5 Survival Reality Show Screw Ups

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accident_truck_fear_factorReality TV shows generally tend to go two ways: Either they turn out to be partial or complete fakeries behind the scenes, or in some cases things veer a little too close to reality and people get hurt – in 2011, a contestant was involved in a massive crash on the set of Fear Factor, and that’s not the only case by far.

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

Here are some of the worst survivalist reality show screw ups yet…

1. Kid Nation

kid_nationKid Nation first aired in 2007 as a reality show by CBS, and it goes down in history as one of the worst ideas for a reality tv show ever to make it to the airwaves. The premise of the show was simple: Forty kids were placed in a reconstruction old Western town and, well, told to run it by themselves with absolutely no adult intervention. This involved all of the tasks you’d expect from keeping a town going, from milking the cows, making the food, doing the dishes and establishing some form of government. Please note that these were kids, with ages ranging between eight and fifteen.

The show was subject to serious controversy right from the beginning, and it didn’t take long before things got completely out of hand: It became a power struggle almost immediately into the show, and saw older kids heavily abusing their power. (Doesn’t that remind you of a little something called the Stanford Prison Experiment?)

There’s even someone on Reddit who says they were one of the show’s contestants.

2. Koh-Lanta

koh-lantaKoh-Lanta is better known as the French version of the popular reality show Survivor. You can check out the intro for Koh-Lanta on YouTube over here. Back in 2013, while filming a new series, contestant Gerald Babin (aged 25) suddenly got sick during the first task in Cambodia – a game of tug-of-war between teams – and then, well, died from cardiac arrest.

The season of Koh-Lanta was cancelled immediately, and it raised a lot of questions about the safety of contestants on reality shows. French authorities immediately launched an investigation into Babin’s death to see whether or not it could be ruled manslaughter.

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That, however, is not the end of the story: The show’s on set doctor (Thierry Costa) committed suicide shortly after the event, feeling – according to his suicide note – that the media attention arising from the event had brought irreparable damage to his name.

(Interestingly, this is one of two cases where a contestant has died on international versions of Survivor, and is not by any means the only occasion where contestants in any version of Survivor have been hurt enough to be removed from the game.)

3. Bear Grylls’ The Island

bear_gryllsBear Grylls is a well-known name: He’s had several of his own TV shows, written several books on his version of the art of survivalism, has the Bear Grylls Survival Academy and generally has no idea what he’s doing. (Yes, he has been forced to apologize for faking it on reality TV, and we wouldn’t trust his advice – period.) This particular mishap happened during Season 3 of The Island with Bear Grylls, a show where regular people are made to participate in survival set-ups. (That already sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?) Patrick Dauncey (then aged 19) fell off a cliff during filming – a spectacular thirty foot drop. You can see the video from The Guardian.

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Needless to say, he was airlifted to hospital – seriously injured, but it could have been worse. He can now be found on Twitter, for some reason.

That would have been the end of the story, at least until The Island with Bear Grylls got in trouble again – this time, a crocodile was stabbed to death. In another case, contestant Mike Tindall had to be…well, airlifted due to serious injury. Again. Really nice, Grylls.

Oh, and applications are open.

4. Steve Irwin

steve_irwinIt’s been more than a decade since his death, but most people still remember Steve Irwin as The Crocodile Hunter: He’s either seen as a man with a unique touch for interacting with wildlife, or someone who shouldn’t have gotten that close to wild animals in the first place. Whatever your opinion, he remains, at least, notable. While filming his tv show The Crocodile Hunter in September 2006, Irwin got a little too close to a stingray: A move which resulted in his death. It was widely publicised, and we’d be lying if we said it didn’t raise more questions about what should and shouldn’t be part of reality television.

His family continues his legacy in education and conservation. You can find the official website for The Crocodile Hunter here.

5. The Jump

jump_reality_showThe Jump is a Channel 4 (British) reality show that takes various celebrities and puts them against each other to compete in winter games-themed tasks. This sounds like a great idea until you realize just how dangerous the premise of this show could be. For example, here’s an article on The Huffington Post about how many celebrities have had to be removed from the game due to injuries…so far.

Just some of the injuries courtesy of The Jump include Beth Twiddle’s neck injury, Ola Jordan’s potentially permanent leg injury and Heather Mills’ injured thumb and leg. Surprisingly, the show made it as far as a 2017 season, with contestant Spencer Matthews taking home a prize we’re not sure should have been up for offer in the first place.

What’s the worst reality TV show injury you’ve heard of so far? How about the craziest reality show overall? Link us to it in the comments: We love getting in touch with readers!

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3 Profound Truths From History Channel’s Survival Show ‘Alone’

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3 Profound Truths From History Channel's Survival Show ‘Alone’It’s been a long time since Bear Grylls commercialized the arts of wilderness survival. But if there were one primary reason why the show eventually lost popular interest, it probably had something to do with the weakness that had been embedded in the show from the very start: the ever-present camera crew.

But that’s particularly where History Channel’s Alone shows us the true nature of what it takes, stripping away the glitz and glam, leaving only the average modern human to adapt to the harshness of the wild. There’s no camera crew.

Here are three lessons to glean from such a unique and thought-provoking gem of a television show:

No. 3 — Systems depend on systems (that depend on circadian systems).

While watching Alone, I was left with the distinct impression on how each contestant’s performances progressed from Day 1. If a contestant was not able to sustain a regular sleep pattern, then that contestant’s ability to function, critically think and maintain emotional toughness decreased significantly. Thus, shelter, bedding and warmth became a make-or-break aspect of their ability to continue.

Which leads us to the circadian rhythm. According to Psychology Today, this is how the circadian rhythm is best defined: “Often referred to as the ‘body clock,’ the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat — regulating many physiological processes.”

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PT also notes that when the circadian rhythm is disturbed, depression and bipolar disorder even can arise. However, the psychological detriment doesn’t stop there, because the longer the body is subject to sleep deprivation, the more the mind becomes unravelled. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says:

In addition to these normal fluctuations, not getting enough sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of weeks to months — has a significant effect on our ability to function. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions.

No. 2 — Physical fitness is a game-changer.

We, modern humans, have become poorly adapted to wilderness environments. Even though we may devote ourselves to living a healthy life, our muscles, joints, tendons and even equilibrium are not accustomed to some very fundamental factors. Simply put, flat and level ground puts strain on the unadapted body over time — and unless you take the time to construct them, furniture is a modern luxury that doesn’t exist out there.

Alan Kay, the winner of Season 1, knew he was getting a run for his money within minutes of starting the race [1]:

The thing that stood out to me was how hard it was to even walk in that environment. Everything is so wet and so thick that you’re burning massive amounts of energy.

By the end of the season, Kay had lost 60 pounds.

No. 1 — To break the body, break the mind.

It’s no wonder why we weren’t exactly seeing Bear Grylls as someone who accurately demonstrates the true nature of wilderness survival. Sure, even though one may have knowledge and skill, it’s the accumulation of many small stressers that leads to bigger stressers. Ultimately, Alone shows us that the greatest toll taken is on the mind, and its ability to endure sleeplessness, physical fatigue, and the vast mental abyss of total isolation.

It’s not terribly difficult to become physically fit and knowledgeable about how to survive in such environments. Instead, all of those varying stresses accumulate against that which is the most critical component in a survival situation: the mind — and more importantly, the ideas that permeate it. Once the mind believes it has finally reached a maximum stress point and begins to sustain fatal errors (such having given up hope), then the body is soon to follow.

It’s no secret that isolation can be uncomfortable, but over the course of days, weeks, months and years, the psychological toll becomes more and more severe. It even may devolve into outright hallucinations, according to an article from the BBC that discussed a woman who had endured 10,000 hours of total isolation in an Iranian prison cell. Wired Magazine also published an article discussing the effects of solitary confinement on the U.S. prison population, telling of symptoms that they describe as “universal”:

Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control.

Alan Kay: A Remarkable Mind

Thus, it’s also no wonder why Alan Kay won the first round of Alone. Out of his fellow contestants, the man wasn’t exactly the most skilled, nor was he the most fit. But what most certainly separated him from the pack was that he took good care of his mind. He kept his brain active, his ego at bay, and he regularly reminded himself of the truly simple and rather beautiful things that are common to all biological life.

A tough mind is a well-ordered mind, recognizing that true adaptation is an active state of negotiation between the man and his environment. To survive is not an act of war; it’s an act of humility and harmony, trading with — and learning from — that complex ecosystem of trees, fish, weeds, bugs, critters and morning mist they all commonly share. Alone seemed to prove that survival begins with the toughness of the mind, reinforced by the pure and simple truths that it keeps within.

[1] http://people.com/tv/alone-winner-alan-kay-shares-his-wilderness-survival-tips-ask-whats-going-to-kill-me-first-and-whats-going-to-kill-me-next/

Have you ever watched Alone? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

Worth Reading: “Survival Psychology” gives the mental baseline for survival

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BOOK REVIEW:  Survival Psychology by John Leach

One idea survival book authors may be able to agree upon is that mental attitude is critical. Countless documented cases  prove  your attitude and reaction to the situation,  not your gear, is the most important factor is staying alive.

by Leon Pantenburg

Some twenty years before the rash of “reality” or “Survival” shows, or anybody had ever heard of Les Stroud or Bear Grylls,  psychological studies resulted in a book about people’s  reactions  in emergency situations.

“Survival Psychology” by John Leach, PhD, of the University of Lancaster, England, was a groundbreaking study, that today is a reference source for many wilderness and urban survival bestsellers. If  some of Leach’s writing or thoughts sound familiar, it is because you’ve read or heard them before!

Swampy Lakes Trailhead is on the edge of thousands of acres of wilderness. Many visitors deny they will ever need emergency gear or training.

Leach studied survivors’  reactions, including those of Union prisoners at the horrific  Andersonville prison during the Civil War;  to shipwreck survivors; to people who made it through plane crashes and natural disasters. Distilled down to one sentence, here’s what Leach found: Psychological responses to emergencies follow a pattern.

One goal of  SurvivalCommonSense is to help you develop the survival mindset to stay alive. So, start with the baseline knowledge of what happens to people, mentally, in a survival situation.

Until you know what might happen in your mind, or in the heads of the people around you, there’s no way to come up with a plan to survive.

Survival situations bring out a variety of reactions – including some that make the situation worse.

Leach’s studies show that only 10 to 15 percent of any group involved in any emergency will react appropriately. Another 10 to 15 percent will behave totally inappropriately and the remaining 70 to 80 percent will need to be told what to do. The most common reaction at the onset of an emergency is disbelief and denial.

Here’s the typical disaster reaction progression, according to “Survival Psychology”:

Denial: The first reaction will probably be: “This can’t be happening to me!” But an emergency, disaster, accident or crash can happen to anyone, and it can result in a situation where your life is at risk.

This disbelief can cause people to stand around, doing nothing to save themselves. The 80 percenters in any survival situation will have to be ordered to help themselves.

Panic: Once you get past denial, there is a strong chance you may panic. This is when judgment and reasoning deteriorate to the point where it can result in self-destructive behavior. It can happen to anyone. To avert this problem, realize it may happen, and use the STOP mindset exercise.

Hypoactivity, defined as a depressed reaction; or hyperactivity, an intense but undirected liveliness: The depressed person will not look after himself or herself, and will probably need to be told what to do. The hyperactive response can be more dangerous because the affected person may give a misleading impression of purposefulness and leadership.

Stereotypical behavior: This is a form of denial in which victims fall back on learned behavior patterns, no matter how inappropriate they are. The Boss may decide to continue in that role, even though he/she has no idea of what to do. Sadly, the underling may also revert to that subordinate role, even though he/she may be better prepared mentally.

Anger: A universal reaction, anger is irrational. Rescue workers frequently come under verbal and physical attack while performing their duties.

A few years ago in Central Oregon, the Search and Rescue team rescued a man who had dumped his raft just before going over a waterfall. Miraculously, he saved himself  by clinging to a mid-stream boulder. During the whole rescue effort, the rafter denied he was in trouble. After being plucked from the rapids, he flipped off the rescuers, and walked back to the parking lot. He never thanked anyone for saving his life.

Psychological breakdown: This could be the most desperate problem facing a victim, and this stage is characterized by irritability, lack of interest, apprehension, psycho-motor retardation and confusion. Once this point is reached, the ultimate consequence may be death.

So, according to Leach, one key to a “survival state-of-mind” is to be prepared and confident that you can handle an emergency. This brings up another deadly behavior pattern: lack of preparation. People don’t prepare for emergencies (see denial), Leach writes, for three reasons: Planning is inconvenient, preparations may be costly and an ingrained folk myth says to prepare for a disaster is to encourage it.

This is all too common in Central Oregon.

Last November, I was at Swampy Lakes snow park near Bend, getting ready for a snowshoe trek. An older couple pulled up next to me, tourists, apparently, from the looks of their inappropriate clothing and rental equipment. They had no survival gear of any kind that I could see.

They struggled to put their snowshoes on, then asked if there were any maps around. I gave them one of mine, and offered to orient it for them with my compass.

They declined.

They also didn’t want the book of matches and a packet of firestarter I tried to give them. And here comes the quote that keeps the Search And Rescue teams busy:

“We’re just going out for quick outing,” the lady said. “We’re not going to do any of that wilderness survival stuff.”

…And she was absolutely right.

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