National Geographic Channel’s hit franchise Life Below Zero is returning this fall with new seasons of both the original show and Life Below Zero: Next Generation, and the schedule has been set for their returns, with both sharing the same premiere date.
Life Below Zero: Next Generation is changing its cast for its fourth season by adding two new cast members. Last season, it dropped Michael Manzo and added a new family.
Life Below Zero season 16—which is also being referred to as season 18, though on Disney+ the show has just 17 seasons listed—features the same cast members as last season.
Behind the scenes of Life Below Zero are some currently Emmy-nominated crew members: The show was nominated for three 2021 Emmys, in cinematography, editing, and sound mixing, and won two Emmys. Over its life, Life Below Zero has been nominated for 14 Emmys and won five times.
Life Below Zero’s 2021 cast
All of the seven primary cast members for Life Below Zero season 16/18 are returning. Here are their NatGeo bios, which outline what will be happening to them this season:
Sue Aikens lives 500 miles from the nearest city and 80 miles from the closest road with 83 grizzly bears as her neighbors. She is the sole owner and operator of Kavik River Camp, a base of refuge on the North Slope that she calls home. Sue is tough as nails, having survived a near-deadly grizzly bear attack but lived to tell the tale. Sue recognizes she lives in bear country; they are not in hers. In addition to her business in Kavik, she also recently purchased property of her own, a remote cabin in Chena where she spends several months out of the year. Although it is closer to the road system, Sue faces the challenges of new terrain and new threats in Chena. As she gets older, she learns the limitations of her aging body as the obstacles seem to mount. She is never one to back away from a challenge and there are always challenges in the tundra. She must always think ahead as the constant question of “what if” looms overhead. This season, Sue prepares for those worse-case scenarios by getting back to basics. She tests her ingenuity and resolve as she outfits herself with primitive tools of survival, navigates the ever-changing landscape and copes with the uncertainty of life after Kavik.
Ricko DeWilde was born and raised in the Alaskan bush, away from any form of civilization for 18 years. He is a native Athabascan and was brought up with his 13 brothers and sisters in a remote cabin his family built, 40 miles from the nearest village. After a rough transition from the village to civilization, Ricko eventually moved back to the wilderness where he feels most at home and prides himself as a family man with five kids of his own. He divides his time between a home in Fairbanks and a connection to his past at his family’s cabin in Huslia, where he must rely on his own knowledge of the land to survive. When he’s away from society, Ricko practices native traditions and ways of hunting and fishing that were passed down from a generation of elders. He is purely a subsistence hunter and takes only what he and his family need from the land. His life motto: “Every day, you work to survive.” This season, Ricko imparts his wisdom on his youngest children, teaching them how to live off the land and the importance of respecting the land at the same time. The kids learn how to hunt and trap as they strengthen the bond with their father as well as their heritage.
Chip and Agnes Hailstone live on the Kobuk River in the North West of Alaska, where they have raised their seven children. Agnes is native Inupiaq and works daily with her daughters and grandson to pass down her native culture. Both Chip and Agnes teach their daughters and grandchildren traditional and modern ways of hunting and gathering on native lands so that they will be able to provide for themselves and their future families. Part of living off the land is being ready, going with nature’s flow, weather and available materials. The Hailstones move seasonally to track down the best hunt, setting up tents in the snow or on the ice, each of them playing an active role in keeping the family alive: hunting, fishing, skinning, tanning and crafting the animal remains to trade and barter. Many of Chip and Agnes’ skills have been passed down to their children and grandchildren, giving them the ability to survive and continue to live using Inupiaq traditions. They hunt bear, caribou, bison, wolf, fox, wolverine, walrus, fish, waterfowl and seal. They use the entire animal they harvest including the skin, teeth and bones to make arts and crafts to sell. This season, the Hailstones will focus on showing their youngest children, Carol and Qutan, how to subsist on their own so that they too will be able to provide for their own families when the time comes.
Andy Bassich and Denise Becker
Andy Bassich and Denise Becker live on the Yukon River, where the only way in or out is by boat or snow machine. Andy moved to Alaska from Washington, D.C., to explore this area, which he knew little about. When Andy first arrived, this was raw land. He built his life from scratch, from a vision he had. To live and survive in the Alaskan bush, Andy learned to make something out of the raw materials provided to him in this environment. Andy hunts, harvests, grows and brews 80% of what he eats and drinks – moose, black bear, caribou, salmon, mountains of vegetables, and beer, of course. Andy’s nickname is MacGyver; his survival knowledge is largely self-taught, and he will turn his hand to anything, whether it is making his own bullets and knives or building his own house. Andy’s girlfriend, Denise Becker, is a native of Saskatchewan and a trauma nurse in Florida. As she continues to grow as a person and bush survivalist, she is now adding valuable skills and input to Andy’s life. Although she is still out of her element at times, she has settled in nicely to Andy’s way of life and continues to learn from Andy’s teachings. Although she has a long way to go to master life along the Yukon River, she believes that she is now finally at home in Calico Bluff. Both hard workers and independent thinkers, Andy and Denise rely on one another, which proves to be one of their biggest assets in their quest for an independent lifestyle. This season, they will look to improve aspects of their lifestyle so that they will hopefully secure their legacies in Alaska and be able to one day sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Jessie Holmes lives in Brushkana, Alaska, along the waterways with his trusted team of sled dogs that he has bred, raised and trained on his own. He left his home of Alabama at age 16, making his way to Alaska by jumping freight trains. In the years he’s been in the bush, Jessie has acquired many skills from Alaskan “old-timers” including carpentry, which has enabled him not only to sustain a remote lifestyle but also make a living building boats, sleds and cabins as a means of survival. Jessie strives to carry on Alaskan traditions, particularly as an avid dog musher with his sights on winning the Iditarod. However, although he originally purchased land in Brushkana for the region’s optimal dog training conditions, now that he is settling in, Jessie is beginning to think of himself as more of a survivalist than simply a dog musher. This season, Jessie continues to build on his property in Brushkana, exploring new areas of the landscape in hopes of living the life he always dreamed of: a man in the wild, surviving and thriving with his best friends by his side. This is the first real home Jessie has ever had, and he won’t be satisfied until he knows everything there is to know about how to survive in its terrain.
Life Below Zero: Next Generation season 4’s cast
Season two—or the second half of season one, depending upon how you’re counting—of Life Below Zero: Next Generation aired in 2021 and featured Johnny Rolfe, Michael Manzo, Alex Javor, Kaleb and Brittany Rowland, and Chris and Jessi Morse.
It dropped Michael Manzo as a cast member for season three, and added a new family of five: the Roach family, which includes three kids ages 5, 7, and 9.
For season four, which premieres Jan. 18, 2022, airing Tuesdays at 8, the show has added two new cast members: Robert and RJ Miller, a father-son duo; Robert’s also has a wife and daughter.
Here are Life Below Zero: Next Generation’s season 4 cast members, and their NatGeo bios:
Kaleb Rowland grew up in McCarthy, Alaska. The picturesque hamlet and old mining town sits on the South side of Kennecott Glacier, a stunning location rich with history and resources abound. When Kaleb was 19, he moved to Fairbanks to pursue a job as a commercial fisherman but quickly grew tired of the city lights and growing population, and moved back to his hometown where he met his wife, Brittany, in 2011. After getting married the next year on the Fourth of July, the couple made the decision to stay in McCarthy to raise their two young children – Gilbert, 6, and Elovie, 4. The couple has five acres of land where they are slowly building their ideal family compound. To provide his family, Kaleb works as pilot, builder and jack-of-all-trades. McCarthy is his home and his heart, and he works tirelessly to preserve the town by selflessly helping neighbors with building projects, hauling junk away and fixing cars. Brittany, who was born in Fairbanks and lived in Anchorage, admits she’s much more of a city gal but understands Kaleb must live this lifestyle in order to be happy and wants their children to grow up with the lessons and one-of-a-kind experiences McCarthy gave him as a child. Both Kaleb and Brittany want to teach their children the necessary skills so they are able to one day be self-sustaining individuals. Together the family hunts bear, moose and caribou, traps for beaver, and fishes for salmon. Brittany and Kaleb are steadfast in their plan to continue to build onto their compound in order to secure generations of Rowlands to come.
Army veteran Alex Javor, originally from Alabama, moved to Alaska six years ago after watching an episode of Life Below Zero and heard the wilds of Alaska calling, making it his ultimate dream to live a subsistence lifestyle in the remote expanse only Alaska can give. From 2013 to 2015, that dream was briefly a reality when he bought a piece of land in Bear Creek, Alaska, and successfully built a small cabin and lived off the land. He was instantly hooked with the freedom this lifestyle provided him.
After over a year of trying to survive off the land in Bear Creek, essential resources have finally run dry for Alex Javor. Before it’s too late, it is critical he use this time to move to a new, more remote location near Deadman Lake. This will not be an easy task, as Alex is starting from zero again. In order to restart his bush living, he must build a new shelter, gather wood and water, and hope to harvest fresh fish and meat. Alex has been working for years to build and hone the skills necessary for a venture like this, and now is the time to test his mettle.
The Roach Family
Chevie Roach, 37, and wife Sonta Hamilton, 34, both born and raised in Alaska, live in Shageluck, Alaska, with their three children: Emery, 5; Ryder, 7; and Sydney, 9. Chevie was born in Fairbanks, grew up in Tok and moved to Shageluck after meeting Sonta. Sonta was born and raised in Shageluck. Her parents still live there today. The couple are heavily involved in the community – Chevie is the mayor and Sonta is the schoolteacher. Chevie also runs a local store which he built himself named The Flyaway. Prior to this, Chevie was a tribal officer. Shageluck is a remote town of 80 people; the only way in or out is by boat or plane. Shageluk is an Athabascan village located on the east bank of the Innoko River, approximately 20 miles east of Anvik and 34 miles northeast of Holy Cross. The Roach family relies on subsistence activities to survive – they fish for king salmon, dog salmon and white fish in June/July. August is fall chum and silver salmon. They hunt ducks, geese, moose and black bears in the fall; and wolverine, wolves, lynx, martin, mink, otter, beaver and fox in the winter. Come spring, they hunt black bear, geese, ducks and mallards.
Chris and Jessi Morse
Native Alaskans Chris and Jessi Morse have been married for seven years. The couple, which met in school, has spent much of their time in a cabin on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska. With businesses popping up around them at record speeds and the inability to hunt, fish and live life on their own terms, their ultimate goal is to move permanently 100 miles away to their very remote cabin along the Cosna River. Realizing how expensive and challenging it is to live a complete off-grid lifestyle, the couple works various 9-to-5 jobs in the City of Fairbanks to save up and move out to their cabin and leave city life behind – for good. They reject conforming to societal norms where wealth is measured by your car or the clothes you wear. For them, wealth is determined by the fulfillment and happiness they get from living in the wild and the river cabin is exactly that. In 1974, Chris’ father spent a year building the homestead – one main cabin, a guest cabin and a bathhouse. Chris spent much of his childhood there and is now looking to continue those traditions and skills as an adult. Once at the cabin completely removed from civilization, Chris and Jessi will hunt bear, moose and caribou, trap beaver, and fish for salmon, whitefish and pike. As this cabin has only served the couple as a temporary respite from the city, this full-time move is a big step in their need to declare complete independence from the ties of the modern world. Chris and Jessi will struggle and experience growing pains in order to survive their first year out in the bush.
Originally from Chesterton Indiana, Johnny Rolfe, 36, and his dog Java live a semi-nomadic lifestyle completely off the grid with no modern utilities such as running water or electricity. He spends his spring and summer in Fritz Creek where he subsides off bear, salmon, halibut, clams, and other sea life as well as local plants and mushrooms. In the fall and winter months he can be found 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the harsh Brooks Range competing with wolves, wolverine and grizzly bears as they fight for the same food source-caribou.
Johnny fell in love with Alaska when he was just 8 years old while looking at a National Parks book he found in his parents basement. Since then, he did everything he could to make his dream a reality. But with that comes new challenges he’s never faced in the lower 48, including a grizzly bear coming into his camp and stealing his winters’ supply of caribou meat. Johnny’s goal when moving to Alaska was to never buy meat again.
He prides himself on living as minimally as possible and spending money on only what he needs. If Johnny wants something he will find a way to make it himself, an accomplished builder, Johnny is able to MacGyver anything using only primitive tools and what he can source from the land. His restless soul keeps him on the move, always looking for new land to explore and hunt and new bodies of water to fish which satisfies his pioneer spirit as well as his subsistence ways.
Robert & RJ Miller
Father-son duo, Robert, 49, and RJ, 25, have Tlingit Native heritage and live in Sitka, Alaska. Robert is a hard-working Alaskan who is a Fisheries Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service restoring salmon habitats and who has his own business hand-making and selling garments out of furs he harvests. RJ makes his money as a charter boat captain. For both, their main passion remains living a subsistence lifestyle. Robert and his wife Alycia met online, and she moved to Alaska ten years ago, after they fell in love. The couple have a 9-year-old daughter named Eva who loves coming with dad and RJ on camping trips. For Robert, wealth is being able to share food with the community, and Robert and RJ take pride in hunting to provide food for those who aren’t able to hunt, including their elders. They’ll spend weeks on end camping and boating 50 miles outside of Sitka to fulfill their subsistence needs. They must always be on the lookout; Sitka has the highest density of brown bears in the world.
This story was updated in January 2022 with Life Below Zero: The Next Generation’s new cast, and related details.