Brant McGee proved his manhood long before the History channel signed him up for its new survival series, “Alone.”
Debuting at 10 p.m. Thursday on History, “Alone” pits 10 men against the cold, wet wilderness of Vancouver Island, north of Seattle.
They must hunt, build shelters and live by themselves – no sound technicians, camera operators or producers around. They had to shoot their own video of their adventures, sort of a “Blair Witch Project” meets “Survivor.”
McGee, 46, grew up hunting and fishing on the North Carolina coast, then joined the Coast Guard as a helicopter rescue swimmer, one of the most rigorous jobs in the service.
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He finished his military career with the N.C. National Guard as a helicopter pilot based in Salisbury and served in Iraq. He now works for the State Department as a private military contractor in Africa.
In “Alone,” the contestants got to carry 10 items they selected from a list and their camera gear.
“They dropped us into a remote area all by ourselves,” he says. “Last person that doesn’t get on the satellite phone and call for extraction wins.”
And it’s pretty good winnings: $500,000
It was cold and rainy in the wild. McGee was in a coastal rain forest that gets 12 feet of rain annually. He was surrounded by 60-foot evergreens whose trunks were as big as a car.
“Everything is saturated,” he says.
Part of the struggle was with loneliness. Apart from producers occasionally dropping off fresh batteries for his camera gear, he lived without human contact.
“If you don’t like yourself, you’re not going to do well. When you’re truly alone and all you have is you to talk to, you start to look inward right away.”
His military training, which included arctic training and teaching pilots survival techniques, served him well, he says. He found fresh water in creeks. He made a frame shelter from canvas.
He experimented with foods at hand to supplement the rations he was allowed to bring. “It was like North Carolina except some of the critters are a little different. I tried seaweed; it reminded me of a salty watermelon rind.”
Cougars and bears were in the forest, but he never encountered any, at least while awake.
“I had a dead fish that was whole when I went to bed, and it was head and bones the next morning,” he says. “I was concerned.”
McGee’s survival advice in case you’re ever stranded comes in a monomeric device, this phrase: “Please Remember What’s First.”
P stands for protection. “Protect yourself from the rain, the environment, zombies, whatever,” he says.
R is for rescue. Try to signal a helicopter or rescuers.
W is for water. Find some. You can go a long time without food, but water is essential.
F is for food. Deal with the other three first.
“Survival is about identifying hazards and minimizing them,” he says. “What’s left over is risk.”
10 survival tools
Here are the 10 items Brant picked for his survival journey to Vancouver Island:
1. 12-by-12 ground sheet tarp
2. 550 paracord – 20 meters
4. Sleeping bag
5. 2-quart pot
6. Ferro rod
7. 300 yards of single filament line with 25 assorted hooks
8. Bow and 6 arrows
9. Extra emergency rations