Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Video: Balance - Life and Death in the Mountains

This short film has been bouncing around my social media feed for a few days now, and I finally had a chance to give it a look. I won't say too much about it, as I don't want to spoil anything, but to say it is powerful and moving would be an understatement. I will say it opens with a pair of climbers going up a rock face when an accident occurs, leaving them hanging in the balance I suppose. The rest you'll have to watch and find out for yourself. All I can say is "Wow!"

BALANCE from Mark Ram on Vimeo.

Video: How to Trail Run - Running on Snow

Salomon has kicked off the second season of its "How to Trailrun" series of videos with several new clips appearing on the company's YouTube channel. You'll find videos to help you learn how to dress for running in the winter, as well as tips for trail runners who are looking to cross-train as well. But considering the shift in seasons that is about to take place here in the northern hemisphere, I thought it was appropriate to share this particular video, which provides tips on how to run on the snow. Sure, we don't really want to think about winter coming, but since it is inevitable, we might as well embrace it.

Gear Closet: MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove

MSR's PocketRocket stove is one of those iconic outdoor products that everyone has probably seen, heard about, or used at some point. The tiny backpacking stove set new standards for size, weight, and efficiency, making it extremely popular amongst the light and fast crowd, or anyone who just didn't want to deal with a big, heavy stove taking up a lot of room in their pack. So, when the company announced that it was releasing a new version of this popular product it was met with some trepidation. After all, why mess with a good thing, right? But the PocketRocket 2 is everything that we've come to know and love about the original, but with some nice improvements that make it even better.

In terms of size and weight, it's tough to beat the PocketRocket 2. Weighing in at just 2.6 ounces (73 grams), this tiny stove is so small that it can be slipped into a pocket if that's how you really wanted to carry it around. In reality, you're likely to nest it inside a cooking pot or canister, and stuff it in your backpack, but it is nice to know it won't add much in the way of bulk.

In terms of efficiency, the PocketRocket 2 punches above its weight class. It can boil a liter of water in about 3.5 minutes, which isn't going to break any speed records, but is pretty impressive considering its size. On top of that, MSR says that it boil approximately 2 liters of water per 1 ounce of fuel, which is pretty solid performance in general. I found that the real world performance varied a bit from those numbers, with colder and windier conditions impacting overall efficiency, but for the most part I was generally impressed and pleased with the little stove's performance.

Another Massive Iceberg Breaks Free From Antarctica

Researchers using satellite imagery to observe conditions in the Antarctic reported that another massive iceberg broke off from the frozen continent this past weekend. This lasted slab of ice is reportedly more than a 100 square miles (160 sq. km) in size, which makes it about four times the size of Manhattan.

Unlike the last giant iceberg that broke away from Antarctica back in July, this one did not calve off of the Larsen C Ice Shelf. Instead, it came from the Pine Island Glacier (PIG), which has been retreating at an alarming rate over the past few years. Reportedly, the PIG loses approximately 45 tons of ice per year at the moment, and is responsible for about a quarter of the loss of ice in Antarctica.

While quite large, this latest iceberg has reportedly already started to break up into smaller sections as it floats out to sea. It's size is large enough to create problems for ships passing through the region, but it is nothing compared to the 2240 square mile (5,800 square km) section that separated from the Larsen C a few months back. Scientists continue to track that slab of ice as well, and while it has reduced in size, it remains quite sizable.

According to this report, this is now the third major calving event from the Pine Island Glacier over the past few years, with the other two being nearly twice the size of this one. What concerns researchers the most isn't necessarily the size of these icebergs, but the rate at which they are breaking free. A glacier of this size, located this far south, shouldn't be calving off ice at this rate. And yet, it continues to do so, and is likely increasing in frequency.

On top of that, the glacier makes up about 10% of the drainage of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which means it is a significant contributor to potential rises in sea level. As Antarctica continues to warm, and more massive chunks of ice break free from the land mass there, the threat of rising sea levels becomes more of a concern.

To make matters worse, satellite images show that rifts are forming further inland, which means that the glacier is being eroded at a faster rate, and may start to calve larger chunks of ice like the one that dropped off the Larsen C earlier in the year. At the moment, the prognosis doesn't look good, as the PIG retreats, it will allow even more ice, which is backed up behind it, to begin to melt. It seems like it is only a matter of time before that starts to happen, barring some unexpected change in the climate on Antarctica.




Himalaya Fall 2017: Summits and A Death on Manaslu, Final Push Begins on Dhaulagiri

Sad news from the Nepal this morning, where it is being reported that a climber has died on Manaslu. According to a report from Himalayan Guides, one of the operators on the mountain this season, 46-year old Phillip Harvey of the U.K. died while descending from Camp 3. He was already suffering from the advanced stages of altitude sickness and succumbed to that ailment before his support team could get him to safety.

Little is known beyond that, and of course our condolences go out to Phillip's friends and family. This was the first death on Manaslu this season, and as the summit push begins, lets hope it is the only one.

Speaking of summits, yesterday was a busy day on the mountain with 23 members of the Seven Summits Trek team reaching the top. That number includes 11 clients (8 Chinese nationals, 2 Koreans, and 1 Indian climber) and 12 Sherpa guides. This group is already back on the descent, even as more teams head to the top.

The Summit Club team moved up to C3 yesterday and plan to continue up to C4 today, with the thought of summiting tomorrow, September 27. There are reportedly a number of other squads that are following a similar story, with most preparing to top out over the next few days. Meanwhile, the Adventure Consultants are dropping back to Base Camp today where they will rest up and then prepare for their own summit bid. That could come as early as this weekend, depending on how fit they are feeling and whether or not the forecast stays clear.

With more than 250 foreign climbers on Manaslu this season, it has been a busier than usual mountain. But, it now appears that things are wrapping up quickly, with most teams now on track to summit over the next few days. That would pretty much put them on schedule, despite the crowded conditions and heavy snows and rains that have hit the area so far this fall.

Finally, over on Dhaulagiri, 78-year old Carlos Soria has left Base Camp on his way up to C1 today. His team is now rested and have a favorable forecast, so they are hoping to reach the summit later this week too. If everything goes according to plan, they should top out no Thursday or Friday, giving the Spaniard his 13th 8000-meter peak. That would leave him with just Shishapangma left to climb.

Stay tuned for more updates. There is still plenty of action to come.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Video: #LifeChangingPlaces - South Africa

A couple of weeks back I shared a video that was the first in a series dubbed #LifeChangingPlaces. It followed professional photographer Chris Burkard to one of his favorite destinations – Lofoten, Norway. Today, we have the second video in that series, and it is another amazing place. This time, we head to South Africa – Kruger National Park in fact – to discover why Gesa Neitzel gave up her career as television editor to become a safari guide instead. This is a place I have been to, and I'd love to work as a guide there as well. Enjoy!

#LifeChangingPlaces - SOUTH AFRICA - Gesa Neitzel from Vincent Urban on Vimeo.

Video: A POV Look at the Winning Run From the Red Bull Hardline Mountain Bike Race

The Red Bull Hardline mountain bike race is considered one of the toughest downhill events in the entire world. Held in the north of Wales, the course is wild, treacherous, and demanding. Most of us will never get the chance to ride the route for ourselves, but you can get a sense of what it is really like through this video. It was shot on a helmet cam attached to the helmet of Craig Evans, the eventual winner of the race. If you want to know just how demanding the Hardline is, this will give you and idea.

Gear Closet: Gnarbox Portable Photo and Video Editing Station

One of the biggest challenges of being a travel writer in the modern age is keeping all of your photos and video backed up while on the go. It only takes one memory card to fail or get lost to spoil your entire trip, leaving you scrambling for resources. Of course, you can carry a laptop along, and dutifully back up your files on a regular basis, but laptops are fragile and add weight to your pack, particularly when you're heading out into remote areas. But a new product called the Gnarbox looks to solve these problems, while giving users a mobile editing station that they can access wirelessly too.

With its rugged case, the Gnarbox was built to handle travel in the outdoors. The device is shock and dustproof, while offering solid resistance to water too. That means you can toss it around, drop it, and even get it a little wet, without fear of it breaking down. I wouldn't recommend it get fully immersed in water, but you can take it with you without fear of damage under even some extreme circumstances.

The box itself is a little over 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length and 3.4 inches (8.6 cm) in width. At first glance, it actually appears to be rather nondescript, with few indications of what it is actually used for. But, along one side you'll soon notice a pair of doors that clicks open and closed. Behind those doors you'll find not only two USB 3.0 ports, but an SD card reader and a Micro-SD slot. Those ports can be used to read photos and videos stored on cameras, which can then be backed up to the Gnarbox's 128GB of internal storage. A MicroUSB 3.0 port is also included for charging the Gnarbox.

Under the hood, the Gnarbox is powered by an Intel quad-core 1.92 gHz processor that is paired with a discreet HD graphics GPU too. For all intents and purposes, this makes it a tiny computer, specifically designed for use by photographers and videographers working in the field. Those chips give the device enough power to not only quickly and easily edit photos on the fly (including .jpg, .png, and RAW), but also handle editing duties on video up to 4k resolutions at at much as 240fps.

British Explorer Completes Source-to-Sea Trek of Zambezi River

We've covered British adventurer Chaz Powell's attempt to walk the length of the Zambezi River in Africa a couple of times on The Adventure Blog. First when he was still planning the expedition and again last year when he set out. Now, we have received word that the journey has come to an end, as Powell reached the Indian Ocean on September 19.

Dubbed The Wildest Journey, Powell began his walk last August, with the idea of walking the entire 1600 miles (2574 km) in roughly six months time. While on his trek he faced numerous challenges, not the least of which were man-eating crocodiles, thick bush, deadly snakes, hostile locals, and aggressive elephants. Through it all he persevered, pushing forward as best as could despite very trying conditions.

The expedition hit a major road lock back in December of 2016, which is when Powell elected to suspend the trek due to security concerns in Mozambique. Guerrilla fighters were creating instability throughout the country, and there were fears that he would be kidnapped and held for ransom. There were even serious threats against his life, so fearing for his own safety, Chaz was forced to pull the plug about about 3/4 of the way through the expedition.

In August, Powell returned to Africa to finish what he started. He traveled to point he had abandoned the walk, and resumed his travels, moving deeper into Mozambique, where many challenges still awaited him. The security situation hasn't improved dramatically there, but he pressed on, finally reaching his end point last Tuesday.

All told, he 137 days covering 1864 miles (3000 km), taking 4 million steps along the way. Now, his adventure is complete and he is heading home, the first person to walk the entire length of the Zambezi River.

Powell undertook The Wildest Journey to raise funds for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and those efforts continue even after the trip is complete. Find out more here.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Teams Begin Plotting Summit Bids

The weather in the Himalaya is starting to improve after several days of snow and rain last week. That means that teams are on the move one again as they continue their acclimatization efforts, with some even starting to think about their eventual summit bids.

There has been plenty of rain in Dhaulagiri Base Camp all season long, but things are starting to improve there. So much so that 78-year old Carlos Soria and his team are starting to plan their second summit bid. Their first attempt to climb the mountain was thwarted when they took the wrong path to the top. They have since returned to BC, rested up, and waited out the weather. They now hope to launch their second attempt on the summit later this week.

Meanwhile, over on Manaslu, the teams have also resumed their acclimatization efforts. The weather had kept them at lower altitudes for a few days as well, but now that conditions are improving, the numerous teams on the mountain are eager to get started once again. To that end, the Adventure Consultants have moved up to Camp 2, arriving at that point earlier today, with a few members of the squad actually continuing up to C3 as well. Tomorrow they'll return to Base Camp for some rest, and will once again look at the forecast to decide their next move. When they go back up the mountain next time, it will be to launch their summit bid.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Video: Acadia National Park in Timelapse

For my money, Acadia National Park is one of the best wildernesses in the eastern part of the U.S., if not the entire country. I'm reminded of that sentiment after watching this video, which takes us to Acadia to show us the landscapes and shoreline found there in stunning timelapse. It is a beautiful way to end the week here at The Adventure Blog. Sit back and enjoy this one, it is spectacular.

Acadia II from Will Greene on Vimeo.

Video: Paddling the Great Falls Near Washington D.C.

Who knew that there were impressive waterfalls to paddle a short distance from Washington D.C.? In this video we travel to the Great Falls, located 14 miles from the city, to join Rafa Ortiz as he sets out to kayak this amazing stretch of the Potomac River. What he finds there an incredible whitewater playground located close to a major urban setting, something that isn't found all that often.

Video: Elevations - A High Speed Racing Drone in the Swiss Alps

A few years ago, drones were a new thing that were just finding their niche for use in daily lives. Today, they are highly specialized devices that can perform a number of different tasks, ranging from filmmaking and photography and surveying to delivering products. Drone racing has also become a growing activity, with fast, maneuverable UAV's taking to the skies to zip through a predesigned course. In this video, a racing drone is taken into the Swiss Alps to capture some amazing footage, but what begins as a typical flight, quickly turns into a roller coaster ride. Buckle up for this one, it is a fantastic clip with some amazing footage, caught at high speed.

British Adventurer Emma Kelty Shot and Killed in the Amazon

Sad news from Brazil, where it has been revealed that British adventurer Emma Kelty was shot and killed by local gunmen while attempt to kayak the length of the Amazon. Three of the suspects have been arrested, but her body has not been located at this time.

Kelty had been traveling alone, kayaking the Amazon River source to sea, when she was attacked and killed on September 13, 44 days into her journey. She was in northern Brazil at the time along a stretch of the river between Tabatinga and Manaus. This part of the Amazon is known to be particularly lawless, harboring drug runners and bandits. Emma had posted on her Facebook page that she had a run in with a group of thugs the day before she was murdered, but wrote that it was "all good."

The next day she was spotted by thugs again and they reportedly began shooting at her tent. The group of seven men then attacked her and stole some of her electronic gear. Local villagers say she was still alive when the men put her into their canoe, although she was badly injured.

Three of her assailants were later arrested when they were caught trying to sell some of her stolen equipment. Those men have told police that they were part of the gang that attacked Kelty, but that their leader was the one responsible. He is still at large somewhere in the jungle at this time. In their confession, they admitted to torturing and raping Kelty before dumping her body into the river.

Australian Adventurer to Trek Tropic of Capricorn Across South America

An Australian adventurer is preparing to set out on a journey across South America following the Tropic of Capricorn from the Pacific Ocean in Chile to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. The trek will take him through the Andes, across the Atacama Desert, as he covers more than 4000 km (2485 miles) along the way.

Andrew Harper will set out on the trek starting on October 1. He expects that it will take him approximately six months to finish the expedition, which he is undertaking to raise funds and awareness of muscular dystrophy. He'll follow the Tropic of Capricorn the entire way, passing through Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil while en route.

Despite the long distance and massive undertaking, Harper says that this route will be much more "suburban" compared to his previous Tropic of Capricorn expedition. Back in 1999, he followed that same line as he traveled on foot across Australia. That journey took him deep into the heart of the continent and through massive deserts, far from civilization. This time out, he says he'll mostly follow roads and will often find himself close to towns and cities.

Still, the trek won't be an easy one. He'll carry all of his gear and supplies behind him in cart, even as he wanders up the Andes to an altitude of 4680 meters (15,354 ft). On his previous journey across Australia, he used camels as pack animals, but this time he'll have to lug all of the supplies himself. That will make it a decidedly different experience, even if he is sticking closer to civilization.

You'll be able to follow Andrew's travels on his Facebook page, which will be updated throughout the journey. You can also learn more about the expedition on his website.

Big thanks to my friend Louis-Phillippe Loncke for sharing this story. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Video: How a Team of Elite Runners Set Out to Break the 2 Hour Marathon Barrier

Earlier this year, a team of elite marathon runners, backed by Nike, set out to break the two-hour marathon mark. That's an ambitious goal, but one that has been just out of reach for sometime now. But with special gear, intense preparation and planning, and a carefully controlled environment, they set out to see if it could be achieved. This full-length documentary dubbed Breaking2 shares their story.

Video: What You Need to Get Started Car Camping

Last week we shared a video from Outside magazine that offered the 7 things you need to get started in backpacking. This week, the Outside team is back to show us how to get started with car camping instead. While hiking into remote backcountry is always amazing, sometimes camping with a few extra luxuries is nice too. That's what car camping is all about, and to see how its done, check out the video below.

Adventure Tech: Venture is the wearable, live-streaming HD camera you can take anywhere

We've seen a slew of interesting new tech products over the past couple of weeks, ranging from new smartwatches to off-grid communications devices. But perhaps the latest gadget that I'm most excited about is the Venture HD camera, which launched on Indiegogo a few weeks back and is already a major success.

Venture comes our way from body camera manufacturer Wolfcom, and true to that heritage it is a wearable device that is rugged enough to take with you just about anywhere. More than that however, the Venture some great specs that make it very intriguing. For example, it can capture HD video at 1080p resolutions, it has a wide 120ยบ angle lens that rotates, it can take still photographs, and it comes with four built-in LED lights that not only serve as a flashlight, but can illuminate a low-light scene when filming. The device even has onboard WiFi, which allows it to broadcast live streams to both YouTube and Facebook.

Wolfcom says that the camera is lighter and smaller than a GoPro, tipping the scales at a mere 2.2 ounces. Despite that however, it offers water resistance, a built-in mic, and a magnetic clip to keep it attached at all times This allows users to clip it on a backpack or jacket, turn it on, and continue recording completely hands free. The device can even be mounted on a dashboard to serve as a car camera too.

The camera reportedly gets 2.5 hours of recording time from its included battery, although Wolfcom plans on offering an extended battery that can add 21 hours of recording time. The Venture supports up to 64GB memory cards and it connects to iOS and Android devices via a specially developed app to adjust settings, watch videos, and more.

When the Venture's crowdfunding campaign was launched the hope was to raise $25,000 to get the camera into production. With more than a week to go before the campaign ends, Wolfcom has brought in more than $70,000, which means we should see the device go into production in early 2018 and begin shipping to customers in February. At that point it will be priced at $359, although early-bird supports can pre-order one now for as low as $149.

What I'm particularly interested in about this camera is its ability to live steam events. I'd love to take one of these with me on my travels and perhaps offer viewers on my Facebook page the chance to see where I'm at and what I'm up to. Or, I could take the Venture with me to Outdoor Retailer to preview new gear live as well. The possibilities are endless and definitely exciting. Hopefully I'll get my hands on one of these cameras in the future to test one out for myself.

To find out more visit the Venture Indiegogo page.


With "National Pride" at Stake, Nepal Prepares to Remeasure the Height of Mt. Everest

Nepal has announced plans to go ahead with a planned survey to remeasure the height of Mt. Everest, citing "National Pride" as a reason it is proceeding with the delicate, time consuming, and costly operation. The surveying expedition is expected to take up to two years to complete, and cost somewhere int he neighborhood of $250,000.

For decades the accepted official height of Mt. Everest has stood at 8848 meters (29,029 ft), although there has been some controversy surrounding that figure. For instance, the Chinese measured the summit in 2005 as 8844 meters (29,015 ft), with surveyors claiming that was the altitude without snow on the summit. Meanwhile, a 1999 GPS survey by the National Geographic Society lists the height as 8850 meters (29,035 ft), further confusing the subject.

So what's the real height? Nepal is embarking on an ambitious plan to find out, and has rebuked any outside help. The country that claims dominion over the South Side of the mountain has never measured the height of Everest on its own, and is now intent on doing the fact that neighboring India has already announced its own plans to measure the mountain again as well.

The impetus behind these recent plans to survey the mountain once again come following the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal back in 2015. It is believed that the seismic forces that caused that disaster may have also caused Everest to shrink in height. Most reports indicate that the mountain probably only lost an inch or so, but that was enough to spur on talks of remeasuring the peak, with India first announcing its plans to send a survey team, and Nepal quickly following.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Duble Amputee Summits Mera Peak, Messner in Base Camp

It has been another active few days in the Himalaya, where we are closing in on the halfway point of the fall climbing season. The teams are in the midst of their acclimatization rotations in anticipation of summit bids to come, but are keeping a close eye on weather forecasts to determine their next move. But, as usual, there is a lot happening, and not all if it is centered around the big 8000 meter peaks.

We'll start with an update on Hari Budha Magar, the double-amputee who set his sights on Mera Peak this fall. The former British Gurkha soldier has reached the summit on that mountain, becoming the first person to do so following the loss of his legs above the knee. He, and four other members of the team, topped out on the 6476-meter (21,246 ft) mountain at 9:02 AM local time on Tuesday.

Magar, who lost his legs while fighting in Afghanistan, used this expedition as training for an upcoming attempt on Everest. He now plans to attempt to summit the world's highest mountain in the spring of 2018. He has now descended off of Mera Peak and is resting before proceeding for home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Video: Under the Midnight Sun

It seems we've had a rash of videos from Norway recently, but when I came across this one, I knew it was too good not to share. It takes us north of the Arctic Circle, where the midnight sun is in full bloom, casting its otherworldly light across the landscapes there. The dramatic scenes of those stunningly beautiful places are accompanied by haunting music that makes a great accompaniment to the visuals on screen. If you've ever wanted to explore the remote regions of Norway, this video will only fuel that desire. I haven't been, but after watching this I know I'll have to go.

Under The Midnight Sun from Pirmin Henseler on Vimeo.

Video: Essential Mountain Biking Skills - How to Do a Bunny Hop

There are few mountain biking sills more useful than the bunny hop. This simple, yet highly effective, move allows riders to clear any number of obstacles on the trail, making it much easier to stay on your bike and continuing to ride. In this video, we learn how to pull off an effective bunny hop, which is an essential part of any rider's repertoire.

Adventure Tech: Gotoky Provides Off-Grid Communications

Over the past few years we've seen several devices released that provide a method for staying in communication with friends and family while traveling off the grid. Gadgets like the goTenna or Beartooth create their own mobile networks to deliver text – and sometimes voice – communications in the backcountry. Now, you can add another such device, and this one brings some interesting options that help it to stand out.

The Gotoky launched on Kickstarter yesterday and has already smashed through its $24,000 goal. The device promises to be a completely secure off-grid communications device for use in remote areas or disaster zones. The gadget pairs with a smartphone (iPhone and Android) via Bluetooth and can connect with other Gotoky units within the area, creating a more robust network and extending the range almost indefinitely.

Once paired, it allows users to send text message or make voice calls either individually or in groups. The system supports voice messages as well, and offers delivery confirmation of messages. Beyond that however, the Gotoky can also be activated to serve as an emergency locator beacon, it can share GPS locations, and it offers navigation with direction and distance shown on detailed topographic maps, even when offline. Location pining makes it easier for users to find one another as well, as the device supports real-time tracking and recording too.

The Gotoky device can be attached to a backpack or belt to serve as an antenna to communicate with other users within range. That range varies depending on the location, terrain, and interference from other radio devices. But, because the Gotoky uses meshing, it can in theory extend its signal over vast distances thanks to its ability to skip messages off other devices that are nearby. Battery life is said to be about 72 hours, which is exceptional for a gadget like this one.

Since Gotoky has already reached its crowdfunding goal, the device should go into production on schedule early next year with a delivery set for April of 2018. At that time, a pair of the communications units will sell for approximately $240, although early-bird supporters can pre-order them now for as low as $140. Individual units can be had for less, but in reality, the device is only useful if you're connecting to a network of other Gotoky units.

Trail Runner Sets New Speed Record on John Muir Trail

Trail and ultra-runner Darcy Piceu has set a new speed record for the 211-mile (339 km) John Muir Trail in California. The endurance athlete was able to complete the entire route in 3 days, 4 hours, and  12 minutes, besting the previous record by more than 11 hours. That means she managed a steady pace of approximately 21 minutes and 40 second miles across the entire length of the run, while also accumulating more than 47,000 feet (14325 meters) of vertical gain.

The John Muir Trail begins in the Yosemite Valley and runs to the summit of Mount Whitney, following a section of the Pacific Crest Trail along the way. It is widely considered to be one of the most scenic routes in the entire U.S., passing through towering canyons, over high peaks, and past countless alpine lakes. The trail also passes through the stunningly beautiful Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks along the way too.

Piceau began her journey on the summit of Whitney and ran to Yosemite, covering the distance from the Whitney Portals to the Happy Isles trailhead in 3 days, 8 hours. She reached her finish line this past Sunday, using a light and fast equipment list that included wearing a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 running shoes.

This is a pretty impressive feat on a rugged and challenging trail. Congratulations to Darcy for completing the run and setting the new speed record. It'll definitely be a tough one to beat.

Team of Explorers Set Out to Map Little Known Siberian Islands

An international team of explorers has embarked on an expedition into the Arctic to go in search of a set of almost-mythical islands located north of Siberia. The team hopes to not only fill in some blank spots on the map regarding this seldom visited place, but will also examine the impact of climate change on the environment north of the Arctic Circle.

The Pax Arctica Expedition was created to not only create awareness of threats to the Arctic but also to help usher in new ecological regulations governing that part of the world. To that end, a squad of French, Russian, and American explorers and researchers have begun sailing north through the treacherous Arctic Ocean in an attempt to reach New Siberia and the De Long Islands, which are generally only accessible in the late summer and early fall, prior to the arrival of the ice pack.

The team consists of expedition leader Luc Hardy, who is joined by a well-rounded research team that features the likes of paleozoologist Alexei Tikhonov and the anthropobiologist Eric Crubezy. They are being guided by veteran polar explorer Victor Boyarsky, who has had numerous expeditions into the cold places of our planet, including Antarctica and Greenland.

The group set out aboard a 437-ft. Russian Arctic research vessel called the Mikhail Somov from the port city of Tiksi a few days back. The ship will make a few stops en route to New Siberia and De Long, delivering meteorologists to remote weather stations throughout the area, and resupplying others. Those stations will generally be cut off from the outside for months at a time due to the arrival of winter, so the Somov is their lifeline.

The ship reached remote Henrietta Island yesterday, which is part of the De Long island chain. They found very little indication that it had ever been visited by man in the past, although polar bear tracks were discovered in the snow. It is likely that as they proceed north, they'll encounter more of those creatures, and yet fewer signs of man.

Ultimately the team hopes to reach their main objective, which is New Siberia. Relatively low-lying  in terms of altitude, the island is covered in vegetation hardy enough to survive in the tundra. The place is renowned for having preserved mammoth bones and tusks, as well as other megafauna, in it permafrost, but it also serves as a good indicator of a place that could be deeply impacted by climate change.

You can follow the progress of the expedition via its blog, Facebook page, and live tracker.