Although we hoped it wouldn't happen, we knew that being pick-pocketed on our Trip Around the World was a very real possibility. We tried to always be careful, especially in crowded places, but we just weren't careful enough in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you've ever visited Vietnam or even seen videos on YouTube, you know the streets are filled with an endless flow of motorbike traffic. There are plenty of cars on the road, too, but, as it was explained to us, Vietnam has an import tax of 200% on automobiles while motorbikes are bought and sold from flyers on the walls of cafes and restaurants for $200. And that means there are a lot more motorbikes than cars traversing the streets of Vietnam.
We'd been in Vietnam for more than a week, so we'd gotten used to the intensity of Vietnamese street traffic. We even got really good at crossing the street with (almost) no fear. Despite this familiarity, we were still a little surprised when we left The Secret Garden (a well-regarded, somewhat hidden rooftop restaurant located up four flights of stairs in an alley off Pasteur Street) to walk to Fanny's, an ice cream parlor where we had a reservation to enjoy a fancy 14-scoop ice cream fondue platter.
It was New Year's Eve, and a massive number of people and motorbikes were clogging the city's streets like nothing we'd seen before. HCMC has a population of almost eight million people, and it felt like every one of them was either driving through the heart of District 1 on a motorbike or walking toward Công viên 23 Tháng 9 (Park September 23) to get a good view of the upcoming New Year's concert and fireworks show. Read the rest
For decades, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru in Northern India was thought by most elite climbers to to unclimbable.
The Shark's Fin on Mount Meru is 21,000 feet above the Ganges River in Northern India. In this short video, climber-filmmaker Jimmy Chin gives a tour of his tent, which hangs on the side of a sheer cliff, and contains 200 pounds of stuff that he and his climbing partner have hauled with them.
Watch the trailer for the full-length documentary about ascending this challenging mountain, called Meru.
“There's no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they've supported you through your darkest times.” Read the rest
By adding a little sampling to their adventures out in the wild, explorers in hard-to-reach locations could lend a big hand to scientific research.
An organization called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation hopes to bring the two professions together in the name of science.
This week, I sat in on a session at the American Geophysical Union meeting in which the speakers discussed the merits of citizen science and the potential impact that explorers could make on scientific data collection.
Many scientists are explorer and trek across the globe, but often they have responsibilities that keep them tied to the institutions where they work with limited opportunities to get into the field for data collection. If sampling techniques can be simplified and standardized so that anyone can learn how collect the necessary bits of rock, water, flora, etc. at particular sites, why not ask the people who are already out there to help out?
Additionally, those out exploring are often on the front lines of witnessing changes to our planet, and are passionate about wanting to help in some way.
Not all science can utilize the citizenry, but for those projects that can, this seems like an amazing resource on both sides of the equation. Read the rest
Now this is how you do multimedia.
At The New York Times, John Branch tells the amazing, terrifying story of 16 backcountry skiers and snowboarders caught in an avalanche in the Cascade mountains in February 2012. The article, by itself, is a must-read. But you should also take a look at the absolutely fantastic way that Branch and his editors put the online medium to good use — embedding interactive maps, photos that move like something out of Harry Potter, and more standard videos into a lovely, fluid design.
Alissa Walker, who pointed me toward this piece, said that she felt cold just reading it. And you really do get that feeling. All the elements of Branch's article are brought together in a way that enhances the urgency and amplifies your sense of experiencing somebody else's story. It's really, really, really fantastic.
On the anniversary of Apollo 11, Steve Jurvetson posted an amazing, never-before-seen series of space artifacts. He writes:
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On July 20, 1969, Eagle landed on the moon. These are the handwritten notes from the Grumman engineers as they pushed to complete Lunar Module LM-5 in 1968. On the last page, they learn than this particular Lunar Module would be the one to bring the first humans to the moon.
The Grumman Engineering Log served not only as an engineering notebook but also as an intercom between the day and night shift – separate teams that needed to push the ball forward from where the other left off. So we are offered a rare peek into the concerns, uncertainties and conversations that might have otherwise been quietly undocumented.
Image: Chhiring Sherpa provides the lighting for a photograph of Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck. Photo by Grayson Schaffer, used with permission of Outside.
Hint: It involves a lot of sherpas.
Grayson Schaffer, an editor for Outside magazine, is currently embedded at Base Camp on Mt. Everest, covering several teams attempting to climb the mountain's West Ridge—which Outside describes as "a route nearly as many climbers have died on as have summitted." He's sending back stories and photos from the tallest mountain in the world. But that presents a problem. The kind of photography that's used in a glossy magazine is not the kind of photography that is easy to produce with a team of one in a bare-bones climbing camp.
In a recent post, Schaffer explains the tools he's using to get his shots and shows us how he's wrangled random sherpas, climbers, and camp staff into assisting him. It's a neat bit of media behind-the-scenes.
The key piece of gear that makes it all possible is the new Pro-B3 1200w/s AirS battery pack. It's the lithium-powered update to the older 7B power pack, and it delivers consistent flashes even in subzero temperatures at 17,500 feet. We've got two of these with a set of spare battery inserts but have yet to run down in a day's shooting. To charge these beasts, we've been using a basic GoalZero solar setup, which, thanks to the Pro-B3's built-in trickle-charging capability, can top off a charge in a sunny afternoon.