Bear Grylls returned to the land of fire and ice for another hour of survival in one of Earth's most hostile lands--the stark interior of Iceland where glaciers intersect with volcanic surfaces and where wind gusts rival hurricane force winds and water's below freezing. The season opened two weeks ago in Iceland, with Bear and Jake Gyllenhaal, and I wondered how a celebrity-less Icelandic adventure would be without him. Evidently, Bear and his producers shared my thoughts.
Bear's mission is simple--get to the coast of Iceland where chances for rescue are higher. The majority of Man Vs. Wild involves the sojourn to the coast of whatever country Bear's in. The show's very structured; so structured, in fact, that it's formulaic. Bear meets challenges, succeeds in the challenges, and finds shelter and enough food for a decent boost of energy. Sometimes, an episode's thirty seconds away from a conclusion before Bear finds rescue, which keeps a viewer on his or her toes. The structure works splendidly because of the variations in every episode. One week, Bear's in the jungles of Papua New Guinea; the next, he's in rugged terrain in the country of Georgia. Rescue's the capper to a great adventure but the marvel of Man Vs. Wild is in watching Bear conquer any country he's ever been in. The observation and opinion won't shatter the minds of other fans of the show because, duh, this is what Man Vs. Wild's about; however, it's worth noting that Bear endures grueling conditions for several days in every episode and emerges the victor each time--that simple truth is sometimes lost.
"Iceland Fire and Ice" is one of the more grueling episodes for Bear Grylls. His adventure on the South Island of New Zealand last week seems tamer now. Iceland's a brutal country with insane weather, consistent change in the land, glaciers and volcanoes. The country's wet. The wind's biting and unrelenting. The easiest way to the west coast of Iceland is by river and yes, they're cold. So, how did Bear do?
--Bear employs an interesting technique while walking along the surface of a glacier. The glacier has crevasses in dangerous areas so he and his camera man attach themselves to one another by rope (this isn't the interesting technique). Bear removed his socks and put them on his boots for more traction. As someone who often shoveled the driveway with just shoes on (on an icy surface), I might try out the sock technique when the snow and ice hit Philadelphia in a few months. Before he travels on the glacier, he endures hurricane-force winds that decreased the visibility to near zero. Before the first act break, Bear dug a snow bank to shield himself from the wind.
--Once he's off the glacier, he's in the center of geothermal activity. The water bubbles like water in a kettle on a hot stove. The steam reduced the visibility just like the wind and snow in the higher ground. Bear's careful. He stopped sometimes to warm his hands and body. 90% of Icelandic homes receive heat from the geothermal spots in Iceland. Iceland's among the most unstable countries in the world because it resides along a fault line that doesn't end until the South Atlantic Ocean.
--Bear faced hypothermia after he's away from the volcanic activity. The heat melted the snow away but the air and wind are cold. Bear provides a list of the effects of hypothermia, which means he's nervous. Luckily, he finds a pool of hot water amidst the glacial water of the small river. He built a small dam to keep the cool water out and bathed in the warm water. Bear asked, "what man doesn't crave a hot bath when cold?" For some time, he rests in the hot water and warms his body. The hot bath's, by far, the most fun he has in the entire episode.
--As I mentioned already, following rivers is the easiest way to the coast. Unfortunately, water falls come before rivers. Bear's relatively high still so he's faced with repelling down a water fall. He repels without an issue but he's battered by the intense water falling from above. I couldn't see Bear because of the water. His narration reveals that it took all of his strength to keep his grip on the drenched rope. From there, Bear entered a gorge and met a dead end, so he back-tracked and found his way through the gorge to open land.
--Bear's impressive, once again, with his quick-thinking. He repels twice in the episode and the skills instinctual for him. When he needs to cross a gap high above the water, he trusts fallen branches to support him as he crosses. Shelter's on the other side of the branches--a cave-like shelter. He quickly gathers materials for fire, grabs dinner (some worms) and dries off. He focuses on his feet first to avoid trench foot (trench foot will rot the skin away if left untreated). Steam rises from his feet as the fire purges the poisons. Bear offers a lesson about securing fire in cold, wet places. People need char-cloths, which can be created through burning cloth and containing the oxygen so the cloth doesn't explode with embers. Char-cloths need only one spark to create long-lasting embers.
--The Icelandic landscape's is a wonder to behold even on a television screen. Near the end of his journey, Bear treks through a seemingly endless land of moss that blankets ash land from an ancient eruption. The balls of moss are literal balls. The land resembles something from a Lewis Carroll novel. Bear uses the moss to insulate his jacket. He reminds the viewer that survival's about smarts above all else.
--Bear reached the west coast of Iceland. Again, the terrain's surreal with its black ash sand. The ocean pounds the ash and the wind pulverizes the land. Bear spots an abandoned plane and takes shelter inside, lights a fire and attempts to rest. One can't help but appreciate Bear for all that he does to entertain and educate the audience as he tries to keep warm in the cold wreckage of the plane. When darkness comes, Bear spots a light house (which means rescue) so he leaves his shelter for the promise of rescue. The end.
I've loved the locations for the three episodes this season. Iceland's a country that fascinates me; of course, I'm easily fascinated with other countries. If I could, I'd visit nearly every country in the world. Iceland, especially, is a land that captures the imagination. I doubt I'd survive the insanity that Bear did but it's an awesome country to look at.
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