Friday, October 24, 2014

Video: The Most Epic Flight Safety Video Ever Made

You have to hand it to Air New Zealand, they sure no know to make a safety video that will capture your attention. They released this Hobbit-themed video a few days back, and it is certainly filled with all kinds of great Lord of the Rings references, including some familiar faces. Of course, what more would you expect out of an airline that is actually taking you to Middle Earth? Great stuff, and it's fun to see the company have a little fun with this.

Video: Mountain Biking the Kootnays

The Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia make for a striking backdrop to this video, which features current Enduro World Champion Jared Graves exploring the region on the back of his bike. He may be amongst the best mountain bikers in the world, but just like the rest of us, when he hits the trail, he wants to have fun. It looks like he found it on these trails, which simply look amazing. What an incredibly beautiful place to go for a ride.

How to Become an Adventure Photographer

Last week I shared a cool video that gave us some insights into what it takes to be a climbing photographer, a job that requires a great deal of skill in both disciplines. Yesterday, tech/gadget website Gizmodo published a similar story about how to become an adventure photographer, truly a dream job for many outdoor enthusiasts and frequent travelers.

The lengthy piece offers helpful tips on everything from what gear to carry, getting started in the business, and how to get published. It is packed with insights into the trade that are provided by adventure photographer Chris Brinlee, Jr.,  who is currently traveling around the world, and snapping great photos as he goes. Brinlee talks about what cameras to take with you on your adventures, including the trusty DSLR, as well as the new breed of mirrorless options and action cams like the GoPro. He even shares his thoughts on "mobile" photography using your smartphone, as well as which lenses to have in your arsenal, while also offering insights into memory cards, extra batteries, tripods, and so on.

The gear tips don't end there however, as Chris also discusses how to keep everything charged (Goal Zero of course!), which computer and software to use, storage options, and more. He even offers up some suggestions for dry bags should your adventure become one of an aquatic nature.

With the gear suggestions out of the way, the author moves on to discuss the profession itself, and how to get started on the path to becoming an adventure photographer. He recommends starting close to home, and shooting plenty of photos on local adventures before heading out on one that spans the globe. Look for nearby state or national parks that provide opportunities to shoot great photos, and start participating in the various outdoor activities that you want to shoot as well. Brinlee wraps up the story by discussing post-production activities for editing the photos, as well as options for getting images published.

All-in-all, an interesting read for anyone who enjoys photography on any level, but especially for those of us who wouldn't mind becoming professional photographers ourselves. There are plenty of insightful tips throughout the article that I'm sure that photographers of any level will find useful.

And once you've wrapped up reading this article, head over to Mashable to find out how you can win an outdoor photography package, complete with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 DSLR and lens.

Outside Magazine Announces Winter Gear of the Year for 2015

Winter may still be a couple of months off, but it is never too early to start thinking about the gear you'll use to stay warm on those cold-weather outdoor activities. With that in mind, Outside magazine has announced its picks for their Winter Gear of the Year heading into 2015.

Some of the items that make the list include a pair of Atomic Vintage Ritual skis, the new North Face Brigandine Jacket, and snow-ready running shoes from Salomon. A pair of ski boots from Scarpa, and a great looking pack from Deuter also earn a place amongst the best gear for winter adventures.

In addition to the items that earn "Gear of the Year" status, Outside has also published a Winter Buyer's Guide that contains even more great gear for the season ahead. The Buyer's Guide is broken down into categories, offering the editor's choice for best outdoor equipment based on activity. For instance, there is one category for Nordic Skiing, and another for Winter Hiking. There is even a category that specifically focuses on winter gear for women as well.

If you're in the market for some new gear to help you enjoy the winter season, than you'll want to take a look at what Outside recommends. I live by the old adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear, and if you have the right equipment, you can enjoy your time outside no matter what the conditions are. Of course, Outside doesn't always take into consideration that we tend to have more modest budgets, but is is always nice to dream about some of the exceptional equipment that they get to play with.

Notebook From Ill-Fated Antarctic Expedition Discovered in Ice

A notebook belonging to a photographer on the 1911-1912 Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic – famously led by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott – has been discovered frozen in the ice. The century-old book offers a glimpse of what conditions on that expedition were like, as Scott and his team attempted to become the first men to reach the South Pole.

The notebook belonged to a British scientist named George Murray Levick, who was a part of the Northern Party on the Scott expedition. The hand written notes are said to still be legible, although the binding has been worn away after being exposed for more than a hundred years to the elements. It was discovered outside of a cabin that served as Scott's last base before setting off to the Pole. Last year's ice melt exposed the book for the first time.

A team of forensic scientists painstakingly restored and preserved the pages, which contain details of the photos that Levick took while part of the expedition. The notes offer hints on the subjects, dates, and exposure details for the images that he shot. Levick himself was not a part of Scott's South Pole team, but he and others faced challenges of their own, spending the winter in ice cave while they waited to depart the harsh Antarctic climate.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Video: Mystical, Magical, Machu Picchu

At just over a minute in length, this video is just long enough to give us a glimpse of the wonder that is Machu Picchu, the famous Incan fortress that sits atop a mountain in Peru. The clip gives us some amazing shots not only of the ancient structure itself, but of the surrounding mountaintops, while the clouds and fog roll in across the Andes. It is an amazing place, that remains as mysterious today as when it was re-discovered by Hiram Bingham more than a century ago.

MYSTICAL MOUNTAIN MACHU PICCHU - PERU from Anton Geismar on Vimeo.

Sponsored Video: The Greatest Lightshow on Earth - Norway's Northern Lights

We all know that Norway has some of the finest landscapes on the planet. This video, which comes our way courtesy of Visit Norway, demonstrates this once again in fine fashion, while giving us a fantastic look at one of the most amazing natural phenomenon on our planet – the Northern Lights. Norway is simply one of the best places on Earth to see the Aurora Borealis in action, particularly as the winter approaches. If you've never had the chance to witness this light show for yourself, it should definitely be on your bucket list to visit someplace where it is possible to see the Lights. You won't be disappointed.

Video: Swimming with Icebergs

You don't typically think of swimming as an "extreme" sport, but in this video we're introduced to some swimmers who just might change your mind. The clip features Stig Severinsen, a world-class free diver who can stay submerged with just a single breath for minutes at a time. He then uses this ability to go swimming under icebergs, creating a scene that is unlike any you've seen before. The first part of the video, which comes our way courtesy of National Geographic, discusses how Stig, and other swimmers, are able to control their bodies as they prepare for the conditions they'll face in the cold water. But later, it transitions to just watching him swim through these glass-like structures. It is amazingly beautiful to behold.

Trio of Adventurers Ready to Launch New Zealand 9 Expedition

Last year, a trio of adventures – Ben Southall, Luke Edwards, and Pat Kinsella – took on an incredible feat of endurance by trail running and climbing to the top of the highest peaks in each of the eight Australian states in just eight days. It was a tough challenge not only for the physical aspects, but also the logistical ones as well.

In June, the same team announced that they were preparing to take on a similar challenge, this time in the land of Kiwis. They call their latest expedition the New Zealand 9, as they'll not only be attempting complete all nine of New Zealand's "Great Walks," they'll try to do it in just nine days.

All told, the journey will cover more than 545 km (338 miles), as Ben, Luke, and Pat trail run for more than 400 km (248 miles), and travel by kayak an additional 145 km (90 miles) along the Whanhanui River. They'll begin the challenge in the extreme south of New Zealand, where they'll kick things off on the Rakiura Track (32km/19.8 miles) located on remote Stewart Island. From there, they'll head to the Routeburn (32km/19.8 miles), Milford (53.5km/33.2 miles), Kepler (60km/37.2 miles), Heaphy (78.4/48/7) and Abel Tasman (55.2km/34.2) tracks on the South Island. Once finished there, they'll then take on the Whanhanui River Journey (145km/90 miles), Tongariro Northern Circuit (43km/26.7 miles), and Lake Waikaremoana (46km/28.5) on the North Island.

If successful, the NZ9 team will set a new speed record for completing all of the Great Walks. It won't be easy however, as they'll have to average more than a marathon per day on foot, and that doesn't even include the kayaking leg of the expedition.

You can follow the team's progress at TheGlobalAdventurers.com, and learn more about them, as well as the challenge ahead, in the video below.

New Zealand 9 - Where adventure lives from Ben Southall on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Season Ends on Makalu

Just a brief update from the Himalaya today, where we have received word that the British Tri-Services team has canceled their summit bid, and are now preparing to depart the mountain. It seems conditions on the upper slopes above Camp 4 were too dicey, and the team is exhausted from their efforts. They have retreated back to Base Camp, and are now preparing to head home.

The squad was expected to launch a summit push today, with the hope of topping out sometime over the next three days. The weather on the mountain is said to be very good following last week's storm, and according to yesterday's dispatch, the team was feeling fine and optimistic. Unfortunately, it seems that as they went higher, the discovered that the route to the top along the Southeast Ridge was not as stable as they would like. This is a long, and exposed, path, which would have been extremely difficult, even when conditions are good.

According to their most recent dispatch, the team has now been working the mountain for seven straight days, and are physically wore down. Typically, they could retreat to BC and rest for a few days before giving it a go, but the men are on a bit of a tight schedule, and there is no longer any time left for another summit push. With bad weather expected to arrive once again this weekend, the group made the decision to pull the plug, and go home.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Video: Way Up East in Myanmar

With its turbulent past, Myanmar (aka Burma) is not a country that many people consider as a travel destination. But it is a place that has become more intriguing in recent years, as it has begun to lift the veil of secrecy and seclusion. This video takes us there, and while it shows many of the landscapes the country has to offer, much of the focus is on the amazing, friendly, and accommodating people that live in Myanmar. After all, when we travel some place new, it is often the people that leave the most lasting impression.

Way Up East from Paul Wex on Vimeo.

Video: GoPro Cam Catches 70-Foot Drop Over Outlet Falls

Ever wondered what it feels like to go over a 70-foot waterfall? If you're a sane person, the answer to that question is no! But, just in case, we have this video to help us experience that feat from the safety of our homes. It features pro kayaker Rush Sturges as he drops over Outlet Falls in in Washington state. At the time the clip was shot, it appears that the river was swelling with the spring melt off, and the water is rushing at a fast pace. Paddling a freezing river over a big waterfall isn't my idea of fun, but I'm glad Sturges had his GoPro along for the ride.

Video: GoPro Camera Mercilessly Killed by Grizzly Bear

It never ceases to amaze me what a well-placed video camera can capture these days. In this case, it is some amazing footage of numerous grizzly bears near Glendale Cove in British Columbia. The cameras were set up by ecologist John Kitchen, who was accompanied by bear biologist Melanie Clapham at the time. They managed to catch the massive creatures as the wandered on to a bridge that allows the bears to look into the river below, and spot the salmon as they run upstream. At one point, one of the bears gets overly interested in John's GoPro camera, and decides to play with it a bit. The footage is both humorous, and frightening at the same time. There are truly some great shots of these magnificent animals throughout the four-minute video. If you love wildlife, you'll certainly get a kick out of this.

Ready to Go on a Global Scavenger Hunt?

Travelers looking for a unique adventure that will challenge them both physically and mentally will be interested to learn about the Global Scavenger Hunt, a competition that sends participants around the globe in a quest to be crowned the "World's Greatest Traveler."

The GSH pits 15 teams of two against one another in an event that is unlike any other. Competitors face unusual challenges, solve puzzles, and decipher clues, all while racing around the globe on a route that is revealed as the scavenger hunt is take place. They visit secret locations, immerse themselves in fascinating cultures, and try to stay one step ahead of the other teams, while circumnavigating the planet using their wits and skills.

The Global Scavenger Hunt is gearing up for its 11th edition in 2015, and is set to take place April 10 through May 2. It will begin and end somewhere in North America, but exactly where has yet to be revealed. The route around the planet promises to be an exciting one, although exactly what path it takes will only be released as the competition unfolds. Reportedly, there will be ten countries on the docket for next year's competition.

The event is a bit like the television show The Amazing Race, although I'm told that it doesn't rely so much on speed and agility, as it does thoughtful immersion in the cultures of the places the teams visit along the way.

Organizers for the GSH are now taking applications for next year's event, and it does come with a hefty entry fee. The two-person teams must pony up $25,000 to join in on the fun, although that does include all airfare, hotel rooms, 40% of the meals, and some sponsored gear.

The competition isn't just about racing around the world however. There are breaks in the competition that give travelers an opportunity to spend a half-day volunteering locally, and some of the proceeds go towards building schools in remote places. Each year of the GSH has been able to fund a co-ed school in a developing country, such as Kenya, Ecuador, and India.

While the entry fee is a bit pricey, this does look like a fun event. If you've got he time, and the funds,  this would certainly be the challenge of a lifetime. Find out more at GlobalScavengerHunt.com.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summit Bid Underway on Makalu, New Rules for Trekking in Nepal

The fall climbing season in Nepal is rapidly coming to a close, and as such, teams are making final preparations for their summit bids, particularly on Makalu. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of that massive blizzard that claimed the lives of more than 40 people in the Himalaya last week, the Ministry of Tourism has announced new regulations designed to help keep trekkers safer in the mountains.

We'll start today on Makalu, where the British Tri-Service team has put a team of climbers in place high on the mountain with the hope of reaching the summit as early as tomorrow. Climbing along the very long, and difficult, Southeast Ridge the designated 4-man summit team has now reached Camp 4, where they are currently resting before setting off for the top tomorrow morning. The weather forecast indicates three good days ahead, and they hope to take advantage of that open window if possible. The team is reportedly in good spirits, and fine health, and expectations are riding high as they begin the final stages of the expedition. A support team is standing by to lend aid should the summiteers need it, but they are anticipating a good approach to the top of the mountain. Heavy snows may have created unstable conditions however, and break trail to the top could be exhausting and time consuming. Still, they are ready to proceed in alpine style above C4. Watch for more updates over the next few days.

There is still no word from the Madison Mountaineering team, which was also attempting Makalu along the Northwest side of the mountain. They launched a summit bid last Saturday, but have not posted any status updates since. There have been some rumors that indicate that they were turned back high on the mountain due to unstable conditions, but we have not received confirmation of that at this point.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Video: The Colors of Home in Timelapse

This video features some of the spectacular landscapes – both natural and manmade – in the Czech Republic caught in timelapse. It shows a little of everything, including mountains,. forests, waterfalls, and cityscapes, giving viewers a nice taste of what the country has to offer. The clip is also another great example how relaxing and tranquil a timelapse video can be. Enjoy.

Colors of home from EMproduction on Vimeo.

Video: A Tour of Norway From 10 Meters Off the Ground

What do you get when two friends speed-fly their way along the West Coast of Norway? This awesome video which features some great paragliding, along with some amazing views of the Norwegian landscapes. Truly a beautiful way to explore the countryside.

10m TOUR. from malachi templeton on Vimeo.

Video: Kayaking the Verzasca in Switzerland

Here's a fun little paddling video that features kayakers Sam Sutton and Sven Lämmler taking on the wild whitewater found on the narrow confines of the Verzasca River in Switzerland. It gives us a great view of this roller coaster ride through the Swiss mountains. The Verzasca is a mere 30 km (18.6 miles) in length, but it offers plenty of excitement for such a short river. Looks like a blast!

Verzasca from Sven Lämmler on Vimeo.

Polar Bears Force Halloween Celebration Indoors in Canadian Community

Halloween is suppose to be a fun, and slightly scary, holiday for kids of all ages. But one Canadian town is taking measures to ensure that it isn't too frightening this year, following an invasion of polar bears to the community. The Inuit village of Arviat has decided that it will hold its annual Halloween celebration indoors in order to avoid bumping into ursine visitors, which are said to be hanging out in record numbers this year.
Polar bears are not new to the tiny town of just 2000 inhabitants, located on the northernmost coast of Nunavut territory. The village sees numerous bears in the region in any given year. But this year, the population has increased dramatically, and they have been wandering into town with more frequency as a result.

With this in mind, the town council held a special meeting last week to discuss what they should do about Halloween. With 1200 kids in town, they didn't want to disappoint the young trick-or-treaters, so they came up with the idea of holding the holiday indoors at the local community hall. A shuttle bus will even pick up the children and safely deliver them to the festivities. This should greatly reduce the chances of a bear encounter, which could easily end in tragedy.

Animal experts say that shrinking ice caps in the arctic are reducing the size of the polar bear's natural habitat, and forcing them into a smaller area. That is the reason that Arviat, and other villages along the Arctic Ocean, are seeing more of the bears in their area. Warmer weather is causing the Hudson Bay to take longer to freeze this year as well, preventing then bears from making their annual pilgrimage back north. Once the bay has frozen over for the season, the animals will leave Arviat behind.

While some of the ghosts, ghouls, and zombies of Halloween can indeed be scary, I can think of few things that would be more terrifying than coming face-to-face with a hungry male polar bear weighing more than a thousand pounds (450 kg). This is a wise move on the part of villagers.

Antarctica 2014: Prep Teams at Union Glacier

The 2014 Antarctic season is still a couple of weeks away from getting started, but the prep work for the support teams on the frozen continent have already begun. ExWeb is reporting that ANI flew the first support team to Union Glacier last week, where they are now prepping for the arrival of the South Pole skiers, climbers heading to Mt. Vinson, and the various other expeditions that will be taking place in the weeks ahead.

ANI's advance team arrived at Union Glacier on October 17, where they promptly went to work preparing for the new season. That prep work includes setting up the permanent camp facilities there, which serve as a logistical base for everyone that comes and goes from the Antarctic on ANI flights. The team is also preparing the company's blue ice runway and ensuring that it is ready for the big Ilyushin-76 aircraft that serve as shuttles from Punta Arenas, Chile to the facilities on the frozen continent.

In order for this first ANI staff to get to Union Glacier, they must first charter a flight with Kenn Borek Air, who uses smaller, shorter ranged Twin Otter aircraft for flights throughout the Antarctic. Their flight path took them from Punta Arenas to the Rothera Research Station – a British scientific outpost located on Adelaide Island. From there, the flight hops over to Union Glacier to drop off personnel and supplies.

Over the next couple of weeks, the ANI team will stock the Union Glacier camp, and make it as comfortable as possible before the arrival of the first wave of South Pole skiers. Usually, those adventurers start arriving around the first of November, although the weather actually dictates when they can get to the camp, and start their expeditions. Most spend only a short time at UG, before they are flown out to Patriot Hills, the traditional starting point for a journey to 90ºS.

ExWeb also points out that there is one other base that supports Antarctic expeditions, although it isn't used quite as often as ANI's Union Glacier camp. It is located at the Russian science station Novolazarevskaya, with flights arriving out of Cape Town, South Africa. The first flight due for that camp is scheduled to take place on November 4, and is reportedly fully booked.

It looks like another busy Antarctic season is about to get underway. As usual, I'll be following the progress of the teams closely.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Video: The Isle of Skye in Scotland

The Isle of Skye is one of a number of islands that are part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Skye is a wild, mountainous place, with some amazing landscapes, some of which you'll get to see for yourself in the video below. The use of black and white imagery, and wonderfully atmospheric music, helps to set the scene. This looks like a beautiful place.

Skíð : 'Cloud Island' from Fourth Dimension on Vimeo.

Video: Kayaking Kerela, India

Earlier this year, kayakers Sam Sutton, Bradely Lauder, and Mire Kodada traveled to the remote Kerela region of India to explore opportunities to go kayaking in the largely unexplored and untouched part of that country. What they found was some of the best whitewater that they had ever seen, on rivers that few – if any – other paddlers had ever descended. The video below shares some of that adventure, with some amazing footage from this beautiful part of the world.

Video: John of the Forest

Here's a wonderful short film that has some good messages for all of us. It features a man named John who is a retired organic farmer that lives in New South Wales, Australia on Mount Warning. His land is covered in dense, beautiful forest that looks like a spectacular place to call home. John shares his philosophy of connecting with nature, and the importance of recognizing that we are all part of the environment, with the need to work towards protecting it. The short video is thoughtful with its narration and imagery.

John of the Forest from PALATE on Vimeo.

Fears of Ebola Crushing Africa's Safari Tourism Industry

A month ago I wrote an article about why now is a good time to go to Africa. When I wrote that piece, Ebola was making headlines, and fear over the deadly virus was just beginning to set in with the general public. I argued then – and continue to do so now – that a downturn in travel to Africa was coming, and that opportunistic travelers could take advantage of the fear and ignorance over the disease to book a once in a lifetime journey at a fraction of the normal cost.

Since then, the bottom has fallen out in the safari tourism industry, with bookings dropping off to almost nothing. Countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana are all seeing their economies damaged by fear over Ebola, even though they are thousands of miles away from the countries that have suffered the epidemic. In fact, there are European nations that are closer to West Africa, where the virus is most prevalent, than the countries that I've named above.

New reports indicate that safari operators are seeing a 20-70% drop off in new bookings for the rest of this year, and into 2015. This is an alarming number for many countries in Africa, who had seen tourism rise dramatically in recent years. In fact, 2014 was poised to have the best travel numbers of all time, as more people planned holidays on safari. But now, fear over Ebola has put the breaks on the tourism economy, most due to a misunderstanding of the geography of Africa.

Make no mistake, Ebola is a dangerous virus, and those traveling to West Africa should take caution, particularly if they are visiting Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But the disease has not spread to other parts of the continent, and thus travelers are safe from coming in contact with someone who is infected. Still, there is a misperception that Africa is just one big place, and that all of it is rampant with Ebola. As a result, the entire continent is being lumped together, with dire consequences for the economy there.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Nepal Ends Search For Missing Trekkers, Summit Bids Begin on Makalu

It was another busy weekend in the Himalaya, but sadly for all the wrong reasons. Search and rescue teams spend the past couple of days sweeping through the mountains in search of missing trekkers who were caught out in that horrific blizzard that struck Nepal last week. The weather has improved considerably since then, but a number of people are still missing, and feared dead, in what has become the worst tragedy in the history of the Himalaya.

Efforts to locate missing trekkers and locals were continuing today, even though the SAR teams have started to scale back their efforts. All told, more than 40 people lost their lives in the storm, while 600 had to be rescued. Most of those were in the Annapurna region, where the storm seemed to hit the hardest.

Over the weekend, the popular Annapurna Circuit was shut down, while rescue efforts were conducted. When it was finally opened again, new trekkers, just setting out on their hike, ran into trouble as well, and had to be evacuated. This prompted officials to shutdown the trail once again, in order to keep others from becoming stranded.

As recently as today, ongoing avalanches have hampered efforts to locate those who are still missing. Despite those challenges however, a search team located the body of a missing Israeli traveler, which brought the death toll to 40, with others still to be found.