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Dec 14,2007
TV Close-Up: Bear Grylls
by Eirik Knutzen

It was just another glorious summer day off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, when master survivalist Bear Grylls was demonstrating how to survive at sea on an open bamboo raft. Spotting a group of small sandbar sharks playing in the relatively shallow water, he dived in with a small camera to record the festivities.

 
BEAR GRYLLS - Bear Grylls, the 33-year-old star of 'Man vs. Wild,' loves adventure in the great outdoors. CNS Photo courtesy of Discovery. 
Cooled off, Grylls slithered back on the raft to deliver an educational lecture on the edible creatures in the immediate vicinity.

"Having fun, I decided on one more dive just as a 17-foot tiger shark passed straight under the raft about 6 inches under the surface," explained the 33-year-old star of "Man vs. Wild," still not amused by the moment of terror.

"Already off-balance and unable to stop the dive - and completely surprised - I basically landed on top of the massive shark," he continued slowly. "It darted off, which gave me enough to time to scramble back on the raft where I peed in my trousers - for the first time ever. Then it came back to circle the raft for several minutes before getting bored and moving on."

Only weeks before the real-life "Jaws" encounter, the strapping English lad from the Isle of Wight's countryside found himself in the jungles and mangrove swamps of Panama, where the slimy mud served as a cozy home for really large alligators and extremely poisonous water snakes.

"Panama's mangrove swamps are very scary," said Grylls, who is frequently dropped in remote regions bearing only a knife, a flint and a bottle of water. "I was immediately bitten by a snake, which fortunately wasn't venomous. I got even by biting its head off and eating it on the spot. The taste was like a mix of blood, gristle and skin. It had its revenge when I had intestinal diarrhea for the next few days."

The previous week, Grylls had returned from 10 delightful days and nights in the Sahara Desert, where he was dropped by parachute into a scalding area of Morocco that reaches 130 degrees. According to military and park ranger experts, a person without water and survival skills is not expected to live past three hours.

A fast study, he already knew to wrap a urine-soaked shirt around his head to prevent heat stroke, but the news didn't get around fast enough to warn three crew members that were felled by heat and had to be evacuated to a far-flung hospital by air. Grylls also learned from a nomadic tribe how to use the carcass of a camel for food, water and shelter.

Impressed by the young adventurer and former combat survival instructor and patrol medic with Britain's elite Special Air Service - who broke his back in three places in a parachute accident in southern Africa while on leave from military duty - the Berber desert nomads rewarded the resourceful man who collected dew to wash down fresh camel spiders and scorpions with a delicacy: raw goat testicles. Possibly a Berber practical joke, Grylls vomited on camera for the first time.

The son of a lieutenant in the British Royal Marines and a business-minded mother, Grylls learned to love adventure in the great outdoors from his intrepid father. It was at the end of his dad's rope that he learned to climb mountains at the age of 5. On May 28, 1998, he became the youngest Brit at 23 to scale Mount Everest, an effort that took 90 days in weather good, bad and ugly.

In May 2007, Grylls and his crew revisited the Himalayas after 2 1/2 years of meticulous planning for him to attempt paragliding (with a 105-horsepower engine strapped to his back) from 15,000 feet, fly over the tallest mountain range in the world at around 29,000, then land at 15,000 feet - a first.

"This amazing machine was built by my co-pilot Gilo Cardozo, the unsung hero in this tale," he explained.

Before takeoff from their camp at 15,000 feet, Grylls and his henchmen had raised $1.7 million from sponsors and donors for the Global Angels, a London-based organization donating funds to the most impoverished children's charities around the world.

"They said it couldn't be done and at minus-65 degrees and some 20,000 feet, the oxygen would freeze. Any problem with oxygen under those conditions, you're unconscious in 30 seconds and dead in two minutes.

"It was an amazing experience - a dream come true - when I returned to the mountain that has been such a big part of my life from growing up to an adult," he continued. "I'll admit that my heart was going woo, woo, woo and I was dreading the morning before the flight, but once in the air ... I could see the whole Himalayas beneath and black above me. ... It was a privilege."

Very much a family man living in a converted barge on the Thames with his mountain climbing wife of 8 years, Shara, and their two boys, Jesse, 4, and Marmaduke, 1 1/2, Grylls seldom mentions his work when he gets home for rest and relaxation.

Or the recent criticism he has taken for not always sleeping in the wild, but often staying in the base camp tents housing his production crew.

"I'm not a bad, tough guy or a superhero - I'm just a man doing what he was trained to do," he explained. "My brilliant crew, including my amazing cameraman, Simon Ray, are right there with me. I think it was a mistake not telling people enough about what takes place."

© Copley News Service

4911 times read

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Did you enjoy this article? Rating: 4.92Rating: 4.92Rating: 4.92Rating: 4.92Rating: 4.92 (total 329 votes)

  • Most of the Kilauea Volcano episode was shot a few feet from the road among the tourists.
  • (Posted on January 2, 2008, 6:43 pm terry)

  • We all now know Bear Grylls = Entertainment ONLY, it’s not a real show like Survivorman! Grylls has stated numerous times on camera that he is not to receive any assistance unless his life is in danger. However, in July 2007 it was reported in the mainstream media that at least portions of some episodes were staged and that Bear did not always survive without help. One of the more serious allegations is that while Grylls claimed to be sleeping outdoors, he was allegedly sleeping in hotels (although on Jimmy Kimmel Live, before the accusations came out, Bear stated that only the cameramen were flown out at night). The Discovery Channel said that future airings would be edited to reflect such things. Other reported instances of outside influence or staged situations include the following: • Grylls admitted wearing a flotation device in the pilot episode to ride down a river in a staged shot, citing safety reasons. He claimed that he was displeased with the decision, which came from Discovery producers, and has since been able to avoid the use of such devices. • The director of the Desert Island episode, Graham Strong, noted that a diver was at hand who checked for sharks while Bear was adrift (he did not spot the tigers, only reef sharks), and that “we” beat on the raft to scare the tiger sharks away. Also, in the Copper Canyon, Mexico episode, director Scott Tankard says that the local Indian tribe, the Rarámuri Indians, acted as their guides. • According to the survival consultant for the show’s Sierra Nevada and Desert Island episodes, Mark Wienart of Lifesong Adventures, the “wild” horses in the Sierra Nevada episode were shipped in for a choreographed feature. • The Desert Island raft was not made by Bear; it was made by a team of people over a week and a half, using rope, and was dissembled for Bear to put together on camera. • Crew members simulated molten lava by using smoke machines and hot coals. The smoke machines were used to simulate poisonous sulphur dioxide, though Grylls was not in fact facing real danger. • Grylls gives the impression of being lost when he is only a few yards from tourist locations and areas of relatively heavy traffic. • Hiring a man in a bear suit because they could not get a tame bear, running the show with a “script” (with scheduled scenes such as “Scene 10 - Grizzly Attacks Camp”), pretending that a snake found dead on the side of a road was alive, eating steak inside a badger skin, and hoisting Bear into a tree to make it look like his parachute “snagged”
  • (Posted on December 16, 2007, 3:03 pm chaka)

  • The real issue with “Man vs. Wild” isn’t that it is only a depiction of survival scenarios v. real situations… the real problem is that much of the advice given by Bear is critically dangerous, and could get you killed… It is not practical or informative survival advice. The show is a farce and sham because of his poor advice that is inaccurate and dangerous.
  • (Posted on December 16, 2007, 1:37 pm Eric Neumann)

  • Its all faked and everyone knows it by now. But its still exciting watching him drink his pee.
  • (Posted on December 16, 2007, 12:37 pm hunk69er)

  • There are some shows that are so bad that you want to watch them just for a chuckle. Man v. Wild is so bad that it's not even laughable.
  • (Posted on December 16, 2007, 11:42 am frankw)

  • I usually am intrigued, entertained and enlightened by shows on the Discover Channel. But this show is ridiculous, insincere and senseless. Some of the "survival acts" are moronic. Some of the stunts are far too obviously fake. The host is a likeable guy, but I have no respect for his so-call skills in mountaineering or survival. This show hurts the integrity of the Discovery Channel. I hope this isn't the beginning of the new trend of fake shows to come. Please, keep it real.
  • (Posted on December 16, 2007, 11:31 am Kyle)

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