With the airing of the second season of the History Channel’s survival show “Alone” on April 21, Mary Kate Green joins the cast of Homerites representing their town on television.
Unlike the Kilcher’s “Alaska: The Last Frontier” or the Time Bandit crew of “Deadliest Catch” fame, which portrays people in their element, “Alone” takes Green to an empty area of Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada, with only 10 items for survival. No camera crew or other contestants were nearby for assistance or camaraderie.
Contestants on “Alone” must survive for the longest time in the space they are dropped off in while shooting their own footage with camera equipment provided by the show. Green only moved about a half mile from her original drop point, she said. There is no incentive to seek out other contestants; the last one standing is the one who takes home the large monetary prize. Last season’s winner Alan Kay won $500,000.
“Between the mountains and rivers in your own environment, there’s no way you can reach anybody else, unless you’re determined to get out,” Green said. “You don’t see anybody.”
Green was, quite literally, alone.
Despite the solitude, she was not exactly in unfamiliar territory.
“I grew up off the grid in northwestern Montana with my family. Basically all the skills from hunting to fishing to living off the land, that’s what we did,” Green said. “I didn’t have a McDonald’s burger until I was 14. My mom canned everything … that was primarily my bringing up.”
After her rural upbringing in Government, Montana, Green went on to be a wildland firefighter in Tahoe National Forest, working as part of a 21-person team for eight months “trying to beat the hell out of fires,” she said. After firefighting, Green worked construction for two years where she laid water mains underground in Sacramento, California. Her next job was also in the construction vein, working as a general maintenance technician that fabricated sheet metal in the Arctic Ocean. Now in Homer, Green works as a fitness trainer at the Alaska Training Room.
Her life full of physical labor inadvertently prepared Green, now 37, for the challenges the show presented. One of the first tasks Green faced was making fire and building a shelter in her area.
“I used a tree for a lodge pole and built a tripod on the front and threw a tarp over the top and covered it with some brush and that was about it,” Green said. “It wasn’t anything extravagant; it was definitely dry and cozy.”
Food, obviously, was another important challenge for Green to reckon with. Although one of her 10 items was 5 pounds of pemmican, an emergency ration substance made of concentrated fat and protein, she would not be able to subsist on it long enough to outlast the other contestants. Green foraged for limpets and kelp along the stream of the river, along with other vegetation. She compared it to going down to Bishop’s Beach in Homer and searching out the edible from the inedible. Though scavenging for food did not take up all of her time, there was plenty else to keep Green active throughout the days.
“There’s always something to do. It’s like when you’re at home, you don’t sit down until you go to bed, at least I don’t,” Green said. “The shelter has to be tended. The fire has to be tended. There really is no down time unless the weather’s bad and you can’t get wet, and when you’re doing that you’re making bowls or utensils. You do everything you can do to keep your mind busy. As boring as it sounds to be out in the woods, there’s definitely not a dull moment. You stay a lot busier than you think you do.”
Green first heard about “Alone” when a friend posted about watching season one and jumped at the chance to apply when casting for season two was announced. She received a call asking for footage of her out in the wilderness as a way to assess her outdoor survival knowledge and camera skills. Green had no experience with videography outside of personal video camera use, she said.
The top 20 applicants attended a week-long boot camp in New York state where Green underwent psychological and physical testing to ensure she was up for challenges the show would present. The boot camp also included hypothermia drills, shelter building and fire building assessments, Green said. Boot camp also provided Green with camera training.
Being selected as one of the 10 contestants on the show meant leaving her two daughters behind for some time. Four-year-old Boden Kate and 5-month-old Greta Tuff stayed with Green’s parents in Montana while she filmed “Alone.” Though it was difficult to be apart from her young children, Green has no regrets about leaving them for that period of time.
“I would have never left them if my mom and dad didn’t take them. Without their support I wouldn’t have been able to do it … I knew I was coming back and I knew they were in good hands,” Green said. “It’s also good to be all alone in the woods when no one’s telling you what to do, you don’t have to change diapers and you don’t have to see anyone. You can just get lost in your own headspace. I highly recommend it to everybody.”
Anna Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.