With his new television venture ‘Missing in Alaska,’ Jax Atwell is brought back to his past, with a new sense of adventure.
With a background like the one Jax Atwell has, you’d naturally feel comfortable when tossed into the country’s final frontier, the Alaskan wilderness. A former law enforcement officer in California and Arizona, he was involved in SWAT, undercover, narcotics, and more. Eventually he started a private investigation firm and making a name for himself in the business.
That led him to be approached about joining a team of experts who would star in the History Channel‘s new show Missing in Alaska. He jumped at the chance to return to the state he lived in for five years as a youngster, and his experience as part of the show has been nothing short of an adventure.
The name Jax Atwell may not be ironed into your mind yet, but after hearing him speak, you get the feeling the guy is set up for something big.
Atwell was always an outdoor kid, grew up in a hunting household, and remembers harvesting mule deer in northern California as a youngster. He got into law enforcement at a young age, and joined a force that was a little different from others.
“The chiefs there believed in all officers being trained in investigative disciplines, which normally at a bigger department would take a decade or so to train in,” said Atwell, “So I got a real advance in my training at a very young age.”
His reputation as someone who is capable, reliable, and open to just about anything spread, and he began to look into other outlets. Without really trying or advertising, he developed a good PI business and opened a few more doors for himself. A potential return to Alaska, where he had lived from age four to nine, seemed like a chance he was willing to take.
“Getting an opportunity to go back, it has always been a hole in my life,” Atwell told us. “I just wanted to get back up there and see where I lived, and just kind of experience things. It’s amazing what you have in your mind as a kid, and just seeing it again can bring it all back.”
For those unfamiliar, Atwell gave us a primer on Missing in Alaska. It combines a few experts from different disciplines and sets them loose on some of the biggest mysteries surrounding missing persons and unsolved cases in Alaska. Atwell called it “a really unique experience.”
“They wanted to create a show with the paranormal stuff, that’s very popular out there, but they wanted to create a very investigative show,” he explained. “They had a cryptozoologist (Ken Gerhard), who was into finding Bigfoot and werewolves and stuff like that. They’re a little different than the rest of us, I don’t have anything against them and what they believe, but I’m just a very much a evidentiary kind of guy.”
The other person they brought in was Tommy Joseph, a famous Alaskan folklorist and Tlingit wood carver. He’s “a real expert in Alaskan history,” Jax said.
So where does Atwell fit into the team?
“My job on the show? They brought me in because I’m a very pragmatic person,” he said. “Show me the evidence, let’s keep it to the investigative process, let’s not get our emotions involved, and that’s why I was brought in, to keep the guys on track.”
Though he admittedly investigated things on the show he doesn’t exactly believe in, he talked about the fact that he was basically on an extreme vacation each and every day of filming.
“Getting helicoptered to the top of glaciers on tops of mountains, spelunking through ice caves, you name it, we got to experience it,” he said.
Atwell recognizes his good fortune, and realizes the fact that Alaska is on plenty of bucket lists across the sportsman community.
“One thing about Alaska, especially for anybody who loves the outdoors, especially for a man, is it just has this feeling,” he said. “Even in Anchorage, which is the largest metro area. You can see Denali out there, you can see the Sleeping Lady, you can see the phenomenal adventures that await. And the thing about Alaska for a man is you end up thinking, ‘Hey, I can make it here. I could literally walk out of here, never see anyone again, and I could survive.’ It’s a very lush, vast area, but it also has the resources that you could live off of if you really wanted to.”
The gun culture in Alaska is also in a world of its own. Atwell’s residence in Arizona makes the type of gun laws he saw up north slightly more familiar, but there was still a significant difference.
“Alaska embodies that frontier mindset of survival,” he said, “and that a gun is a tool. People were raised from a young age on how to operate guns, and how to be safe around guns. It’s not even a thought, as it is, say, in L.A. or New York, where the negative part of a gun is thought of first. It’s just part of a life. It’s just something you create your life with on a daily basis.”
So how does Atwell think that affects the overall view of gun control and gun violence in the state?
“Everyone has guns up there, and that makes it all even,” he said. “That’s why I don’t think you have very many active shooter situations in Arizona, and it’s the same thing up in Alaska. If everybody has guns, it’s probably not going to go very far.”
He personally carries a Glock, harkening back to his law enforcement days. “I like what I was trained on,” he told us. “I’m not much of a gun nut, but I am an operator. I know how to pick it up, and use it to a high degree.” He recently upgraded to a Glock 43 single stack, crediting the ammo advancements and the ability to be concealed as reasons why.
With survival instincts instilled in him at a young age while he was “growing up in the dirt,” Atwell says he felt well-prepared for his Alaskan experience but also learned a lot from his peers. At one point he helped his co-star, who severely injured himself, get out of the wilderness and on his way to a hospital. Even the Reader’s Digest version of the story he shared with us was intense.
“There’s no 911 when you’re out in the middle of nowhere in Alaska,” he said. He and Tommy carried Ken out of the woods after a bad foot injury, and had to wade him out to a boat once they made it to the coast. A five mile hike in cold, wet clothes followed, and Atwell calls it an “emotional, memorable experience.”
As far as the show goes, Missing in Alaska (in the middle of its current season) has been introduced to European markets and been sent to the History Channel’s sister station H2 for reruns, with more seasons potentially being developed. Atwell isn’t exactly sure what his future holds, but is eager to fill us in when he finds out more.
In the meantime, he’s taking a vacation. One guess as to where he’s going. If you said Alaska, you’d be exactly right.