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Life Below Zero

Life Below Zero

Photo Credit:  BBC Worldwide
  • Premiered: 
    May 19, 2013
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Nat Geo
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter:
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Plot Synopsis

LIFE BELOW ZERO follows six people as they battle for the most basic necessities in Alaska, the state with the lowest population density in the United States. Living at the ends of the world's loneliest roads and subsisting off the rugged Alaskan bush, they battle whiteout snow storms, man-eating carnivores, questionable frozen terrain and limited resources through a long and bitter winter. Some of them are lone wolves; others have their families beside them. All must overcome despairing odds to brave the wild and survive through to the spring. Each 60-minute episode delves deeper into the winter, following residents as they struggle in their different corners of this merciless territory to stay one step ahead of storms and predators. Money is practically worthless; food, fuel and fur are the real commodities. Experience has taught them to take a shotgun to the bathroom in case of a surprise bear attack; that the heart is the best bite of a cooked ptarmigan; and that caribou hooves make the best "mukluk" boots. The six people featured in this series are: Sue Aikens, 50, who is as tough as the grizzly bear that attacked her and left her for dead three years ago; Erik Salitan, 28, who lives 67 miles north of the Arctic Circle, residing in a primitive tent with no floor for his first two years in Alaska; Andy Bassich, 54, and his wife, Kate, who live on the Yukon River, where the only way in or out is by boat or snow machine; and Chip Hailstone, 43, and his native Inupiaq wife Agnes, 41, who live with their seven children on the Kobuk River in the North West of Alaska. LIFE BELOW ZERO returned for a new season on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on Nat Geo, with all six Alaskans returning for another year of isolation and endless work to survive the many months of winter in the Alaska bush. This winter, Sue gets the chance to face down a grizzly bear that's been taunting her camp for years, and by purchasing a new all-terrain vehicle, she navigates a hundred miles of desolate tundra in the dark and bitter temperatures. Chip and Agnes seek out new hunting grounds in time for the all-important annual moose hunt, which could yield several hundred pounds of fresh meat for their family. Andy and Kate take on an apprentice in hopes of training a whole new generation of off-the-grid pioneers, and this newbie is thrown into the deep end to learn the ins and outs of surviving off the land in the Alaskan bush. Erik returns home from guide season to his home in Wiseman, and his mission is to take down an elusive wolf whose fur could provide him the means to purchase fuel, food and other winter necessities. On Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT, Nat Geo premiered a new season of this series, using a new title, LIFE BELOW ZERO: THE THAW. After a long and relentless winter, the blossom of spring is a welcome change for Alaskans living in the bush. But for many, the end of the deep freeze doesn't mean the challenges are over; in fact, the hard work has only just begun, as they seven Alaskans deal with melting ice, rising waters, waking wildlife and low supplies. Nat Geo premiered the fourth season of LIFE BELOW ZERO on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 9pm ET/PT. In the season opener, fall season in the Arctic means the final preparation is in full swing for the long winter months ahead. In Kavik, Sue sets off on a quest for food to survive the coming freeze. In Eagle, Andy and Kate race to get their fish wheel turning before the chum salmon run hits. With their annual caribou hunt on the horizon, the Hailstones build a cache to store their meat for the season. And in Chandalar, Glenn sets out on the most critical hunt of his year as he hopes to harvest a moose that will yield nearly six months' worth of meat. Season 5 of LIFE BELOW ZERO premiered on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 8pm ET/PT on Nat Geo. In the season opener, "The Resurrection," spring arrives in Alaska, and it is time to get to work in preparation for the next freeze. After months in town recovering from her injury, Sue Aikens returns to Kavik and must deal with the damage of four months away from home. The Hailstone family sets up their camp for the summer along the Kiwalik River. In Nenana, Jessie Holmes repairs his boat for the summer fishing season ahead. And Glenn Villeneuve hunts for small springtime game in the Brooks Range. On Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 10pm ET/PT, Nat Geo premiered a new season of LIFE BELOW ZERO. In the season opener, "Unfamiliar Territory," Alaskans must harvest necessary resources in unfamiliar territories to prepare for a dark and cold winter.
Nat Geo premiered a new season of LIFE BELOW ZERO on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 8pm ET/PT, introducing a new tough Alaskan to the series, Ricko DeWilde. Premiering on the heels of winning its third consecutive Emmy one week earlier, the fall season builds to a celebration of the 100th episode milestone with a full-day marathon featuring the most popular episodes, airing on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

Each Alaskan's extreme remote lifestyle gives viewers a whole new appreciation of the word "rural." With the race against time, the Hailstones, Sue Aikens, Andy Bassich, Jessie Holmes, Glenn Villeneuve and our newest Alaskan, Ricko DeWilde, must utilize years of bush knowledge to ensure survival. In this unforgiving extremity of America, these individuals are some of the toughest in the world, and their jaw-dropping lifestyle in unthinkable circumstances never ceases to give viewers chills ... literally. ??

Sue Aikens lives 500 miles from the nearest city and 80 miles from the closest road, with 83 grizzly bears as her neighbors. She owns and operates Kavik River Camp, a base of refuge on the North Slope that she calls home. She has spent most of her life in Alaska, and loves to share the unique experience of her camp during hunting season, while the rest of the year she lives alone. Some women collect shoes - Sue collects bullets, beer, blood and guts. Although she considers the area's arctic foxes her friends, she is aware that, if something bad were to happen, there is no one to help her. Her motto: "If it hurts, don't think about it."

Chip and Agnes Hailstone live on the Kobuk River in the northwest of Alaska, where they have raised their seven children. The Hailstones move seasonally to track down the best hunt, setting up tents in the snow or on the ice, each of them playing an active role in keeping the family alive. Many of Chip and Agnes' skills have been passed down to their children, giving them the ability to survive and continue to live using Inupiaq traditions. The family that hunts together survives together.

Andy Bassich lives on the Yukon River, where the only way in or out is by boat or snow machine. Andy moved to Alaska from the Washington, D.C. area, to explore this region, which he knew little about, and wound up staying indefinitely. To live and survive in the Alaskan bush Andy learned to make something out of the raw materials available in this environment. He has a team of 12 sled dogs he uses for transportation and to work around his homestead. He hunts, harvests, grows and brews 80 percent of what he eats and drinks - moose, black bear, caribou, wolf, salmon, mountains of vegetables and beer.

Jessie Holmes lives in Nenana, Alaska, along the river with his team of 44 sled dogs that he has bred, raised and trained on his own. He left his home of Alabama at age 16, making his way to Alaska by jumping freight trains. Jessie has acquired many skills from Alaskan "old-timers," including carpentry, which has enabled him to not only sustain a remote lifestyle but also make a living by building boats, fish wheels, sleds and cabins. He relies on his neighbors of the Nenana community to trade and barter as needed, often working in exchange for materials. Training runs and preparing his dogs for the 1,000-mile Iditarod race has become his main focus to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Glenn Villeneuve is a lone, primitive subsistence hunter living in the Brooks Range by a lake that is surrounded by mountains and is a 60-mile walk to the nearest road. Glenn has truly left civilization behind, but this year will be bringing his family, including a newborn baby, into the Brooks Range so he can teach them his ways of survival. Together, they will live in a primitive cabin that has no power, no running water, and no heat except from the wood they chop. He lives 100% off the land, hunting moose, caribou, porcupine, ptarmigan and sheep, that will now support his family. He picks berries, roots and leaves, but is unable to grow his own vegetables because of the altitude at which he lives. He uses his natural surroundings, the sun and lake to track time and the seasons.

Newcomer Ricko DeWilde was born and raised in the Alaskan bush, and has lived away from any form of civilization for 18 years. He is a native Quoi Can Athabascan Indian, and was brought up with his 13 brothers and sisters in a remote cabin his family built, 40 miles from the nearest village. After a rough transition from the village to civilization, Ricko moved back to the wilderness, and prides himself on being a family man with five kids of his own. Ricko practices native traditions and ways of hunting and fishing that have been passed down from generations of elders. He's a master of his environment, using fear as a tool, even when he's face-to-face with a hungry grizzly bear. His life motto: "Every day, you work to survive."??

The season opens with two back-to-back programs:

"Tricks of the Trade" (8-9pm): Even the toughest Alaskans sometimes need a helping hand.

"Changing of the Guard" (9-10:30pm): With winter bearing down on the Arctic, Alaskans race to prepare themselves and their homesteads before the freeze overtakes the land.

Other Titles

  • Title in Nov/Dec 2014: Life Below Zero: The Thaw

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Adjacent Productions


  • - Alaska USA