.
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