Discover Channel's Ed Stafford survives extreme locations around the world

Discover Channel's Ed Stafford survives extreme locations around the world

A former British army captain figures out how to stay alive in the world's remotest places for TV, he says it's mainly human will

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Ed Stafford survives the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, US.
Ed Stafford survives the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, US.
Photo: Discovery Channel

Imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Food is hard to come by and unknown creatures lurk. You've got no water and no equipment. You're in your birthday suit, alone.

For most of us, this would be a nightmare, but for the star of Marooned With Ed Stafford, it's everyday business. To film the TV series, the 38-year-old explorer is dropped off in extreme locations in places such as Thailand, Australia, Rwanda and the US state of Arizona to survive for 10 days with nothing but his camera equipment.

"I'm going out into the middle of the world and doing things that are inherently very natural to humans," Stafford tells Young Post. "To have to provide your own food, to have to build your own shelter ... I think that resonates with people. I think there are lot of people who would like to experience life in a more simplistic, hand-to-mouth manner."

Being out in the wild is nothing new for Stafford. He used to be a captain in the British army, and in 2010, he became the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. His trip ended up taking two and a half years. "Of course there are caimans, alligators and electric eels and venomous snakes and that sort of thing. But actually what caused me the most problem was people," he says. At one point, mistrusting indigenous natives pointed arrows at his face, while at another, drug traffickers held him at gunpoint. One time, he was arrested for murder, another time for drug trafficking. His companion also left him after three months.

But his military training gave him with the confidence to finish the trip. "You've got it in the memory bank that you've actually been pushed harder and things have been tougher before," he says.

After selling the footage of his trip to the Discovery Channel, Stafford looked for another project. He didn't want to do another two-year expedition for two hours of footage. So, he came up the idea of Marooned.

Before filming, Stafford spends two days with the natives of the region to learn their ways of survival. "[We're] trying to think in the mindset of the locals rather than of a sort of stereotypical white explorer going into these areas. Traditionally, I suppose old British explorers would have had lots of guns and done it in quite a crude way," he says.

"I certainly did come out of the army as a stereotypical captain who was regimented and neurotic, almost, about how I pack my kit," he says.

Now he's far more relaxed and flexible. "You have to be humble, really. When you live alongside indigenous people, you have to go with the flow, do things on their time scale, and you have to have a sense of humour about it all."

Most of the time, though, Stafford was alone. "There is something extremely unsettling about being completely isolated because there's no one to turn to for any advice ... There's nobody else who's going to look after you, so you're never quite relaxed," he says. When Tom Hanks was stranded in the film Cast Away, he made a companion out of a volleyball. For Stafford, it was his camera, his "best friend who's a bit stupid" which, as well as giving him a legitimate reason for speaking out loud, provided something to focus on besides just surviving.

While Stafford thinks sometimes it may make more sense to give up when facing danger, he never actually has. "That shame, that sort of sensation of experiencing a failure, is one of the key driving things as far as I'm concerned. I'm not brave enough to [give up]."

Watch Marooned With Ed Stafford on Tuesdays 8pm on the Discovery Channel (HK Cable TV channel 53, NOW TV channel 209 and bbTV channel 313).

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
He uses his Ed to survive

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