Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Transatlantic rowing is hot. This Sunday, 16 double-handed teams will set out from the Canary Islands and race to Barbados, a 2900-mile pull that can take up to two months (the record for the route is 41 days). On average, the teams will row about 18 hours a day, and each oarsman will burn about 7,000 calories a day. The boats are 24-feet long, built from plywood, and will be rowed through heavy swells and sweltering heat. No outside assistance whatsoever is allowed. Freeze dried food–to save weight–will be the fare of choice, and watermakers onboard each boat will provide water. This is the third edition of the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race, and you can follow the action here. The race is organized by Sir Chay Blyth (the first man to row the Atlantic) and his Challenge Business, and he makes an interesting point: “It’s incredible to think that more people have climbed Mount Everest, or have been in space, than have successfully rowed an ocean…”

“Dude, what’s this island doing in the middle of the Atlantic……”

(Photo: Challenge Business)

Where’s Amelia?: The fate of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, who disappeared in the Pacific in 1937 while circumnavigating the globe, is one of the adventure world’s greatest mysteries. Now, following a tip from an 81-year old WWII veteran, an archeological team will excavate a potential grave site on the island of Tinian. According to the vet, Saint John Naftel, he was approached in 1944 while stationed at Tinian by a local man who said that he had helped bury a white woman and a white man–both wearing aviation suits–in 1937. The man had been working as a laborer for the Japanese in the Marianas at the time, and went on to show Naftel the alleged burial ground. Naftel tried to tell his story after the war, but was repeatedly dismissed by archaeologists and historians, because Earhart was not believed to be anywhere near the Marianas when her plane went down, and it seemed doubtful that the Japanese, if they found her body, would have brought her to Tinian. But after multiple failed expeditions to try and find Earhart, historians are willing to take even a long shot. If it pays off, it will be a story to rival the discovery a few years ago of George Mallory’s body on Everest….

Earhart’s unorthodox piloting position may have had something to do with the crash…..


Don’t Try This At Home: Leave it to the crazy Swedes. This is what comes of too much snow, too little to do, and maybe too much Stoli. It’s called “speedkicking” and supposedly involves a top velocity of more than 40 miles per hour. Can anyone say “Darwin Award”?

“Wait up Sven, I’m about to hit the afterburner…..”

Decline of Civilization–Biker Bingo: They don’t pollute and they reduce traffic congestion, but what the hell, let’s run ’em down. They’re probably liberal wimps, anyhow. That’s the message that was aired by shock jocks at Clear Channel radio stations in at least three major markets–Cleveland, Houston, and Raleigh–as they encouraged their motorhead listeners to run bicyclists off the road. The anti-cyclist rants unearthed a whole new vein of right-wing rage, with callers flooding the station to unleash on-air diatribes against bicyclers. One woman bragged that her father had intentionally hit one on the way to church. Who knew?

“Mmm, this Ford Probe is tasty, but now I need to get me some two-wheeler dessert….”

Annals of Adventure–The Great Leap Upward: The US space shuttle is grounded. The Russians are broke. So odd as it may seem, you have to look to China for space flight action these days. The New York Times reports that after eleven years of talking about it, China is set to try and become just the third nation on earth to successfully jack one of its citizens into orbit, possibly this Wednesday [registration required; yes, it’s annoying but it’s free and you just have to register once, so get over it]. Details of the mission are sketchy, but reports have the Shengzhou V mission boosting 1-3 Communauts into earth orbit, where they will complete 14 circuits over 21 hours in an orbital module, which will then parachute back to earth. Some reports have the Chinese leaving another module in orbit, along with a high-res recon camera, which if true is sure to get the Pentagon sweating. But forget politics. The Chinese invented both rockets and gunpowder, so if anyone deserves to build a ginormous Roman Candle and torch it off, they do. Plus, they are talking about going to the moon in a few years, which is just the fix hardcore space junkies are looking for. If anyone needs a space colony, the Chinese do……


Oriental Orbiter: Where will Dr. Evil be bunking……..

Let Them Go V–Pammy, PETA, PETA, Pammy: Pam Anderson–who has made her, ummm, talents available to PETA, most recently by posing in some lettuce leaves for a “Go Vegetarian” poster– jumps into the Siegfried & Roy chow down, with a suspiciously well-informed (“Thanks, PETA staff!”) outing of the magical duo’s claim that they are helping “save” white tigers. She writes on her web site:

“It’s a common misconception that Siegfried & Roy breed white tigers for conservation. White tigers are not endangered – they’re not even considered a species. All captive white tigers are inbred and many suffer from serious congenital defects, including cataracts, club feet and near-crippling hip ailments. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association condemns the breeding of white tigers because it serves no conservation purpose. They are simply bred to bring in money-spending curiosity seekers, such as Vegas tourists. While Siegfried & Roy have always said great things about conservation (and done some things too), their show runs totally contrary to the message. Obviously, a bright loud stage is not an exotic animals’ natural habitat. What’s more, their show is produced by Kenneth Feld – owner of Ringling Bros, which has a long, horrible record of animal cruelty across the country, including forcing a dying baby elephant to perform.”

I guess we can lump this conservation dodge in with Siegfried’s laughable claim that Montecore the tiger was simply trying to “help” Roy. Hmmm, isn’t that what you’d say if you wanted to protect the future–with or without Roy–of a gazillion dollar franchise? Siegfried clearly understands that the punters will stick to slot machines if they think the Siegfried & Roy auditorium is simply an a la carte opportunity for pissed-off tigers……

“I just love animals!”: Still from the pirated Pam Anderson/Fido Lee home video

Annals of Adventure III–(sorry, I’ve run out of water noises): The French are everywhere! On Thursday rower Maud Fontenoy, 26, dipped her oars for the final strokes of a gruelling transatlantic rowing voyage that took her from the Canadian coast to La Coruna, Spain in a mere….117 days! That’s a ridiculously long time to be on the Atlantic in a scaled up 25-foot rowboat, and in fact it was about 6 weeks longer than Fontenoy originally intended. Contrary winds kept her at sea, presumably wishing she had just gone to the Riviera for the summer. But Fontenoy has guts. She kept plugging away, and then spent the last two days of her voyage without sleep, dodging container ships off the Spanish coast and wrestling with dangerous currents. Fontenoy is not the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic but she is the first to do it from west to east. It’s not an easy row. To date there have been 22 attempts, of which seven succeeded, 12 failed, and three ended in death. Maud’s personal web site is a disaster, but you can find out more about her voyage, as well as lots of interesting stuff about ocean rowing (like the fact that the longest rowing voyage–across the Pacific–took 361 days!), at the Ocean Rowing Society.

Transatlantic Triumph of the Will: “I’d shake your hand, but my blisters are too big…..”

(Photo: Ocean Rowing Society)

Annals of Adventure II–Splosh-Splish: There are adventurers and then there are French adventurers. They do all the crazy, obscure stuff (like the guy who recently tried to walk across the Pacific with big pontoons strapped to his feet–he barely got offshore before capsizing). And at this very moment, if you could zoom in on a speck of the Pacific Ocean approximately 600 miles east-northeast of the Tuamotu Islands, you would find a woman named Raphaela Le Gouvello…on a windsurfer…sailing alone from Peru to Tahiti…a mere 65 days into her ambitious journey. Le Gouvello is the first woman to windsurf across the Mediterranean and the first woman to windsurf across the Atlantic. So, c’est logic, she’s got to windsurf across the Pacific. And that is exactly what she’s doing, attempting to navigate the 4300 miles from Lima, Peru to Papeete, Tahiti (the same voyage Thor Heyerdahl made in Kon-Tiki). Le Gouvello’s ride is a purpose-built sailboard that is just over 25 feet long. Fully loaded–with batteries, freeze-fried food, solar panels, watermaker, GPS, satphone (hey, does this thing have a TV?)–it weighs about 1100 pounds, which is a lot of boat to be horsing across the waves for 3 months or more. She’s been averaging about 52 miles a day–scraping barnacles off the underside along the way–so should arrive in Tahiti in about 3 weeks. You can follow Le Gouvello’s Pacific odyssey on her comprehensive (French adventurers always get tons of great sponsorship) website (in English, even).

Go-Go Le Gouvello: She probably looks more like Heyerdahl by now…

(Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget)

Annals of Adventure–Splish-Splash: When he was a child, Jim Dreyer, 40, almost drowned. This week he wrapped up a little swim….that took him from one end of Lake Michigan to the other, 340 miles total in 31 days. Before you gasp “That’s one crazy motherf***er!” it’s important to note that it wasn’t a continuous swim. Instead it was broken into 16 stages, and Dreyer kicked back in a camper at various campsites along the way to rest between the 20-30 mile stages. But still: he had to swim through 12-20 foot swells on occasion (“it was like being dropped off a two-story building”), and kept churning through hail, winds up to 40 knots, and even a little snow. He lost 20 pounds of muscle mass through the ordeal. Dreyer probably should have a Great Lakes fish named after him. Prior to this stunt, he made the first direct crossing of Lake Michigan (65 miles, 41 hours), swam across Lake Huron (53 miles, 39 hours), and bagged Lake Erie (immediately following the swim with a full marathon through beach sand) and Lake Ontario (completing a full marathon and 130 miles of biking before hitting the water). Dreyer twice set the Lake Superior distance record (his best now stands at at 48 miles), braving 37 degree water. With all that time in the Lakes it’s amazing he wasn’t run down by the Edmund Fitzgerald . For all this, and for raising money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America while risking permanent prune skin, I hereby nominate Jim Dreyer Wetass of the Week.

Swimicus Nonstopicus Jim Dreyer: “I wonder what’s on Oprah…..”

Maul Story 4 (Not for the Squeamish): Turns out there is an audiotape of the last three minutes of Timothy Treadwell’s life, which captures his mauling by a bear in the Katmai National Park and Preserve. Police speculate that he might have been wearing a sound-activated mike when he was attacked. “Get out of here. I’m getting killed,” Treadwell yelled to his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard. Huguenard can be heard yelling, amid the scuffling and screaming, “play dead,” which is the recommended initial response to a bear attack. When the bear keeps laying into Treadwell, she yells “fight back,” which is a not very attractive Option 2. Shortly thereafter, Treadwell pleads “hit him with a pan.” Then the tape goes dead. The Anchorage Daily News has the full story, plus a lot more background on Treadwell’s apparent compulsion to get really, really close to bears. He claimed he could calm them with his sing-song voice, and tell from their body language whether they were about to get aggressive. Apparently not. But at least he died doing something he loved….and not in a road rage accident commuting to a cubicle.

Bear-Boy Treadwell and girlfriend Amie Huguenard

Photos: Anchorage Daily News; Huguenard courtesy of Kathie Stowell

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