In the spring of 2017, Canadian brothers Jim and Ted Baird emerged from the wilds of Vancouver Island. For more than two months, they’d survived off the land, sustaining themselves on a wriggling supply of eels, limpets and slugs. Stranger still, they’d signed-up for the experience. As contestants on History’s reality TV show ALONE, the brothers were competing to out-survive six other teams. After 75 days alone in the wild, they won, walking out of the bush $500,000 richer. Jim Baird answers our top questions.
WHERE DID YOU LEARN THE SURVIVAL SKILLS YOU USED ON ALONE?
We’ve done canoe trips in the Arctic, northern parts of British Columbia and northern Saskatchewan. Those experiences helped us deal with the most brutal winter they’ve had on Vancouver Island in 30 years.
As an expedition canoeist, you get real bush time. You have to light a fire when it’s hammering rain; you can’t just go home. Even though I might not be knapping arrowheads on those trips, I still have to rig a tight camp and sometimes even find food.
Survival, at the end of the day, is not really fun. It’s not just a physical pursuit, but a mental game—and that horizon keeps expanding the more you push on. The more you persevere, the easier it gets. You extend your breaking point further, and I think this can apply to any part of life.
YOU WERE ALLOWED TO TAKE 10 ITEMS WITH YOU. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU BROUGHT? AND WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU LEFT AT HOME?
We didn’t have anywhere to launch our bush-made boat—which Ted made from wire, sticks and a tarp—where there weren’t a million razor-sharp barnacles. It was impossible to get in and out without stabbing holes in the boat. A roll of duct tape to patch it would have been good. A case of Moosehead beer would have been better.
We did wonder if our gill net was worth the effort; it got us food, but it was so much energy to set up. It’s hard because you never know the hand you’ll be dealt in terms of a site. There could be a river with a salmon run and then you’d feel like a total idiot if you didn’t bring a net. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.
WHEN DID YOU WISH YOU WERE TRULY ALONE?
Apart from the eight days at the start when I was hiking to find Ted, we were never separated. It drives you crazy. Think about it—couples snap at each other if they have lunch late. So imagine being hungry for 75 days and in close quarters, sleeping in the same shelter. Everything is miserable, you want to go home, and then you have a difference in opinion.
People always ask Ted and I how we get along. The truth is that we don’t, but we decide, “Do you want to be angry? Or do you want to have a good trip?” We’re always able to get it out and move on.
WHY WAS RETURNING TO CIVILIZATION HARD?
It’s double torture when you get home because you can’t eat all the food you’ve been dreaming of. One bite and you’re full and want to puke. Even starting to eat all these carbs and sugars can have horrible effects. I dealt with autoimmune issues; I felt sick for three months as I was going back onto normal food. I lost 60 pounds—a quarter of my body weight—during the filming of the show.
WHAT DO YOU PLAN ON DOING WITH YOUR ALONE WINNINGS?
My wife, Tori, and I are thinking about building a house in northern Ontario. Ted bought a cigarette boat with a cheeseburger dispenser.
This article first appeared in the 2015 Paddling Buyer’s Guide. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine and get 25 years of digital magazine archives including our legacy titles: Rapid, Adventure Kayak and Canoeroots.