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Antarctica 2013: Speed Attempt Round 2 Underway And Blue Ice On Beardmore

Friday, 6 December 2013

The very active week in the Antarctic continues today with teams making slow, but steady, progress across the frozen continent. Everyone seems to be falling into a rhythm now and even the weather seems to have improved. But, as with all extreme environments, that can change quickly and no one seems to be getting too complacent with the current conditions.

As expected, Richard Parks relaunched his bid to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole yesterday. He reports that he faced a strong headwind for most of the day, and of course he is skiing up hill at the moment. Still, Parks managed to cover 31.5 km (19 miles), which is a solid start for his speed attempt. He'll need to pick up the pace in the days ahead, but for now he seems content with his progress. Just 1118.5 km (696 miles) to go and the clock continues to tick.

Jumping over to the Beardmore Glacier, the Scott Expedition has been forced to abandon their skis for now and don crampons instead. They've hit a large expanse of blue ice, which is incredibly hard and smooth, leaving no traction for the skis. It has made pulling the sleds a lot easier, as they effortlessly glide across the ice at the moment. The team started at along the coast at 43 meters (141 ft) above sea level, but have now climbed up to 1014 meters (3326 ft) as they continue to make their way up to the Antarctic Plateau. They've now been out on the ice for 43 days and still have about 2092 km (1300 miles) to go on their round-trip journey to the South Pole and back to the coast.


Aussie Geoff Wilson was dismayed to discover the promised winds have not appeared as predicted. You may recall that he is kite skiing to the South Pole and had hoped to be making great progress on that journey, but unpredictable winds have stymied his attempts so far, leaving him no choice but to ski along like everyone else. The doldrums continued today with practically no wind to assist him, which is disheartening for Wilson, who may not reach his goal if the winds don't turn in his favor. Sadly, the forecast doesn't look great in that regard for the next few days either. Geoff also reports that he had a call on his sat phone from Faysal Hanneche, who was also attempting to kite to the Pole. It turns out Faysal has injured his knee in a fall during the high winds of a few days back and won't be able to continue his expedition. Details are scarce at the moment, but it seems he'll be evacuated from the ice as soon as possible.

The three teams racing in the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge get a much needed break today. This is their first mandatory rest day in which all teams must take 24 hours off before resuming their race to the South Pole. This is day 5 of the expedition and they still have 10 or 11 days to go before they are done. They happen to be well ahead of all of the other skiers because they started their journey at the 87th degree, rather than along the coast. Still, they are making good time and progress has been steady, if exhausting, for the skiers so far.

South Pole cyclist Daniel Burton continues to struggle. Yesterday he was battered by katabatic winds that made it nearly impossible for him to make much progress. With that in mind, he set up camp early and tried to stay out of those winds as best he could. Later in the day, when they had died down, he resumed his ride, albeit at a painfully slow pace. Once he hits the plateau, things should improve somewhat, but until then it is an uphill battle.

Finally, 16-year old Lewis Clarke has been making steady progress on his attempt to become the youngest person to ever ski the full length to the Pole. He and his guide, Carl Alvey wont' be setting any speed records, but they are putting in the miles they need to complete the journey in a reasonable time. So far they've been covering 21 km (13 miles) per day as they struggle up to the plateau as well. They should pick up the pace nicely once they reach that point and again as they get closer to their destination. Good weather has been on their side so far though and we all know that won't last for long in Antarctica.

That's all from the frozen continent for today. I'll update again next week as the news merits it.

Italian Adventurer Plans To Spend A Year Living On An Iceberg

Italian adventurer Alex Bellini has accomplished some pretty impressive things in the course of his career. He estimates that he has run more than 23,000 km (14,290 miles), competing in such races as the legendary Marathon des Sables and Alaska Ultra. He has also rowed across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, amongst other challenging journeys. But his next adventure may be his most demanding yet. Bellini plans to spend a year living on an iceberg as it shrinks in size and eventually disappears altogether. He hopes that these efforts will help raise awareness of climate change.

The Adventure Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Alex and ask him about this venture. He says that for the most part, he'll be completely alone on the ice, although he does plan to meet with journalists and bloggers for a time. He also says that he doesn't want to be labeled as an environmentalist, but he remains an explorer instead. Bellini hopes that this adventure will allow him to share the urgent need for us to address climate change as he documents the death of an iceberg first hand.

In the interview, Alex also talks about his inspirations for this adventure, what it was like to row across the Pacific, but run into trouble just 65 miles from the finish line and how he'll select his iceberg. In regards to that last point, he says that the iceberg is still being formed, but that it will exist northwest of Greenland "between 70°N and 74°N."

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. Living alone on an iceberg for a year should provide some unique challenges, particularly as the space begins to grow smaller and smaller. You can find out more in the video below and on Alex's website. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates as well.


Alex Bellini . Adrift. LongVersion ENG from BigRock on Vimeo.

Taking a moment…

Thursday, 5 December 2013

As I turned on the news this evening, the announcement that Nelson Mandela had passed was at the head of the newscast.  It is a sad day for the entire world.  What a giant he was in the history of man.  As I took a moment to remember his accomplishments, fortitude, and struggles Peter, Paul, and Mary’s rendition of “No Easy Walk to Freedom” kept playing in my head.  We have all lost a most inspirational icon.

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                                                                               Snow Goose

Back on the home front, the big news is the incoming cold front.  It’s sweeping across the country, and the gulf coast will not be immune to it.  While the cold temperatures here can’t compare to the ice and snow and blizzards of those further north, my main worry is my extend-a-stay propane tank.  It’s registering at 1/4 of a tank right now, and I have to work tomorrow.  The refuge pays for propane refills, and I checked to see if the propane place is open on Saturday, but no staff is around on weekends to approve the purchase.  It’s a minor trouble really, as I can switch to the on board tank or pay for the refill myself.

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                                                                                Pintail City

On my way back to the rig yesterday after work, I came upon a huge gathering of Northern Pintails in a flooded rice field.  These ducks mainly feed on seeds. 

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Dabbling ducks like Northern Pintails can erupt straight up from the water without having to run along the water first to gain speed.  The coming cold front is really driving lots of waterfowl down here. 

I finally ran out of my favorite sponge candy that I got in Fargo, ND, in September.  I decided to Google sponge candy.  Several readers have provided me with recipes, but I’m not sure I want to try that in the rig.  It turned out the Vermont Country Store has sponge candy that isn’t coated in chocolate.  While I like dark chocolate, I really prefer my sponge candy without it.  I’ve ordered a couple of bags, so I hope it’s as good as I remember from when I was young.  I’ll be stalking my mailbox until it gets here next week.  Winking smile

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Two of my bird feeders have been set up outside for the last week.  Today I finally had some action.  A small flock of chipping sparrows stopped by.  I hope they tell their friends.  I think I also saw a cardinal skulking around outside the fence.  This compound isn’t the best habitat for birds because of all the cement, but I’m trying to be optimistic about it.  That’s about it for tonight.  I’m battening down the hatches tonight as the temps have dropped well over 20* in very short order.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: The World Outside My Window - Timelapse From The International Space Station

We've seen some amazing timelapse videos over the past few years, each one more beautiful than the last. But it'll be tough to top this one, which was shot aboard the International Space Station. As you can imagine, that means some amazing images of our world as seen from orbit. It is as spectacular as it sounds.

The World Outside My Window - Time-Lapses of Earth from the ISS from David Peterson on Vimeo.

Video: Insane Cyclist Rides Bike Down Mountain Road - Backwards!

And now something from the "completely insane" category. Here's a video of a man riding his bike backwards down a road in Trollstigen, Norway. The road is 4.5 km (2.8 miles) in length and features a 10% grade. At times, the rider reached speeds in excess of 80 km/h (50 mph), which seems frightening when you're riding a bike the proper way. Don't try this at home kids.

Video: Climbing Spain's Sierra de Guara

Spanish climbers Manu Cordova and Javi Bueno are well known for putting up new routes in their home country and the Alps. When the weather turns bad in they favorite climbing spots, they head to the Sierra de Guara to find new challenges. The video below is a fantastic short film about their exploits and one of the better climbing movies that I've seen in awhile. The region that they are climbing in looks simply amazing, with plenty of excellent routes to explore. If you have 20 minutes to kill, I definitely recommend checking this video out.

Historias de cordada from Boreal Video on Vimeo.

Antarctica 2013: Speed Record Restart And Emergency Evac

Now that the majority of the teams have hit the ice down in Antarctica, things are starting to get very busy indeed. Weather continues to be an issue of course, but most of explorers are now trying to find a groove and get into a rhythm that involves skiing (and in some cases biking!) on the frozen expanse of the coldest, highest and driest desert in the world.

One of the biggest stories of the day is Richard Parks restarting his attempt at the speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. You may recall that parks set out on that quest last week only to find that the high winds and copious amounts of soft powder were making it impossible for him to make good time. In just a few days he was already falling off the pace, so he elected to return to Hercules and wait for a better weather window to relaunch. That window is now open apparently, as he'll start his second attempt today. Parks arrived back at his starting point on Tuesday, then took a rest day yesterday, ahead of his restart this morning. He now has 23 days to try to reach the South Pole and the clock is ticking.

The other story that came out yesterday was the evacuation of Eric Phillips, who was a the polar guide for one of the teams taking part in the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge. Phillips was apparently suffering from altitude sickness after the teams were flown to the 87th degree prior to the start of their race to the Pole. Apparently he had fluid in his lungs, so they made the wise choice to fly him back to camp for an assessment. If he responds well to treatment and shows signs of improvement, he may rejoin the team in a day or two.

Elsewhere, Daniel Burton celebrated his 50th birthday out on the ice yesterday. He is attempting to ride his bike to the South Pole and so far things aren't going particularly well. He spent 10.5 hours on the move but covered just 6.5 miles (10.4 km), well below what he had hoped for. He does say that the slope he has been climbing since leaving Hercules Inlet is starting to get less severe and the snow is getting harder, both of which bode well for his plans. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up speed soon, because at his current pace he's traveling about half the speed of the skiers. That means he'll have a very long trip to the Pole, if he can reach it at all. I give him high marks for determination however, as he has refused to put his bike on his sled and ski any distance, which is in contrast to another explorer who is attempting to bike to the South Pole as well.

Australian kite skier Geoff Wilson managed to catch the wind today and made good progress in the process. He says that by late afternoon he had knocked of about 40 km (24 miles) before the breezes dissipated once again. The forecasts call for better winds in the next few days, so he hopes to capitalize on them and cover more ground.

Chris and Marty Fagan seem to have developed a good rhythm and are already making great progress on their attempt to ski to the South Pole. The husband and wife team are already just 540 miles (870 km) from the Pole, which sounds like a lot but is actually a good number considering the number of days they've been skiing. They're knocking off a steady 11-12 miles (17-19 km) per day as they make solid progress toward their goal.

Finally, the Willis Resilience team has actually reached the South Pole, although not on foot. This expedition started with a driving tour of the Antarctic that allows them to conduct scientific research of the impact of climate change on the continent. They're also collecting ice core samples as they go, so that they can be examined by researchers back home after the expedition wraps up. After being out on the ice for about a week, the team has already driven 1790 km (1112 miles) as they cross Antarctica. In a few weeks however, Parker Liautaud and Doug Stoup will return to the Pole on skis as well.

That's all for today. More to come soon I'm sure.

Two-Time Ironman Champ Challenges Lance Armstrong To One-On-One Competition

Australian triathlete Chris McCormack sent shockwaves through the racing community earlier this week when he issued a challenge to Lance Armstrong. McCormack, who is a former two-time Ironman World Champion, has proposed the two men meet in a one-on-one competition in an unsanctioned race to see just who is the better triathlete.

Apparently, the idea for this competition first came up prior to Armstrong being banned from competition for life last year. When the USADA stripped the former pro cyclist of his seven Tour de France wins, negotiations came to an abrupt halt. But McCormack says that he recently read an interview in which Lance said he believed that he could win the Ironman World Championship. That prompted the Aussie to reach out to Armstrong to see if they could put something together.

According to this article, Lance is interested in the idea and would be down for an opportunity to compete, even though the event would be completely unsanctioned. Due to his ban,  he can't officially enter any races, but that wouldn't prevent these two world-class athletes from challenging one another. It seems there is a chance that that could happen.

Despite the fact that he has been stripped of his Tour wins, Armstrong is undeniably an amazing athlete. This would be the chance for him to go head-to-head with someone who has plenty of experience in Ironman events and see just where he stacks up. I believe that interest for this event would be enormous. People would want to see just how good Lance still is and pitting him against one of the best triathletes in the world would be a great measuring stick.

It's hard to say if we'll ever see this race become a reality, but I'd certainly love to see it happen. I also happen to believe that it would be a fairly close race, provided Lance has some time to train and get back into competitive form. I guess we'll just have to wait to see if these two men get the chance to square off.

Video: Wyoming Wildscapes

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A timelapse video shot in the wilds of Wyoming? Yes, please! Thats exactly what we get in this 6+ minute short film below, and it is just as spectacular as you would imagine.

Wyoming Wildscapes II from Nicolaus Wegner on Vimeo.

Video: Fishing Manatee County Florida With Richard Bangs

When television host and adventure traveler Richard Bangs goes fishing, he doesn't mess around. He recently visited Bradenton, Florida – located in Manatee County – to reel in some mackerel and king fish. If the video below is any indication, it looks like he picked the right place to throw his hook in the water, as the fish look plentiful, big and tasty. Besides, anyone who can work a Jaws reference into his travel clips is all right in my book.

Video: The Kuzi Project: Kitesurfing and SUP-ing The East Coast Of Africa

This past summer, adventurers Seth Warren and Kirk Hollis embarked on a 500-mile, unsupported journey up the east coast of Africa. The duo traveled by stand-up paddleboards and kite surfed from Pemba, Mozambique to Zanzibar in Tanzania, hopping between more than 50 island along the way. Their six week journey is now the subject of an online film series brought to us by EpicTV.  You'll find the latest episode of that series below, which gives us a glimpse at an adventure that is long way from the big mountains or the polar regions that I often write about on this blog. What an amazing way to explore the wild coast of Africa.

Antarctica 2013: Soldiering On

Yesterday's Antarctic update focused mainly on the new arrivals to the frozen continent and their early progress towards the South Pole. Today, I have news from some of the other expeditions that have been underway for awhile, and continue to face their own struggles with the challenges brought on with traveling in one of the most extreme environments on the planet.

Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere, the two members of the Scott Expedition, reached a major milestone on their round trip journey from the Scott Hut to the South Pole and back. Now 40 days into their adventure, the two men have reached the Beardmore Glacier and are continuing to work their way up to the Antarctic Plateau. Weather conditions have been mostly acceptable over the past few days but surface conditions continue to be a challenge. The ice where they are currently traveling is more uneven than in other areas, which has presented some challenges to their progress. Still, they're clocking in at about 20 miles (32 km) per day, which is a solid pace. The finish line is still a long ways off however, with more than 1345 miles (2164 km) to go before they are done.

Australian kite skier Geoff Wilson is hoping the wind will return soon to actually assist him in his quest to reach the South Pole. He has had a few frustrating days going from too much wind to too little. A couple of days back conditions were so bad that Wilson nearly lost control of his kite. He had limited time to train with it before leaving his home country for the Antarctic, and as a result he is learning on the job. When high winds struck on Monday, he was violently tossed about and sent sprawling on the ice on more than one occasion. Fortunately, the kite, nor the man, was damaged badly and the expedition can continue. The problem now is that there has been very little wind and Geoff has been forced to move forward under his own power, dragging his sled behind him as he goes. This has greatly slowed his progress of course, but puts him on par with the other skiers heading to the South Pole.

The three teams competing in the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge are now off and running. Team UK, Team USA and Team Commonwealth are all racing across the last three degrees to the South Pole after launching the friendly competition over the weekend. The teams consist of experienced polar guides to help lead the way, and some support vehicles to help lend a hand as needed. But the bulk of the explorers skiing to the Pole are servicemen who were wounded in the line of duty. The high profile event, which happens to include Prince Harry skiing for the UK team, is being conducted by the Walking with the Wounded program, an organization that helps those injured in the line of duty get back on the road to recovery. So far, the teams have faced strong winds and lots of sastrugi, which are hard ridges on the ice that make it difficult to ski. They'll be covering a total of about 335 km (208 miles) with an expected arrival at 90ºS around December 17 or 18.

Finally, there is no word yet on when Richard Parks will relaunch his attempt at the speed record for skiing to the South Pole via the Hercules Inlet route. As of yesterday, he was still en route back to his starting point, where he'll wait for more favorable weather conditions. Once he gets back underway, he hopes to go solo and unsupported to the South Pole in just 23 days. That will be a remarkable achievement if he can pull it off.

More news to come soon. Now that there are so many teams on the ice, I expect there will be something to report nearly everyday. The Antarctic season is in full swing now and the Vinson climbing season will soon follow. Good luck to everyone.

Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge Wraps Up Down Under

While we were celebrating the long weekend here in the States, teams of adventure athletes were battling it out in the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge in Australia. The five-day, stage race featured plenty of running, mountain biking and paddling as competitors challenged each other across a course that was more than 340 km (210 miles) in length. The video below, which includes highlights from the final day of the competition, is a good indicator of what this race is all about.

After five days of racing, the race was won by the team of Richard Ussher and Braden Currie. They completed the entire course in 18 hours, 54 minutes, which was more than two hours faster than the second place team that consisted of Alex Hunt and Mark Hinder. Third place went to Jarad Kohler and James Pretto, who finished in 26 hours, 52 minutes and 2 seconds.

This was the 10th annual Tasmania Challenge and over the year the race has become a staple on the adventure racing calendar each season. With another strong turnout this year, it appears that the race is poised to continue well into the future.

Oops!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

When I’m at one of my volunteer assignments, I leave the gray tank valve open and the black tank valve closed since I have full hook ups.  Every ten days or so, I close the gray tank before dumping the black tank.  After dumping, I close the black tank valve and open the gray tank valve.  This has worked well for me for well over seven years. 

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                                                                        Great Blue Heron

As usual I dumped last week when I knew that black tank was filling up.  Fast forward to last night.  As I get ready for bed, I gather my dirty clothes from the day and put them in a cloth laundry bag I keep in the shower stall.  As I stood there naked and opening the door to the shower, I found the bag soaking wet and standing water in the shower.  Oops!  It seems I forgot to reopen the gray tank valve.  I’m sure glad it didn’t overflow onto the floor.

So, I tossed on my PJ’s, grabbed a flashlight, and ran outside at 11:00 at night to dump the tank.  First time I’ve made that mistake.  I came back in, rang out the bag and the clothes and started the washer so all that stuff wouldn’t get musty and moldy.  It wasn’t so bad as I often start the Splendide washer at night.  When it gets to the spin cycle, it shakes the whole rig and rocks me right to sleep.  Eye rolling smile

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                                                                             Great Egret

We had a staff safety meeting and then a volunteer meeting this morning.  I am once again not on the VIS or VC schedule for the month.  Instead, Stephanie had some other assignments in mind for me.  I think by next week the bird surveys will begin, I’ll be working the hunter check station on weekends, and will also be doing some propagating of seeds in addition to writing the section for the 50th anniversary book.  Along with those chores there are a couple of other one day things to do.  Guess December is going to be pretty busy for me.

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                                                               Juvenile Common Moorhen

After the meetings, I managed to get all my hairs cut and an oil change for the car.  It was a nice warm day with temps nearing 80, but there was a very stiff wind out of the south.  Apparently I had parked my bike too close to the DISH satellite, and the gusting winds crashed it into the dish.  Second oops.  Sad smile  When I came in after sunset, there was no signal.  So out I went again in the dark to find a signal.  Things like this seem to come in threes, so now I’m wondering what’s next?

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                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Images From The Polar Realm

Filmmaker Richard Sidey is putting together an interesting documentary about the impact of climate change on the polar regions of our planet. The film is called Speechless: The Polar Realm, and he is busy editing it now. The video below serves as a trailer for that project and offers some stunning images to remind us just how beautiful, and full of life, the polar regions actually are. I'm not sure about the film as a whole yet, but these great shots definitely have me intrigued.

Speechless : The Polar Realm (film trailer) from Richard Sidey on Vimeo.

Video: Speedflying Through Eastern European Mountains

Speedflying is an interesting mix of paragliding and skiing. It usually involves someone starting at the top of a mountain and skiing down the slopes, only to have their glider catch the wind and allow them to float over cliffs, trees, or just about any other obstacle that gets in the way. In the video below, the skier starts at the summit of Kasprowy Wierch, a mountain located along the border of Poland and Slovakia. The ride back down is certainly not along the route that most take however. This looks like scary fun.

Sunset speed-fly from Kasprowy Wierch 27.11.13 from bartoszplewa on Vimeo.

Video: Eagle Steals Video Camera, Carries It 68 Miles Away

An eagle, that appears to be suffering from kleptomania, recently swiped a motion-sensing camera from a crocodile trap in Australia and carried it some 68 miles before deciding it wasn't something the bird could eat. The camera was later found by Aboriginal hunters, who returned it to the proper owners. Naturally, they were a bit surprised to find their camera so far away from its original location but when they looked at the footage, they understood how it got there. The thieving bird is even caught on film at the end of the clip in what could quite possibly be the first avian selfie.

Antarctica 2013: More Expeditions Hit The Ice As Storms Continue To Cause Problems

After the long holiday weekend I'm back with some updates from the Antarctic. While I was away there have been some developments at the bottom of the world as more teams have hit the ice at last. But the weather window to deliver them to the frozen continent was a narrow one, as storms continue to cause problems across the region. So much so that many of the newcomers are finding it difficult to make much progress.

Perhaps the biggest news from this past weekend was the start of Richard Parks' attempt to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Richard hopes to complete that distance in just 23 days, which would be an impressive feat indeed. But bad weather and poor surface conditions caused Parks to get off to a slower start than he intended and it soon became clear that he was already losing ground, even in the early stages of the expedition. Yesterday, Richard made the decision to return to Hercules and wait out the weather for a bit longer. He hopes to get a better window for his attempt soon so that he can make a serious run at the record. In the meantime, the folks at ALE will provide him with plenty of food and water while he waits so that he'll have his full supply for when he sets out for the South Pole once again.

16-year old Lewis Clarke has begun his South Pole attempt as well. He and his guide Carl Alvey were delivered to Hercules over the weekend and officially got underway yesterday. Lewis is attempting to become the youngest person to ever ski the full distance along the traditional route. He hopes to spend this first week on the ice finding his rhythm and getting into a groove. The early days of any Antarctic expedition are always tough and much of the time is spent skiing up hill, but once those early hurdles ae crossed, teams usually settle into a routine and hit their stride. Hopefully that will hold true for Lewis as well.

Daniel Burton, who is attempting to ride his bike to the South Pole, officially began his journey yesterday although he only covered a minimal distance. He'll have his first full day on the bike today as he begins the long, slow, painful slog up to the Antarctic Plateau as well. Pulling a heavy sled up hill can be challenging enough, but doing so on a bike is even more difficult. Throw in the fact that the storms have been dropping plenty of fresh powder on the starting point, and Dan has some real challenges ahead. If he is successful, he could become the first person to ride the full distance to the South Pole. I say "could" because there are a couple of other riders making that attempt as well. We'll just have to sit and wait to see who will be the first to complete the journey.

Chris and Marty Fagan have launched their South Pole expedition as well. The husband and wife team are also skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, although they aren't attempting any kind of "first" nor are they seeking records. Instead these two endurance athletes are simply on the continent to add to their resumes and enjoy the adventure. They officially got underway today and seem to be in great spirits now that their journey has begun. Tomorrow will mark their first full day out on the ice.

Parker Liautaud's Willis Resilience Expedition gets underway today from Hercules Inlet as well. A veteran polar explorer at the age of just 19, Parker and his guide Doug Stoup will be skiing to the South Pole while also collecting samples of ice that can be used to explore the impact of climate change on the Antarctic. They have a support vehicle riding along with them that will also help take a series of scientific readings about the weather and climate on the continent as well.

Finally, Antony Jinman has launched his South Pole expedition as well after arriving at Hercules yesterday. He will now make a solo and unsupported journey by skis to 90ºS while also interacting with students from around the globe while he's traveling. Antony's goal is to teach young people about climate change and the impact it is having on the Poles, which will eventually have an effect on other parts of the world as well.

That's all for today. There are plenty of other things to report now that so many expeditions have started, but I'll save some for the next few days. It looks like it is going to be an exciting season in the Antarctic with lots of activity to cover.

Outside Picks The Best Adventure Films Of 2013

December doesn't just mean that the holidays are right around the corner. It also is a time to reflect on the year that has just passed and take stock of events that have transpired. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm sure we'll see plenty of articles detailing the "best of 2013" or the "top ten" something or other from the past 12 months. Take for example this article from Outside magazine which shares their picks for the ten best adventure films that were released this year, each of which look like they'll be of interest to outdoor enthusiasts.

A number of the films on the list were ones that I've written about here on the Adventure Blog while others are completely new to me. For instance, I covered The Sufferfest, a film about Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright's "worst trip ever" few weeks back, and I've covered The Last Great Climb as it happened and when the trailer hit back in the summer. Most have us have probably at least seen the trailer for Blackfish as well. It was the film that was released this past summer that take a hard look at how captivity impacts the lives of killer whales.

A few of the films are ones that I haven't seen yet. Those include The Crash Reel, which follows snowboarders Shaun White and Kevin Pearce as they prepare for the 2010 Olympics. Just days before the games Pearce suffered an accident in the half pipe, suffering brain damage in the process. I'm also excited to see Maidentrip, which follows Laura Dekker on her attempt to sail solo around the globe a few years back. But perhaps the most intriguing film to me is Keeper of the Mountains, which is a movie about Miss Elizabeth Hawley, the Grand Dame of the Himalaya, and the keeper of all the records pertaining to climbs that take place in the big mountains. Catch the trailer for that film below.

If you're looking for some great adventure films to watch in the days ahead, Outside's list is a perfect place to get some ideas on where to start.


Video: Skydiving Compilation Is Simply Beautiful

Monday, 2 December 2013

Shot over the course of the past two years, the video below is a compilation of some amazing skydiving shots that almost makes it seem like jumping out of a perfectly good plane might be something I'd want to do. Almost. But seriously, this is is a beautiful five-minute clip that that is a good mix of style and substance.

BackToAwake - Skydiving Compilation from BackToAwake on Vimeo.

Adventure Tech: Quechua Announces Ruggedized Cell Phone For Outdoor Enthusiasts

Outdoor gear company Quechua had partnered with budget tech firm Archos to produce a ruggedized Android cell phone that is designed for adventurers who can be a little rough on their gear. The phone, which begins shipping this week in some markets, if resistant to water, snow, cold, dust and other elements, while also being designed to survive a significant drop.

The new phone will retail for €230 (roughly $310) and comes equipped with Android 4.1 (Jellybean). It is powered by a Qualcomm 1.2 GHz, quad-core processor, has 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, which can be expanded through the use of SD cards. It also has a large 5" display and 3500 mAh battery that is said to be capable of 22 hours of talk time between charges.

But what sets the phone apart from most others is that it meets IP 54 certification. That means it has been built to survive the demands of the outdoors, including submersion in water, being used in sandy or dusty environments and withstanding the shock from being dropped. It is also resistant to both hot and cold temperatures, which could make it a great travel phone for those who visit extreme environments.

The phone does have a few knocks against it before it ever hits the streets. For starters, it doesn't have 4G data capabilities. The built-in 4GB of storage is a bit anemic as well, even though you do have the ability to add to that with memory cards. Android 4.1 is no longer the latest version of that operating system either, although it is a solid, modern OS in terms of features and stability. Still, for the price, I would expect a bit more out of the phone. You might be better served with buying a more capable device at a lower price and investing in a good cast to protect it. Just my two cents.

Video: Climbing And BASE Jumping Fishers Towers Near Moab

Ancient Art is the name of one of the Fishers Towers, a rock column located not far from Moab, Utah. The face is about 400 feet in height, and as you'll see in the video below, a challenging climb. Recently Hayley Ashburn and Marshall Miller made the ascent and then BASE jumped from the top. The entire adventure is chronicled in this video and shot on GoPro of course.

FlightNetwork Travel Stories

As I mentioned a couple of weeks bad, I've been contributing travel related stories at the new FlightNetwork.com blog. Here's a sampling of some of the more interesting things that the team has been posting there.

There are plenty of other interesting travel stories to read on the blog beyond these, but this is a good example of the kinds of articles that are being written there. If you have some time, we'd love for you to stop by and check us out. 

Pond Pugilism

Sunday, 1 December 2013

After taking care of my weekly laundry this morning, I decided to get out of the rig and take another drive on the refuge roads.  There were no brilliant blue skies like there were on Friday, but I’ve found that after countless drives down these roads over the years I always see something different each time.

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With the big cold fronts that have moved through from the north in the last couple of weeks, the snow geese numbers are rapidly increasing.  This is only a portion of the flock that was in one of the moist soil units.  Mixed in with the geese are ibis and black-necked stints.

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There are also plenty of sparrows on the refuge, but they seldom sit still to have their picture taken.  This Savannah sparrow was an exception to the rule today.

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Along with Black and Turkey vultures, the Crested Caracara helps keep our wild places cleaned up.  They are generally carrion eaters. 

As I made my way around the auto tour route of Shoveler Pond, I encountered the usual cast of characters including hundreds of American coots.  But all was not tranquil on the pond this morning.  When a vehicle approaches, the coots usually run along the top of the water to get to the safety of the marsh grasses.  Today however, one small group was too preoccupied to be concerned with my approach.

IMG_5139 Two of the small group of three seemed to be having some sort of disagreement that was leading to the bird version of fisticuffs. 

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They were grappling for some kind of dominance.  You seldom get to see the long green toes of these birds, but they were using them to gain advantage over their foe.

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The third bird just casually floated around observing the melee.  Makes you wonder if the two in front were male combatants vying for the wing of the fair maiden.  Winking smile

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                   As I was snapping away, it seemed like the bird on the right was gaining an advantage.

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                                    I didn’t know if its intention was to drown its opponent or what.

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The winner finally climbed on top of its opponent and shoved it completely under the water.  Eventually the defeated bird came back up and the other two chased it away.  Tranquility once again reined.  I found it exciting to witness this little drama play out right before my eyes.  Like I said earlier, I always see something different no matter how many times I make this drive.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Not much happening

Friday, 29 November 2013

It seems it’s been five days since I last posted something to this blog.  Been a long time since I took that many days off, but there just hasn’t been much going on around here.  After my visitors left on Sunday, it wasn’t long before the cold rains began and continued again for two whole days.

IMG_5128                                                                               White Ibis

Stephanie, the volunteer coordinator, was on vacation all week and hadn’t left me any assignments to work on.  So, I really had nothing to do but kick back and relax.  I took care of normal chores and such, but that gets old for me after a while.

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                                            An Anhinga drying its feathers in the sun.

I hadn’t even set up the Hard Rock Bird Café since I arrived.  With my history of mice getting in the rig when I volunteer here, I decided not to put up the bird feeders.  This location is pretty much surrounded by cement, so I thought maybe I could spend the winter mouse-less.  Ha!  No one out at the volunteer village has had any mice yet, but I’ve already dispatched with two of them.  The sudden cold front must have sent them looking for warmth.  So, what the heck.  I put the feeders up this week.  Haven’t seen one bird yet, so no seed is dropping on the ground to attract rodents.

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                                                                     Merlin

I did spend yesterday afternoon over at the volunteer village having a delicious Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  While five of the volunteers were off visiting friends and relatives for the holiday, two of the couples and I shared dinner together.

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                                                                           White Pelican

After another very frosty beginning to the day, the sun came out bright and shiny.  I waited for the car windshield to defrost, and then Emma and I took a drive around the refuge.  It was pretty busy since lots of people have a four day weekend.  No way I was going to battle any crowds at stores today.  Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely drive visiting my avian friends.

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                                                                  Northern Shoveler (male)

I’ve got two more days off before any staff returns, and I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with myself.  I’m just not used to sitting around doing nothing, and I’d rather not do any touring on a holiday weekend.  I’ll think of something.

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                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Donate To The Himalayan Stove Project For #GivingTuesday

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

With the holidays now upon us, the season of giving has arrived as well. If you're looking for a great cause to donate to this year, then I'd recommend you consider one of my favorite organizations, the Himalayan Stove Project. The purpose behind the HSP is simple. Its goal is to improve the health, and change the lives, of people living in the Himalaya by replacing their inefficient and inadequate cook stoves, with cleaning burning models that use less fuel. These stoves are better for the environment and produce far less smoke and other noxious fumes, substantially reducing the health risks that use the stoves on a daily basis.

The HSP can use your contributions to the cause at all times of the year, but come next Tuesday they will especially appreciate those donations. That's because they are taking part in #GivingTuesday (which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday of course) during which all of our contributions will be matched on a 1-to-1 basis by another generous donor. To take part, all you have to do is text "STOVE" to 50155.

You can also help the cause while picking up some new gear for yourself at the same time. When you visit the Himalayan Stove Project's Supporters and Sponsors page you can get new gear from the like of Clothing Arts and Eastern Mountain Sports and with every purchase that is made, a donation is made to the HSP. We all know that EMS has all kinds of items we'd like to add to our personal gear closets, and Clothing Arts makes innovative clothing that can help keep your valuables safe while traveling.

One of the things that I love so much about the Himalayan Stove Project is that is is doing great work that has a direct impact on the lives of the people that they are trying to help. More than 1400 stoves have already been installed in homes across the Himalaya, dramatically changing the lives of the families that have received them. The HSP isn't trying to pursue some nebulous plan that could pay off at some point in the future, they're actually affecting change now. Our donations will go directly to helping further that cause, while saving lives at the same time.

I know that the holidays are a time when we're often busy and stretched thin. I also know that budgets are often tight as we search for the perfect gift for loved ones. But if you should find a little spare cash that you want to give to a good cause, consider making that cause the Himalayan Stove Project. They're doing great work in a part of the world that we all love.

Video: A Month In Antarctica

When I posted my Antarctic update earlier today I noted that that Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere, who collectively make up the Scott Expedition, have now been out on the ice for more than a month. That has not been an easy four weeks for the boys and to get a sense of what they've been dealing with, they released this short video. The footage shows Ben and Tarka at their starting point at Scott's Hut and then gives us a glimpse of what it is like to pull heavy sleds across the frozen expanse that is Antarctica. Bundle up before watching this one, it looks a little cold.

Atikamekw Snowshoe Expedition: Into The Canadian Wilderness During The Winter

The Atikamekw are an indigenous people who have lived in a remote part of Quebec, Canada for more than 400 years. During that time they have developed a way of life that allows them to survive in that hostile, frigid environment. They have adapted to the harsh conditions there, learning to live off the land, hunt for food and developing tools such as snowshoes and dogsleds that have helped their culture thrive even into the 21st century.

From 1999-2001, explorers Bert Poffé and Kiki Nárdiz traveled to the Atikamekw region where they learned much about their way of life and their methods of survival, both during the winter and the summer. Visiting that region built a deep connection with the First Nations families that live there, while also instilling a love of nature and the planet in them at the same time. It has been nearly 13 years since they last visited their friends amongst the Atikamekw, but early next year that will change.

On their website, Bert and Kiki have announced plans for their Atikamekw Snowshoe expedition, which will send them back into the wilderness where they honed their survival skills more than a decade ago. The journey will take place in February, 2014 and will take approximately three weeks to complete. During that time, they'll be traveling unsupported deep into Atikamekw territory using nothing but the ancient survival methods that the indigenous people have used to survive there for centuries. That includes using traditional mukluks, snowshoes and handcrafted wooden toboggans.

Their journey will take the two explorers into one of the coldest inhabited places on the planet. They'll pass over frozen lakes, trek deep into gorges and pass into regions that few outsiders ever see. Along the way, they'll face sub-zero temperatures, high winds, potential blizzards and all kinds of other climactic challenges as they pass between the Atikamekw communities of Obedjiwan and Manawan.

For more information about Bert, Kiki and their plans be sure to check out Inuksu.be.

Antarctica 2013: Hurry Up And Wait

My reports on the 2013 Antarctic expedition season are starting to get very repetitive. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm sure by now most of the teams in Punta Arenas thought that they'd be out on the ice and working their way south, but the weather continues to be uncooperative, so they continue to sit and wait. To make things worse, the schedule for supply planes to the Union Glacier camp is now way behind schedule as well, which means the adventurers will have to wait their turn. There are some indications that flights could resume in the next few days, although that has been the story for more than a week now. 

Still sitting in Punta are Chris and Marty Fagan, Lewis Clarke, Daniel Burton, Antony Jinman and several others. Each plans to make the journey to the South Pole, but the first step is to actually get to the Antarctic continent. Daniel has also started to express some concern about the effect the weather will have on his attempt to ride his bike to the Pole. In a recent blog post he indicated that while his fat tire bike does well on hard snow and ice, it doesn't work so well in powder. The bad weather is dumping all kind of powder on his intended route, which could slow him down or cause him to not be able to ride at all. Only time will tell if this will become a major factor. 

Also still waiting to get started is Richard Parks. He is the man who hopes to set a new speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, and he to has been watching for a weather window to open. It has been more than a week since we heard anything out of him, but earlier today he posted a brief update saying that he was packed and ready to fly from Union Glacier to his starting point, but bad weather has once again grounded the plane. He hopes to get out tomorrow instead. 

Three teams that are now in position to begin their expedition are the members of the South Pole Allied Challenge. Team U.K., Team USA and Team Commonwealth all flew out to their starting points at 87ºS yesterday and they should begin their treks to the South Pole today. This race of sorts is part of he Walking With The Wounded organization and several servicemen and women who were injured while on active duty are with each of the teams. Despite starting much closer to the Pole than most of the other teams, it will still take them two weeks or so to complete the journey. 

Aussie Geoff Wilson has been caught out in the bad weather again and as a result, he has spent the past two days stuck in his tent. Raging winds, extremely cold temperatures and whiteout conditions have conspired against him, leaving him stranded. Geoff is attempt to kite ski to the South Pole but has only had a couple of good days so far. Hopefully this period of bad weather will lift soon and he'll get the opportunity to make some good time. 

Finally, Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere are now more than a month into their expedition and continue to knock off the mileage in workmen like fashion each day. The boys have found their stride it seems and are consistently covering 13-14 miles (20-22 km ) on a daily basis. That might not seem like much, but in the frozen Antarctic it is a full days work. As a result of those efforts, they have now covered approximately 300 miles (482 km) on their journey, which is a there and back again trip to the Pole and their starting point at Scott's Hut. While they still have a very long way to go, all is well and they are progressing as expected. 

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the U.S., it is likely that I won't be able to update again until next week. Hopefully by then the weather will have cleared and more teams will be on their way to the South Pole. Stay tuned. 

Adventure Racing World Championship Set To Begin in Costa Rica

The Adventure Racing World Championship is set to get underway in Costa Rica this weekend when coed teams of four take part in this year's Costa Rica Adventure Race. The official start of the event is scheduled for Sunday, when a field of 60 of the best AR teams from 26 different countries line up at the starting line.

The race is scheduled to last up to nine days, although the winners are projected to finish in just four. It will begin on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast and end on the country's Atlantic side. In between, the competitors will run, bike, paddle, climb and raft through 700+ km (435 miles) of dense jungle and mountain terrain.

The Costa Rica Adventure Race is the final event on the AR World Series calendar for 2013. The teams that are competing in the race have all had to qualify by racing in other ARWS events throughout the year. This event will crown this year's world champs, with teams such as Seagate, Adidas TERREX Prunesco, and the Thule Adventure Team expected to be in the mix. It should be quite the event for fans of the sport and be sure to check out the Costa Rica AR website for regular updates and team tracking.

Video: Backcountry Snowboarding With Jeremy Jones

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The adventure in snowboarding and skiing these days is found in the backcountry. That's exactly what compels pro-boarder Jeremy Jones to head to the mountains to find new places to ply his craft. In the video below, Jeremy talks about what drives him to visit these remote places and what has enabled him to do so in recent years. But it will be the stunning visuals that will stick with you. Jeremy runs some seriously steep vertical and carves narrow runs in the backcountry. Pretty amazing stuff and a long way from the groomed slopes most of us stick to.

Video: Journey To Bear Island

There aren't many expeditions that you can go on that allow you to ski, snowboard, climb and surf, but that is exactly what the Wegge brothers got when they visited remote Bear Island off the Svalbard coast. The video below is a teaser for an upcoming film of their adventure, which judging from these two minutes of footage looks like it was filled will all kinds of interesting activities.

Thanks to my friends at the Adventure Journal for sharing this one.

BEAR ISLAND TEASER from weggebros on Vimeo.

Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge Set To Begin Tomorrow

Wednesday marks the start of the 10th annual Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, a 341 km (211 miles) adventure race held in the remote Tasmanian wilderness. The event is hosted each year by F1 star Mark Webber, who happens to be a huge fan of endurance sports and adventure racing in particular. Webber ended his long racing career last Sunday after competing in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The course for this year's Tasmania Challenge runs along the West Coast of the Australian island. The five-day race features coed teams with some incredible athletes mixed into the field. While Webber himself is unable to compete this year, fellow F1 driver Mitch Evans is giving the Challenge a go for the first time. He's joined by Olympians Emma Snowsill, who competed in the triathlon, and Kenny Wallace who is a world class kayaker. As is usual with an adventure race of this kind, the stages will include mountain biking, trail running, paddling and various other disciplines.

The elite teams will be competing for a piece of the $30,000 purse, while others will be taking part in the charity fundraiser. Most of the proceeds generated from the Tasmania Challenge goes to Whielion, an organization which provides a number of service for at-risk youth in Australia. Additionally, some of the funds also go to the Save The Tasmanian Devil fun as well.

Once the race gets underway you'll be able to follow the progress of the teams and get updates on daily standings from the official website.

Chasing The Pole Of Cold Across Siberia

Not all of the cold weather adventures are taking place in Antarctica at the moment. Case in point, the just launched Pole of Cold expedition that got underway last week which plans to cross Northern Europe and Siberia on a three-month long, 30,000 km (18,641 mile) journey to reach the coldest inhabited place on the planet in the dead of winter.

The three-person team on this expedition include veteran polar explorer Felicity Aston, mechanic Gisli Jonsson and filmmaker Manu Palomeque. The trio were the winners of a Land Rover bursary which provides funding for this expedition. They set out from the Royal Geographical Society headquarters in London and are now making their way through Norway, where they encountered their first bits of snow. Eventually the journey will take them into deepest Siberia however, where they will make their way to Oymyakon, which is widely considered the coldest inhabited place on the planet. How cold you ask? The thermometer once recorded a temperature of -67.7ºC (-89.8ºF). Now that's cold!

The journey will be a road trip of epic proportions. The route will take the team into some of the most remote places on the planet where temperatures will routinely plummet to dangerous levels. They'll have to deal with non-existant roads, plenty of snow and ice and a complete lack of infrastructure once they get out into the heart of Siberia itself. This will be a round-trip journey that begins and end in London, with a stop at the northernmost point in Europe and plenty of other cold places along the way.

The purpose of the journey is to explore cultural attitudes toward winter while also assessing how lifestyles are different in places that deal with extreme ends of the climate continuum.

You can follow the Pole of Cold team on their website and Facebook page.


Gear Closet: Keen Revel II Hiking Boots

With temperatures dropping – and even colder weather on the way – a good hiking boot designed to handle rain and snow is a must for any gear closet. After all, we have excellent gear to keep our other body parts warm, and we definitely don't want to neglect our feet either.

Arriving just in time for winter, Keen has just started shipping their new Revel II hiking boots, which have some innovative new features to help keep our feet warm on cold weather hikes. They also manage to maintain Keen's typical high level of durability and comfort while also managing to look good in the process.

Keen has designed the Revel II to have a more traditional look when compared to some of the other footwear in their line-up. These boots have a more understated appearance that makes them feel right at home on the trail, and the high ankle support is a welcome addition to what may be the most sturdy dedicated hiking boots in the Keen catalog.
One of the features of this boot that helps them to stand out from the crowd and makes them a good choice for winter hiking is what Keen calls their Heat Trapolator Insulation System. This patent pending design includes three layers of insulation for the foot that helps keep warmth inside the shoe. This extends under the foot as well, helping to keep the bottoms of our feet toast warm. This approach makes a lot of sense considering that when hiking on snow and ice, much of the cold temperatures emanate from the ground itself.

Keeping our feet comfortable doesn't end with simply staying warm however. The Revel II boots are also waterproof to keep excess moisture out, while a breathable, wicking liner helps to pull moisture away from the foot too. The result is a boot that keeps your feet dry in all but the worst of conditions. When paired with a good pair of socks, most hikers will be ready to face the elements with a smile on their face.

As mentioned, these boots are very comfortable, which is a Keen trademark for sure. I did find that the break-in period for these shoes was a bit longer than some of the other Keen boots that I've worn, but once they did loosen up, they felt as good on my feet as I had expected. For a full-size, rugged boot, they are also lighter in weight than they would appear at first glance, although it doesn't seem that Keen has had to sacrifice any durability in achieving this svelte design.

The Revel II's aggressive outsole does a good job of holding their grip on both dry and wet surfaces, although once again there was a short break-in period before this happened. Out of the box, the bottom of the shoes felt smooth and slick but after wearing them for a bit, they seemed to improve. I'm not sure if my pair of boots shipped from the factory with a slick coating on the bottom, but traction certainly improved after putting a bit of mileage on them.

If you're in the market for a pair of hiking boots that are suitable for cool, or even cold weather hikes, than Keen's new offering may be exactly what you're looking for. They are comfortable, durable and perform well on snow and ice. They also happen to have traditional good looks and sturdy construction that should make them last for years to come. Available for $160, these aren't the least expensive shoes available from Keen, but they just might be the most capable hiking boots the company currently makes.

Video: Remote Controlled Buggy Captures Great Photos Of Lions In Africa

Monday, 25 November 2013

We've all seen how arial drones are being put to good use in capturing some amazing photography and video in remote areas of the world, but the video below puts the same concept to work on the ground. Photographer Chris McLennan, working with engineer Carl Hansen, developed a remote control camera housing that could be driven close to the subjects to get some very cool photos. In this case, that means driving up to a pride of lions to snap a few shots. The results are fantastic, although the images may give you a sense of what it is like for the prey just as the lion's pounce. This is really cool technology put to use in the field in an innovative way.

Was Mallory's Body Discovered On Everest In 1936?

I came across an intriguing story over the weekend that Everest fans will most certainly find it of interest. A new story in The Guardian indicates that George Mallory's body may have been found on Everest as far back as 1936, but it was not shared with the press in order to preserve some dignity for the deceased. The revelation is part of a new biography on mountaineer Frank Smyth, who was amongst those obsessed with climbing Everest back in the 1930's before World War II put an end to such endeavors for nearly a decade.

The book, which was written by Smyth's son Tony, reveals letters from the famous writer and mountaineer in which he talks about coming across a body high on the slopes of the mountain. But he is also quoted as saying "It's not to be written about, as the press would make an unpleasant sensation." That seems to indicate that Smyth wanted to keep the whereabouts of Mallory's remains a secret so at to not cause a stir. Considering how few people had climbed that high on Everest at the time, the body could have only belong to Mallory or his climbing partner Andrew "Sandy" Irvine.

We all know that the discovery of George Mallory's body back in 1999 was an event that went well beyond the typical climbing community. For years people have speculated as to whether or not Mallory and Irvine actually reached the summit of Everest nearly three decades before it was finally scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The body didn't provide any new insights for that debate, but it certainly brought it to the forefront once again.

While the story of Smyth discovering Mallory's body will ultimately be a footnote in the history of mountaineering, it is interesting to think that its whereabouts could have been revealed decades before it was actually discovered. I think it was a sign of the times that Mallory and Smyth were climbing in that they would show such respect for the dignity of others, even the deceased. We don't seem to have that same respect these days, which is a shame.

The Guardian article has a lot more information about Frank Smyth and the new biography about the climber. It sounds like it is quite an interesting read.
 

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