Drawing on the comprehensive Serious archive, Ben Major and Polly Murray present invaluable tips for surviving the world's most remote and challenging environments.
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They've survived in some of the most extreme places on the planet -
the tops of mountains,
the highest seas,
the deepest jungles,
the hottest deserts,
and the frozen Arctic.
But these are not hardened adventurers.
They're children, aged just 12 to 15,
who've become Serious Explorers for CBBC.
Oh, my gosh!
In this Survival Special,
we'll be looking at how they coped in the awful conditions.
It hurts so bad!
From their triumphs...
I feel like the biggest man in the WORLD!
..to their occasional slip-ups.
Oh, no! Oh!
And we'll be guiding you through our top tips for successful adventure.
I'm the Serious Expedition leader, Ben Major.
And I'm the assistant leader, Polly Murray.
Stand by as we reveal the secrets of Serious Survival.
Surviving in extreme environments takes guts and courage,
but also lots of planning and experience.
So don't try ANYTHING in this programme
unless you're with experts like us.
Between them, Ben and Polly have been on expeditions
to some of the most extreme places on earth.
As a survival specialist and ex-Army officer,
Ben has had to live rough for weeks in jungles and deserts.
And Polly's the first Scottish woman
to have climbed the world's highest peak, Mount Everest.
Every extreme environment has its own particular hazards.
I didn't think it'd be this hot!
And Serious Adventurers have encountered most of them,
from seasickness out in the ocean...
Good effort, Harry. At least you got it in a bowl.
..to altitude sickness high in the mountains.
But there's one thing young adventurers worry about most.
-Not sure about going to the toilet.
-Going to the toilet in the bushes.
-Going to the toilet in a hole!
When you're at home, you don't even think about going to the loo.
On an expedition, it's a different matter.
Then you have to decide where you're going to go
and how you're going to go.
And make sure you don't mess up the environment for other people.
On a beautiful, unspoilt mountain everything that goes up
must come down, and that includes poo.
Now, what we've got to help us are...
-Is he having a laugh?!
-You need to double-bag it, these are quite thin.
Oh, that's dirty!
So the only thing that goes in here is solid.
-Er, I'm not doing it.
-Pop that on there, you've got a nice...
A kind of nice little rest and you can squat over, yeah?
-I'm not going!
-And we'll collect it on the way down the mountain.
It was a similar routine climbing the 20,000-foot
Cotopaxi in the Andes.
If you need to do a number two, this is what you do it in.
This portable device. In here, then you put it in here.
But the freezing conditions up Cotopaxi
gave Josh other concerns about going to the toilet.
Our urine dispenser...
..is outside our body. Will we have trouble?
-You're talking about your willy, aren't you?
"Urine dispenser". I've never heard it called that before.
Will you have problems with it? Be clear.
-Will it freeze? Will the urine freeze?
In the Arctic, the sub-zero temperatures meant
the adventurers didn't want to go to the toilet at all.
I have to reveal my bottom in -30!
I hate using the toilet out here.
There is no toilet, that's the thing.
You just have to crouch down and do what you have to do,
so I try and avoid it where possible.
At the beginning, I said I'd do one a week, which I've already done.
So I'm not to go again.
But after saving it up, there was relief when they finally went.
'It's day four.'
And I've just been for my first poop.
Oh, my God.
The best poop I've ever had.
Whatever the expedition, toilet trips are trickier than at home.
But you can make your life easier -
here's our top five tips for going in the wild.
Carry freezer bags.
For those beautiful places where you must take EVERYTHING out.
Be organised in the cold.
You don't want to forget your loo paper
and, at -20 degrees, get frostbite on your bum.
Don't go near rivers. You may be polluting someone's drinking water.
Burn used toilet paper. It's much more environmentally friendly.
When you've got to go, you've got to go.
Everyone's in the same boat, so DON'T hold it in.
Serious Adventurers have had to deal with some very different
extreme environments - from extreme heat in the Namibian desert...
I'm sweating sitting here. I'm not doing anything.
..to extreme cold in the Arctic.
HER BREATH SHUDDERS
To stand a chance of surviving, you've got to have the right kit.
The temperature in most freezers is about -18 degrees.
And you may have found, from taking out oven chips or even ice cream,
that you can feel it hurting your hands almost immediately.
So imagine living in temperatures much, much colder than this -
say -30, -40 degrees Celsius - day after day.
That's what the Serious Arctic team had to cope with,
so the right clothing was a matter of life and death.
And not looking after it had serious consequences.
IT CLINKS SOLIDLY
That's what I've got to wear today. I'm not kidding.
I mean, I could chop the ice up with this thing.
I could scrape it! THEY LAUGH
It's important to remember that when you're on expedition,
the kit is for protection not for fashion,
though everyone looked pretty good in their Andes horse-riding outfits.
HE SINGS THE THEME FROM THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Well, perhaps with one exception.
I'm loving these.
You look like a gorilla-gram!
Wherever you travel to,
we've got five top tips on dressing for extremes.
Test it at home.
You DO NOT want to be working out how to do up a zip at -40 degrees.
Get the right boots.
You need different boots for different environments.
Make sure they're well worn-in and REALLY comfy.
In the cold, you need lots of layers to trap the air to keep you warm.
Don't sweat in the freezing cold.
Take layers off before you get too hot,
otherwise, your sweat freezes and you get dangerously cold.
Wear a hat. In the cold, it will keep you warm.
And in the heat, it will keep you cool.
If you're going to live rough, be prepared to share your home
with the creatures that live there already.
Spiders and tarantulas are never far away in the jungle.
-Just to keep you happy... You're sleeping here?
-See all these holes here? All spiders. All spider holes.
And that night, a local tarantula came out to play.
Argh! Get it away!
We were just sat down talking and Georgia spotted
the most HUGE tarantula in the corner that I've seen before.
It's on the FLOOR! ARGH!
THEY SCREAM AND WHIMPER
Get it away! No, Polly, seriously, put it outside!
I hope nothing will get me, so I'll just stay like this.
But it's a much smaller creature that can drive you mad.
The mossies are absolutely terrible. They're flying EVERYWHERE.
Flipping MOSQUITO in my ear!
I can see about, literally, in this space here, about 100 or something.
Oh, God, I'm getting bitten alive! Bleurgh!
I'm getting bitten now. I'm getting bitten! Blubluble!
Sheesh! Stupid little things!
But they can also cause more serious problems.
For Chanelle, an allergy to mosquito bites
caused her face to swell up.
You all right?
Shall we go next door? Go and get a bit more privacy.
Have you ever had swelling in the face before?
For safety, she had to end her expedition and go home.
This was my...literally, my childhood dream to do all this.
And there are plenty of other small creatures waiting to get you..
-like blood-sucking ticks.
-Eurgh! That's mingin'!
Pick it off me!
It's really got some quite strong teeth that are locking in there.
Look at this wee boy.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
I'm frightened of them.
I don't want them to come anywhere near me.
This is a speedy one, this one.
Move this one out of the way carefully, yeah? There we go.
Yeah. Let's just move the wood and scrape them off,
just carefully pick them up.
If we try and catch all of them, we'll be here for a LONG time.
The jungle team also had to cope with leeches.
Oh, that is gross!
Eurgh! It was in my belly button!
Eurgh. I'm really sorry, I panicked.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse,
imagine finding a deadly snake under your bed.
It looks black and it looks kind of like the black mamba,
but I'm not totally sure.
That's not good, actually.
-It's very big.
-All right, let's get out of here.
I want that snake out of my house.
A local tribesman killed the venomous snake,
and retrieved its last meal -
a chicken egg!
Oh, my God!
A very uneasy feeling,
knowing that that's just been under your bed while we've been sleeping.
Which brings us to sleeping arrangements.
And Serious Adventurers have slept everywhere,
from mountaintops to caves to jungles and even glaciers.
Building a good camp is crucial to surviving.
But no-one said it was going to be easy.
With a waterproof sheet for a roof,
jungle hammocks should keep you safe and dry...
..that's if you can stay in them.
Can't wait to hear the thuds of people falling out!
-Are you all right, James?
My comfortable hammock.
Or I might just embarrass myself!
THEY ALL LAUGH
In the Arctic, the adventurers got the chance to sleep in an igloo.
But building one is a skill that takes quite a while to master.
It's not touching enough.
It's the corner. That is a corner.
Let's just try and reshape it.
Oh, it's so annoying.
Laura's getting the angle wrong,
and so all the blocks keep falling in. We're actually sleeping in it
tonight, which is a bit scary,
because all the sides keep looking like they're going to cave in.
They told us they'd be putting in a shovel
so we could dig our way out!
In such an extreme environment, you never know
what surprises the weather might throw at you.
I got a pole in my head to wake me up,
and then the whole tent,
it just came down.
The winds are blowing really hard!
The whole tent has just collapsed, and it's so horrible,
because we're just in the middle of nowhere.
I think we need to get out.
Where are we going?
It's been the most horrible night of my life.
the storm had devastated the camp.
I think we must have had 100mph gusts last night,
and some of these tents -
they've been to the Antarctic, to the North and South Pole,
and they've never had this happen to them.
It was awful.
Totally, totally awful. I hated it.
It was like all my fears into one.
If you're going to survive in any environment,
you need to know how to build a shelter.
To make a shelter, you want to find the perfect spot.
First off, try and get out of the wind and the rain.
Similarly, rivers, stay off the flood plains,
but close enough so you can get water to cook with.
And in the perfect spot, you'd have a beautiful view.
The first stage to build the shelter is to find a good solid log
to use as our cross brace for the roof of the shelter.
We've got perfect little branches
we can rest our log up against.
And if you don't have suitable branches, you can use
V-shaped sticks, which are absolutely mustard
for jamming logs in place.
The next thing we're going to need is good solid branches
to form the roof.
Use one of these every six to eight inches
all the way across the roof.
You may have holes,
and you may have to lay branches going in the opposite direction.
Don't forget the sides. The wind and wet can get you through there.
The last job now is to waterproof the whole thing.
We're going to use heather. If we were in the jungle,
we'd be using palm leaves.
You can never have too much of it. Put it on good and thick.
-As you look at it, low right.
-OK, got it.
-I think that's looking pretty good, you know.
I reckon it might be time to try it out.
Perfect timing! It's just starting to rain.
I know! Bagsy the back.
If there's one environment that gets to most adventurers,
it's being at sea.
Life on the ocean wave takes some getting used to,
from simply making a cup of tea...
..to the very cramped living conditions, and at some point,
almost everyone feels a little off-colour.
In Tanzania, the adventurers had not been at sea for long
before trouble was brewing.
I just feel really sick.
If you are feeling sick, get it over the side
and try not to get it over other people.
It's all right, it's normal. Don't worry.
I can't really stand up for more than five minutes
without having to sit down again cos I'm feeling so sick.
What I would give for us to just turn and go to land.
For the Serious Ocean team, conditions were far, far worse,
as they were sailing in some of the world's roughest seas.
Look at the horizon.
-It'll help you not feel sick.
You haven't done it yet.
-Do you feel ill?
Well, go down below and go and lie down.
And take your puke bowl and put it next to you.
I was sick, I think, six times.
David was really, really badly sick.
Oh, it's painful!
It was the most horrible experience I've ever had in my life.
Had no energy, couldn't breathe.
I was saying to myself, "I want to go home."
You end up retching cos you're just so sick,
you don't have anything to throw up.
It really was horrible.
In such dangerous seas,
surrounded by ice, the team had to learn what to do
if they had to abandon ship.
Let's go! Abandon ship. 30 seconds on deck, go, go!
Quickly. Grab your boots, on deck.
Grab anything you've got.
Move, move, move!
Just get up those stairs.
Just as in a real emergency,
the adventurers transferred to a life raft.
Oh, my God.
But being inside such a tiny space wasn't much fun.
Could you lift your foot up a second?
OK, don't bother anybody!
Just move your...
Charlotte, Charlotte. >
I know everyone's uncomfortable, but my foot's got
four people on one shin and it hurts.
They're already, after five minutes,
going, "Your leg's on my leg, nerrr."
Can you imagine spending days and days,
possibly weeks, on here, in a real survival situation?
Only good thing about this experience
is that it will end soon.
Living so close to people you barely know
is a bit like being in a pressure cooker -
sooner or later, something's got to give.
You didn't give us a chance! You just take on the role without asking.
-I'll ask if you want to.
-You didn't ask anyone!
-Of course I didn't ask anyone.
Setting sail from Chile,
the Ocean team couldn't even agree
on who would steer the boat.
I haven't even had one go...
ALL TALK AT ONCE
It was supposed to be me, then Robin, then Sibyl.
And you're just not....
We had this really pathetic argument about nothing,
about who was steering.
Why can't you have boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl?
"It's my turn to sail. It's my turn to sail.
"Why can't I sail?"
Sibyl's waited for ages.
# Shut up and drive Drive, drive, drive! #
That's so unfair. Look, Harry's going on.
I don't really care about going on.
-Let Harry on!
-WATCH THE BOAT!
Harry, look where the boat's going.
'It's only day two.'
You know, we've got another 24 days of this,
and they're bickering like anything. I mean, this boat is a nightmare.
I'm not talking to you. I'm asking nicely.
You just gave me a big lecture about not walking off
on the things I said I'd do!
They're telling me to stop shouting but I wasn't. THIS IS SHOUTING!
While boats are particularly bad for what's commonly called cabin fever,
the stress of living rough can boil over in any extreme environment.
Drives me insane!
It's the first week. I don't think it's a very good start.
There's tension...you can cut it with a knife. Watch.
MIMICS CUTTING NOISE
It's only my hand!
I just don't like her. If she comes near me today, I'll punch her.
Day 7 in the Serious Desert Diary Room.
Perry decides to slag everyone off.
Amy came back from rhino tracking today
started having a go at us all for not doing stuff and faffing around.
Well, how would she know we're faffing around
if she's not even there?
Doing funny jokes and doing impressions
and stuff doesn't build a wall.
"I'm not doing it. I'm getting out.
"I'm not doing it."
If he says one more thing about me,
I'm going to literally go over there and smash his face in.
He's talking about me now.
"I'm going as fast as I can!"
That's who I'm talking about.
She's got my head torch. >
No, Nicky, it does not have your head torch!
expeditions are packed with amazing experiences.
But wherever your adventures take you,
be it mountain or river, desert or jungle,
there's one skill everyone needs to master.
One of the most important things every adventurer needs to know
is how to build a fire.
It's often the only way to keep warm or get a hot meal.
But as the Serious Adventurers have found out,
it takes a lot of practice to get this right.
This really isn't going well for a first night out.
We can't get the fire going.
Everybody's tried and failed.
I'm beginning to get a bit worried.
I'm not sure we're actually ever going to get any food.
It must have taken about half an hour
to 40 minutes to light the fire,
is quite laughable, really.
In Tanzania, the local Mnyati tribe made it look easy,
but the secrets have been passed down over generations.
It's really difficult to get even an ember going.
When you spin the stick, it falls out of the hole
and it's just really annoying.
That's it. Go on. Get your face right down in there and blow it.
The key to lighting a fire is to be prepared.
First, you need matches or a lighter,
and just make sure that they're in a good, waterproof bag.
Start off with whatever's around you that's dry.
Moss is great,
or maybe the inside of tree bark, but also pine needles
are fantastic just to get the fire going initially.
You want to get nice, dry wood that just snaps at 90 degrees.
OK, let's go for it.
No-one said it was going to be easy.
Lighting fires is as much patience as anything else.
As you've got a bed to the fire,
you just want to start adding little twigs very slowly.
Don't try and put them all on at once.
You want to try and make a wigwam
so air can get right into the bottom of the fire.
It doesn't matter whether the fire is only this size
or massive, it's still hot.
So always take care.
Just keep blowing from quite low down,
and that just keeps the air moving,
keeping it nice and hot in the core.
Try not to be where I am, on the downwind, smoky side,
because when Polly blows, I get a face full.
Once you've got the fire established,
you want to start filling in bigger logs.
Place the ends into the bottom of the embers.
The ends of the fat logs will start turning into big, red embers,
and that's really going to be the heart of the fire to then cook on.
As these bits of wood start burning down,
you can just gradually feed them into the middle.
You don't have to mess around trying to chop wood and that kind of stuff.
So fire is nice and hot, five minutes' time,
put the pot on, ready to eat.
Once you've got the fire going,
you can get cooking.
But the extreme menu might not be to everyone's taste.
I'm not eating that. I refuse to eat that.
-Does everyone want to grab a leg?
In the Amazon, you've got to try a bit of spider leg.
Just look at it, though!
-Eurgh, it's all furry still!
I'm not eating a furry leg.
You've got to go for the furry leg.
-Oh, it's actually quite nice!
-It is, isn't it?
-Who's going to go with the...
Go on, Jamie!
Chew, Jamie, chew!
This is an absolute delicacy out here. It's called a mopane worm.
Look at it.
I can't do that, please.
Is it alive?
-I can't do it.
You've only got one chance at it!
Is it eating you?
-What does it taste like?
-Megan, you go for that one.
-Go for it.
Go for it.
Chew. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
-It tastes of mud!
It has to be done.
When am I going to get the chance to eat a worm again?
And it's not always
just bugs and creepy crawlies.
After a cull of beavers by local scientists,
the Serious Ocean adventurers found the cute creature
on their dinner menu.
-The smell's putting me off.
-It's cooked to perfection.
I agree the smell is pretty revolting, but I think
it's worth trying, because the meat is very tasty.
-And I think you'll be surprised.
-I can't even bring myself to chew that.
I expected it to be really horrible, but it's really, really nice.
It's like steak on a stick.
Which brings us to our last,
and perhaps most important survival ingredient.
Even more essential than food in a survival situation is water.
Trekking for weeks at a time makes it virtually impossible
to carry enough water for everyone.
It means you may have to utilise streams and purify water as you go.
Or look in more unusual places.
Drinkable water might be contained in a vine..
-There it is.
-There we go.
It's a really funny taste, but it's nice. Good.
Is it nice?
That could take a long time to quench my thirst.
..or even in a fish's eyeball.
This is the only part of a fish
that has fresh water in it, so in a survival situation,
you'd go to eat the eyeball.
You can chew it, yeah. Chew it and then down the hatch.
TALKS WITH MOUTH FULL
It tastes, like, bony.
This is disgusting.
It feels like I'm eating...
but it doesn't actually taste that bad, though, surprisingly.
The desert is notorious for its lack of water,
so in an emergency, desperate adventurers
have been known to try almost anything.
Where have we got water that's going to waste?
Trees, yeah. Washing.
-Now that is fun.
So, we're just going to have a go
-at seeing how we can drink our own urine.
-I'll be sick!
-That's just nasty.
To turn their wee into drinkable water,
they tried to make a solar still.
You don't want pee in there. This is your clean drinking water bottle.
The idea was that the urine in the first bottle
would evaporate in the sun, leaving
pure drinking water to collect in the second bottle.
-I've got a drop.
Oh, yeah, OK. Hang on, open them very carefully.
-Think I'm going to drink it?
-Are you crazy?
Oh, it stinks.
Perry, are you first?
It reeks, doesn't it?
-What does it taste like?
-Just tastes like water.
Dave, are you going next?
This'll quench your thirst when you're in the middle of the desert.
That is just revolting, that is.
-What does it taste like?
On each Serious expedition,
the adventurers have conquered their extreme environment
to achieve the extraordinary.
From world firsts like rounding Cape Horn...
..to summiting the 20,000 foot Cotopaxi.
They've overcome incredible hardship and their own fears...
Oh, God, no. I can't, I can't, I can't.
..making their successes all the more special,
and changing their lives forever.
Everyone back home will be, like, so proud of me.
And I'm proud of me too.
My perspective on life is going to be
Things that I found tough... it's nothing, nothing,
compared to what I've done here.
Something you never thought you'd do in a million years.
Just cherish it for the rest of your life.
It was tougher than I ever imagined it to be,
but it was all worth it. If I'm 15 now,
think of what I can achieve when I'm 30!
I'm going to be telling this story
over and over again to everybody I know
for the rest of my life.
I just want to stay longer. Please?
I just feel so privileged to have been a part of it.
This has been the best thing I've ever done
in my entire life and it'll stay with me forever.
Invaluable tips for surviving the world's most remote and challenging environments. Presented by expedition leaders Ben Major and Polly Murray, the programme covers all the main survival situations including extreme heat and cold, as well as how to deal with water, fire, shelter and toilets. Drawing on the comprehensive Serious archive, it features some of the great highs and lows - and most humorous moments - as young adventurers have attempted to cope with a range of challenges.