On the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls parachutes into remote wildernesses, from the swampy Everglades to the freezing Scottish Highlands, and finds his way out, seemingly on his own. However, in an article posted on the BBC News Web site July 24, survival consultant Mark Weinert alleged that Grylls spent some nights in a hotel during the Hawaii episode, among other solo-survival no-no's. Whatever the case, Man vs. Wild is, in my opinion, the greatest nature-survival show since Marty Stouffer's Wild America. The following is an abridged version of an e-mail interview with Grylls, which took place prior to the controversy:
SFBG How helpful do you think being a regular viewer of your show would be in a survival situation?
BEAR GRYLLS Well, hopefully it is pretty helpful! Really, the best survival advice is always to sit tight and wait for rescue. But having said that, the whole series is full of survival advice, with most of it quite out-of-the-box stuff, like using shoelaces to climb tress or drinking the fluids from elephant dung for water. I do get quite a few letters from people saying that they used something they saw me do on a show and it saved their lives. Whether they are making it up or telling the truth, I never know, but it is encouraging to read. When we first started filming, I used to think, "Will anyone ever watch this?" So it's nice that they do!
SFBG What's the one thing you'd recommend as indispensable training for anyone in terms of being able to survive in the wild?
BG Understand that survival is all about strength of mind, not body hence in so many survival epics it has often been the ladies in high heels with no skills who have been victims of airplane crashes, etc., who beat the odds, whereas their fellow male survivors with all the gear and gung ho have crumbled. Why? Because their reason for staying alive was bigger it drove them further, it made them think laterally, made them keep making decisions, never giving up and doing whatever it took to stay alive long enough to be found or get lucky. Those who stick it out are those who win.
SFBG What would you say was the single most challenging survival situation you've ever been in?
BG Losing my father when I was still young.
SFBG In this season of the show, what was the most difficult environment to survive in?
BG Scotland, ironically, was tough classified as an Arctic landscape. I was there in winter in minus-40 degrees in a storm, with very little clothing. I would have been in real trouble if I had not found a deer carcass that I could gut and sleep inside. I have just returned from the Sahara for season two, where it was 140 degrees. I definitely was on the outer limit of my endurance, I felt.
SFBG Have you ever been close to throwing in the towel and asking for assistance?
BG Well, when it has been raining for 24 hours torrentially, I am lost, with limited food and water, no tent or mosquito net, in the Amazon, and I miss my family and two boys, it is okay to have the odd moment of "What the hell I am doing here?" I am not a robot. Being away from my wife and kids is the hardest part of all this for me.
SFBG Obviously, people are fascinated by the foul things you ingest in order to stay alive. Do you have a list of the most disgusting?
BG The top list is: goat testicles, raw (just wait for the new season!), sheep eyeballs (exploding goo of gristle and blood), grubs as big as fists (yellow ooze), and raw zebra neck. But that's all for my work life. When I am home, I just love home cooking!