With Season 5 of Life Below Zero in gear, A&E couldn’t sit back and wait. We needed to know more and find out what’s in store, so we spoke with Sue Aikens on her biggest fears and find out what it’s really like to live in extreme isolation..
Australia will be watching Season 5 of Life Below Zero soon. What can we expect from this season?
Expect a really bitter winter but then something happens that will kind of bring you to the edge of your seat and it’s a game changer for the rest of my life. Can’t give away too much information because that would be a bummer. It will definitely make people snap their heads around, it’s unexpected.
How long have you been doing this type of work and how did you first get introduced to it?
I’ve had 16 years’ experience and am going into the 17th. Prior to that I had a 400 mile trap line. I quit trapping years ago but enjoyed it.
When I was 2-3 years old in the early 60’s when you asked a little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up, you really had 2 options, wife or mother and then in the late 60’s we could be creative and say nurse or stewardess. For me it was always lighthouse keeper, sometimes I threw pirate in there, but lighthouse keeper was always the common thread and I always craved extreme isolation.
Many people thrive on interacting with others. What is it about extreme isolation that you find appealing?
If there weren’t the explorers in the world, it would still be flat. There has always been those of us who cull ourselves from the herd and march to a different tune. Being creative to me is a good thing, but the extreme isolation is just something that works for me. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me and it’s my happy place.
Can you tell me about the time you were attacked by a bear and left for dead? Has this happened more than once?
This bear was dragging a kill under my helicopter pad and burying it, and then he marked it and wandered off. When a bear does that he is letting you know that’s his kill site.
I knew this was his home territory ..so I was very careful on how I was approaching my chores.
I needed to get one more round of water out of the river and I saw an opportunity, I took the pump down there. I had my rifle, looked around didn’t see the bear; so I set the rifle down and it takes two hands to get the pump down the water through the ice. When I did that the bear was hiding so it snatched me up, dragged me and rolled me around for a while – put his jaws on my throat. I still have the marks on my head where his feet went through the skull.
When he was done.. he slipped back into the river.
I couldn’t see very well because of the blood. I got back to the dining hall and tried to call for help, but didn’t know their (the troopers) plane was down so they couldn’t come out and help. I scrubbed and sewed my head and arm and I got a rifle and went out. I knew the area of where he would be in because of how he would always run over and so I found him and shot him.
How did you become so handy and learn to fix things?
I ask. I read. I take a small motor and take it apart .. look at it and mark every step of the way and ‘go right, how is this working? what is this turning?’ and once I know that, I can put it back together and just reverse it, it’s just trial and error.
What is your biggest fear in this job?
If I had to say I was afraid of something I would say I was afraid of the dark.
You have said ‘If it hurts don’t think about it’. Is this a motto you live by?
Yes it is something to live by, even from a young age, it became apparent for me to, you know not sit there and say ouch my back hurts or my legs hurt. You can acknowledge that you have the pain but this shouldn’t stop you from being productive, so I have to look at it and go right, so the arm hurts- can I still use it? yes, keep going forward.
What question do you get asked most and what is your response?
People are surprised, they say “oh I didn’t think you liked people, I thought you were out there cause you didn’t like people”. No I love people, I’m gregarious, I love to chit chat with them. I just don’t want to live with them.
What would be your most important survival tip?
The most important tool you are going to carry in your arsenal is your brain; your mind can play tricks on you. Having a healthy mind and being brutally honest is your best bet. A pocket knife is good but won’t get you over the hurdle of how you think.
Have you seen the show ALONE? How do you think you would go on the show?
No, there’s not enough money on the planet to make me do something like that. Spiders and snakes, no thanks, not happening.
Do you have any interest in ever visiting Australia?
Absolutely, I am a curious little monkey. How do I know where I want to live if I never check things out? If I have to go off and move somewhere, I better figure out what the rest of the plan is like because I haven’t found a permanent thing yet.
Would you ever give this up? If so where else in the world would you be tempted to live?
There’s probably a million places, but I haven’t seen them yet. One day Mr Right might waltz in front of me and I might go off and do the same old thing with him, I leave the door open for everything because it is all so interesting.