Dave Nessia obtained worldwide recognition in 2016, when he was featured in the third season of “Alone”, History Channel’s unique survival series in which the contestants are left to fend for themselves in an unforgiving wilderness area. Dave was definitely one of the favorites, and the first contestant to truly push himself to the utter limit of what was considered humanly possible.
Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah USA, the at-the-time 49-year-old bushcraft expert, mountain climber and survivalist became one of the glorious 10 to join the cast of “Alone” season three. This time the task was to somehow to survive for as long as possible in the remotest regions of Patagonia, which spans Chile and Argentina in South America.
Applying for the job
In order to even be able to participate, Dave first had to go through the selection process by the show’s producers. To accomplish this, there was a need to impress History Channel’s employees with how diverse a survival skillset he really has. Hence, Nessia submitted a video showcasing a lot of the things that he can do alone in nature.
He starts the video by introducing to the audience what his survival tools of choice are, saying ‘So the bow is my favorite weapon.’ He isn’t aiming one in the shot though, but is instead equipped with a long and pointy spear-like object, also known as the atlatl. Dave continues, saying ‘But the atlatl, it’s so much easier to set up.’ This is because the weapon functions much like an ancient Roman pilum – it’s very easy to aim and throw, usually striking with pinpoint accuracy.
After a brief text introduction by History Channel, Nessia is seen recording himself in the woods, much like the contestants are supposed to do in the show, saying ‘I used to go on a vision quest. Once every six months, I try to make it two to four days living without food and trying to figure things out.’ With this important piece of information out of the way, the producers are ensured that Dave really is all about survival in the wilderness, with ample experience that will make the filming of “Alone” both safe and educational, which is the point of the series.
He then shows a reddish plant to the camera, feeling up its leaves with a confident look on his face, saying ‘The great thing about this stuff is it’s exceptional for dysentery. Three cups of tea a day until the symptoms go away.’ This is another crucial addition to Nessia’s survival skills, since the crew can then be sure that he will fare well on his own even in the face of unforeseen illness or injury.
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To take the point home, Dave is then seen starting a fire with a stick and trekking through deep snow, stating ‘I teach skills – everything from primitive skills to bushcraft skills. I’ve used these living skills for 16 years and I’ve done 44 days in the wilderness of Utah in winter time, negative six degrees (-21 Celsius). Most of it alone.’ Of course, it helps the producers a great deal in making their decision if they know that the applicant didn’t just camp out in the woods for a few days, but has instead gone above and beyond to survive in very hostile conditions.
With his experience fully explained, Dave then went on to detail what his choice of survival equipment is, even stating that he can produce it himself, saying ‘I love making bows. I’ve made quite a few. I’ve made 20 bows and taught people to make about 40 bows.’ While not the most crucial of skills, the ability to make advanced weapons is sure to guarantee higher viewership, as the audience will be rather curious to see the process.
That being said, it’s also very important for any survivalist to know how to catch their food, and sparse forest plants are often insufficient for a diverse diet and high calorie intake, which is what truly keeps one afloat in the middle of nowhere for longer periods of time. To that extent, Dave said ‘The snowshoe hare I usually go after with snares, the squirrels I go after with a bow, and fish I get whatever way I can.’
Since fish is normally the most abundant source of creature food almost anywhere in the world, knowing how to catch it can truly make or break anyone living off the land. Nessia looks to be rather proficient at that as well, continuing with ‘I’ve been going back and forth between bow fishing and atlatl fishing. The atlatl just goes right into the water. I’m gonna go find myself a nice little spot, set up a fire, and then go cook up this fish.’
As Nessia is preparing the flame to roast his meal, he imparts another crucial lesson to the would-be survivalists and producers watching his casting submission video, stating ‘One of the most important things I’ve been learning is to keep track of your stuff. The second you lose something, it can make a tough situation a heck of a lot harder, and an easy situation tough.’
Finally, the ability to track larger animals is also a very significant skill for anyone looking to brave the wilderness. It can tell one when there’s a highly dangerous predator nearby, such as a wolf or bear, but the tracker can also glean some insight into where an invaluable food source, like a caribou, could be wading.
To show that he can recognize and track animals as well, Nessia pointed at footprints in the snow and said ‘When I was coming in, I saw a bunch of moose tracks right along here, and then I heard a stick crack – a pretty large stick. You don’t wanna dance with a moose and step on your toes.’ He apparently wasn’t going to hunt the beast that time, but simply stay away from its path. If faced with a low calorie intake, the lone survivor has to conserve as much energy as possible, meaning any kind of confrontation with an average moose could spell all sorts of trouble.
The season three incident
Nessia’s wilderness portfolio was apparently rather impressive to the producers, who thrust him into season three expecting a truly great performance. Dave didn’t really disappoint, surviving in Patagonia all alone for 73 days, at which point he became the first “Alone” cast member to be medically evacuated.
This incident took place for a number of reasons, but most of all simply because Dave was too hard on himself. After being given 33 halves of dried fish to consume freely throughout his stay in Patagonia, the bushcraft expert planned out an eating schedule that he didn’t understand was simply unsustainable.
Even though Nessia himself felt ready to continue and never asked the production team to pull him out, the regular health check-up that every contestant receives at certain times throughout the filming showed that Dave simply couldn’t go on any longer, since otherwise the producers were risking a death on their hands.
Dave decided to eat one of the 33 halves of dry fish he received only once every two days, resulting in a severely impacted metabolism and overall bodily functions. Of course, he was able to hunt other food as well, but wildlife and edible, healthy flora were simply too scarce, causing him to rely on what the team had given him beforehand.
Hence, due to all of his muscles having a lot less energy to function, Nessia’s heart followed suit, thumping at abnormally low levels. This was determined by the medical team when they realized that Dave’s blood pressure was 80/60 instead of the average 120/80, meaning that his systolic pressure was just a touch above the diastolic one.
In layman’s terms, the systolic pressure is the amount of blood pressure during a single heartbeat, whereas the diastolic is measured between two heartbeats. Systolic pressure must remain higher than its counterpart at all times if the body is to be properly fed with nutrients that are transferred by the red blood cells.
Does anyone know Dave Nessia from season 3 of Alone?
I'd love to get him on air and ask him about his experience.
— Hans Olsen (@975Hans) August 20, 2020
As a result of poor blood circulation, Dave’s organs were consistently getting far less oxygen and other valuable resources than normally required, basically putting him on the verge of death, or at least very serious issues. Nessia is lucky not to have developed conditions that come from vital organs not functioning properly for a while, such as the liver and kidneys.
Although he walked away with relative health, albeit also severe malnourishment, Dave was dissatisfied with the fourth spot in the third season, which left him primed to try again whenever he had the chance.
The return to season five
Rather impressed by Nessia’s determination and overall performance, the producers were happy to re-invite Dave to season five, at which point they gathered all of the previous well-performing contestants to give them another shot at being called the ultimate survivor, this time in the unforgiving grasp of wild Mongolia in Asia.
The filming took place in one of the best-kept wildernesses on the planet – the Khonin Nuga valley right by Northern Mongolia’s Khentii Mountains, where barely anyone had ever set foot. Aged 50 in 2018, Dave was ready to prove himself a much more capable survivalist than in season three.
However, being from the US and used to surviving in North America, the bushcraft instructor didn’t seem to be as prepared as he expected for the arid steppes of one of the most hostile regions in the world’s largest continent. There were, in fact, a number of issues that befell Nessia in Mongolia.
One such example is when he tried to hunt down an animal with one of his custom-made bows. The problem wasn’t that he missed the mark, but that he hit it inaccurately, cutting a bird’s wing clean off instead of instantly killing it, which caused the animal to suffer for at least a period of time.
Being completely isolated and left to his own devices, with no one around to comfort him, Dave soon had an emotional breakdown upon realizing what had occurred. Sitting alone in front of the camera, he said ‘I mean I’m hurting these animals, and it hurts my heart. So, do I choose to be oblivious? Do I choose to be a vegetarian? Do I choose to push the button? Or do I keep killing them? I’ve killed five grouse, a squirrel.’
It was after tallying the kill count that Dave’s feelings really took a hit. He started huffing and sniffling, saying ‘God. Man, that’s a lot of pain. That’s a lot of pain.’ Although he soon calmed down, this emotional pressure continued to mount for several days, ultimately breaking the experienced hunter, and causing him to ‘tap out’ by calling for extraction.
In History Channel’s video entitled “Alone: Dave Wants to Live (Season 5, Episode 9) | History,” the fans were shown the final end of Nessia’s journey in “Alone.” It mostly consists of Dave speaking about the whole ordeal in a calm yet hopeless manner, with everything that had happened culminating in the realization that he was relaying to the viewers.
He starts by saying ‘To not be able to feed yourself, what a difficult state to be in. My body doesn’t feel right, I’m getting cramps every day and every night. I’m depleting my body of the nutrient that’s needed. And I’ve gotta figure it out, I’ve gotta get outta this funk ‘cause I’m definitely feeling it.’
It was Dave’s 36th day in Mongolia, and he had apparently decided that, everything considered, the journey was simply enough. This time, he was wary of what pushing himself to his utmost could do in the long term, stating ‘After Patagonia, when my journey was interrupted, there was, like three months where it was difficult to digest food, like, ‘Aah, I can push myself too far,’ ‘Aah, okay, gotta be aware of my physical well-being,’ and I don’t want that to happen here.’
Being fourth yet again out of the hardy ten of “Alone” in its fifth season, Dave ultimately seemed satisfied with his decision, saying ‘I wanna just sort of walk right into the next step, and right now feels perfect. It feels good.’ With those words, he was out of both “Alone” and the spotlight.
Dave’s mysterious life in 2022
Although Dave didn’t mind filming himself over and over throughout the duration of seasons three and five of “Alone,” it seems that he’s a much more private person in reality. The only social media profiles he has are Facebook and Instagram, which also very rarely get his attention.
According to his post from 31 December 2017, a bit more than a year after dropping out of “Alone” for the second time, Dave doesn’t really care much for using the internet at all. Among other things, he wrote ‘I was thinking that the less time in front of a computer device would give me more time to experience life. (I also find myself with a bit of an addictive personality when it comes to both Movies and Facebook). So the break did clear my head a bit.’
That said, Nessia seems to be on a rather permanent break from reality, since the last time his social media came alive was an Instagram post on 18 April 2021 showcasing various hand-made trinkets with no description whatsoever. It can thus be concluded that in late 2022, Dave is either still just surviving on his own most of the time, or rarely returning to civilization to share his knowledge for some profit.