For the past year or so, there have been many a debate in my house centered around one question:
Given the exact same scenario, who stands a better chance at surviving? Bear Grylls, host of Man vs. Wild, or Les Stroud, host of Survivorman?
With the new season of Man vs. Wild just ending and the new season of Survivorman about to begin, I have decided to end this argument once and for all by creating a fictional scenario to see: who is the better survivor?
Before I go on, you’re probably asking “Wait a minute…this is a sports blog! What does this have anything to do with sports?” Well, two facts make the Grylls-Stroud survive-off perfectly applicable to to this piece of Internet real estate. First, the subtitle of Digital Headbutt is “A Sports Blog About Stuff…Stuff That Involves Things.” That gives a fairly wide berth of discussion. Second, writer Barnaby Conrad once said, “There are but three true sports–bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games.” (This quote is normally credited to Hemingway, but he never actually said it.) In essence, it’s not a true sport unless there is a very real chance that you could die while participating. Under this precedent, TV survivalism is definitely a sport. This challenge will also be presented in as humorous a way as possible.
On to the competition.
Bear Grylls. Host of Man vs. Wild. Former soldier in the British Special Air Services; youngest Briton ever to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest. Seen here inside a glacier in Alaska.
- Survival Strengths: Can climb just about anything; has a million ways to make a compass; very fit; willing to take a risk to survive; purposefully puts himself in worst possible scenarios in order to show his TV audience how to deal with them; unmatched intestinal fortitude; knows all of the survival techniques from the British Special Forces and the French Foreign Legion.
- Survival Weaknesses: Mother Nature will make him pay for that bravado of his; has never been truly alone in a survival situation, and thus is less cautious; somewhat of a carnivore, taking less opportunities from the plants around him; take away his flint and he might never see fire again; that barge on the river Thames isn’t exactly the best place for him to practice his skills.
- Ideal Location for Showdown: Any rough terrain where he can exploit his climbing ability.
Les Stroud. Host of Survivorman. Survival instructor from Canada, where his backyard is one of the toughest environments on Earth. Seen here here on the second biggest hunk of ice you will ever see in your life, enough ice for every margarita in the course of human civilization.
- Survival strengths: Can make a fire from just about anything; Efficient hunter and trapper; has been in many survival situations where he is truly alone; takes a more realistic approach to survival, an example more worth following; the knowledge that, no matter how much you have in terms of tools and knowledge at your disposal, the most important survival tool is to keep a cool head and not panic; he lives in Canada, for crying out loud.
- Survival Weaknesses: While Stroud is fit, his age (45) might give a physical disadvantage against Grylls; lives in Canada, and when in very warm environments (e.g. Costa Rica rainforest), he can be very much out of his element; struggles a lot more when climbing, but not having to haul camera gear might him more evenly matched; let’s face it, his show isn’t as exciting.
- Ideal location for showdown: Any location that is cold.
The Location: So, Bear’s ideal locale is a rough and rocky terrain, whereas, Les is at home in the cold. So, should we hold the Survive-Off to test their weaknesses in a hot, flat area, or or should we test their strengths in a cold, rough terrain? The biggest issue is that we cannot give either of them an advantage by choosing a location with which Bear and/or Les are familiar. This eliminates the following locations:
- Nearly all of North America
- Costa Rica
- Sahara (from Bear’s “Escape to the Legion”)
- Australian Outback
- African Savanna
- Scottish Highlands
- South Pacific Islands
This pretty much leaves us with Asia. There are plenty of harsh environments from which to choose: The Arabian Desert, the Himalayas, Siberia, the Gobi Desert, and even the Central Asian Steppes. However, for this challenge I have chosen one of the most remote areas in the developed world:
Hokkaido, Japan. An island the size of South Carolina and north of Japan’s main island of Honshu, it’s one of the most most remote areas in the developed world. more than half of Hokkaido’s population of 5 million live in the area around Sapporo, in the southwest peninsula of the island. The rest is absolute wilderness. Hokkaido has several active volcanoes within its cold, wet, and rocky forests.
The Challenge: Both Grylls and Stroud will begin from the same place, either in the north or east part of the island, and will be put at least 25 miles from shore. They must camp together for at least three days. Each player will have their own cameraman do document everything; however, they cannot interfere even if a player faces death. Hey, you got yourselves into this mess when you decided to have a survival show on the Discovery Channel; you should be able to get yourselves out! Both players will camp with each other for at least three days before going their separate ways.
You may not know much about Hokkaido, but it has one of the world’s highest concentration of bears. The volcanoes could be helpful, but both players would be doomed if one of the volcanoes erupted near them.
Just because you find civilization in Hokkaido doesn’t mean safety. Any western-looking residents are Russian spies who still believe that the Cold War is alive and kicking, and they may very well kill to keep their secret. Any Japanese looking residents are either various Anime villains or Japanese hillbillies. The only true safety is the Southwest end of the island.
Both players will choose exactly three things to bring with them, along with the clothes on their backs. Bear will have his usual knife, bottle, and flint, while Les will brings a multitool, water bottle, and the world’s most underrated survival tool: the harmonica! Because nothing says “In your face, nature” quite like an annoying musical instrument.
The Objective: First man to arrive in Sapporo alive wins. It could be in five days, it could be in five weeks, but the first man to arrive in Sapporo alive will win.
The Prize: The title of Ultimate Survivor; a 300-foot sculpture of their face on K-2; everyone on planet earth must take his survival tips as gospel from then on.
The Survive-Off will be a mini-series of sorts on Digital Headbutt, so stay tuned in the coming weeks to find out: who is the ultimate survivor?
UPDATE (7/23): I’ve set up a poll on Ballhype, so now you can vote whom you think will win the Survive-Off. If you pick right, you will win…the knowledge that you guessed correctly.
Go out and Vote for your ultimate survivor!
UPDATE #2: According to the Times of London, Bear may not be roughing it as much as we thought. Still, we are going to hold the Survive-off with the Bear whom we know, the one prepared to sleep inside a rotting deer carcass in the Scottish Highlands.
FINAL UPDATE: The Survive-Off has begun. Read day one and day two.