If there is one thing that could be learned from the National Geographic TCA 2014 summer press tour panel for “Life Below Zero” Season 2, it’s that very, very few people are cut out to live in the remote parts of Alaska. And those who do live there, like stars Sue Aikens, Andy Rorke and Kate Rorke, deserve a heck of a lot of respect for even just surviving.
Example 1: The most effective way to communicate with Aikens, who mans a camp solo in Kavik, Alaska, is what she calls “muck-luck messaging.” By her definition, people wander around trying to find her, leaving messages on trees and “eventually you see it on a tree posted.”
Example 2: There’s no such thing as a steady sleep schedule when the sun is always up during one half of the year and always down during the other half. “It’s very easy to wake up at 3 a.m. when the sun’s always up,” Kate admits of her summer life near Eagle, Alaska with Andy. They say they get about four hours of sleep a night during the summer with naps during the day.
Aikens, by contrast, expects to get about 45 minutes of sleep a night during those times of year that she needs to prep the camp, and live on a 36-hour schedule during the winter. “If my body says I’m tired, I’m sleeping,” she says.
For the three stars, coming back to civilization (aka Beverly Hills, Calif.) was a bit tough. They were unprepared for the noisiness of the airplane after the quietness of the Alaskan tundra, and found the flashes of color from passing cars jarring. They also were very excited about bathrooms.
“I flushed toilets — never gets old!” Aikens says with a big laugh. Kate, who notes that the bathroom at the Beverly Hilton is likely bigger than her cabin, adds, “I could live in the bathroom right there!”
Shooting in the “final frontier,” as Kate calls Alaska, provides its own filming difficulties. Cameras freeze, and sometimes shooters have to hike 16 hours a day to get their shot. Fortunately many of the crew members have experience hiking Mount Everest.
“All these crew members need to take a crash course on how we live, basically,” Andy says. “They’re pretty hearty guys and pretty driven, and they do an amazing job.”
It’s a tough life to live, and one that “Life Below Zero” isn’t the first to depict. When asked why the stars think this is a type of lifestyle that fascinates Americans, they admit it’s because others are a bit jealous of their difficult, fulfilling lifestyle.
“We live in an era of cubicle-to-garage living,” Travis Shakespeare, the SVP of Current Unscripted Programming at BBC Worldwide Productions and Adjacent Productions, says. “The people on ‘Life Before Zero’ have chosen to face great adversity even in the face of death in order to pursue their ideal vision of life.”
Aikens adds, “It’s visual, but it’s real, and people are getting the sense of what it takes to live in a remote part of America.”
“Life Below Zero” Season 2 premieres in November 2014 on National Geographic Channel.