6 Times Don Wildman Faced Danger to Get the Facts

This kind of storytelling isn't for the faint of heart.

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Don Wildman knows that Mysteries at the Museum won’t yield their secrets to just anyone — and after talking to the people who know those tales best, he jumps headfirst into his research. On these six spectacular cases, he put the “I” in “investigation” with deadly serious field work.

When He Detonated a One-Ton Bomb

At a remote explosive test lab in the desert, experts at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology conduct experiments with some of the most dangerous substances on Earth. It took hours for them to prepare a demonstration of a one-ton fertilizer bomb — and just a few seconds for Don to appreciate the devastating power of the weapon the U.S. government developed in the race to harness atomic energy and win World War II.

When He Dove Beneath an Iceberg

“I’m a pretty good diver,” Don said, “but this is a whole different thing.” The frigid waters of the North Atlantic teem with gargantuan icebergs like the one that doomed the Titanic in 1912, and their true shape and scope is only visible beneath the surface. Naturally, he suited up and plunged in to get a fuller picture of what those passengers faced.

When He Escaped From Alcatraz

Using more than 50 stolen raincoats stitched together in a triangular raft, three convicts escaped from Alcatraz, the most notorious prison in the world. If they left at just the right time and managed to paddle hard enough to counter San Francisco Bay’s deadly currents, they might have made a clean getaway — but was it really possible?  With two companions and a decidedly strong desire to avoid acquaintance with the Pacific’s sharks, Don found out for himself.

When He Confronted an Icy Abyss

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica would have been one of the most dangerous expeditions in history even if it had gone as planned, and it most certainly did not. The terrain his team faced on their final push to find rescue involved a grueling trek across the uncharted terrain on South Georgia Island, and a single step in the wrong direction would have meant instant death. Don made a mountaineering trip of his own in a similar landscape — and now knows just how crucial their last bit of luck turned out to be.

When He Explored a Bootlegger’s Hideout

Dutch Schultz and his team of bootleggers mastered the art of bootlegging liquor for speakeasies from New York to Chicago by operating a secret distillery in the Catskills...underground. His covert operation had a brilliant but harrowing exit strategy: A series of cramped tunnels led from the illegal manufacturing site to the surrounding countryside, which would enable escape in the event of a raid. Don learned the hard way that making that escape was easier said than done.  

When He Was Buried Alive

In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the mountains between Argentina and Chile. In below-freezing temperatures, the survivors awaited rescue in a makeshift shelter built in the fuselage. Their desperate situation grew even worse a few days later, when an avalanche roared down the mountain. Don can now describe the shock of being immobilized and virtually helpless quite well: The trained mountaineer who put his skills to the test in their simulated rescue didn’t know ahead of time where he was hidden beneath the snow.

Follow Don on his next adventure when Mysteries at the Museum: American Mobster premieres Thursday, Feb. 1 at 9|8c.

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