The Wild File

The Wild File: Outdoor Questions Answered
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Jul 31, 2006
Outside Magazine
Pop Quiz

Where's the Pole of inaccessibility? Actually, there isn't just one—it's really nothing more than a vague geographic construct used by adventurers to justify far-flung expeditions. Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson coined the term in 1920 as a label for the point on the Arctic ice pack farthest from the water. The concept has since been applied to other remotest points on oceans and continents, including the southern pole, on Antarctica (288 miles from the South Pole), and the Eurasian pole, in northwestern China's desert—the point on land farthest from any ocean, reached in the 1980s by two Englishmen on bicycles.Soviet pilot Ivan Cherevichnyy was the first to reach the Arctic pole, by plane in 1941, and a Russian team made it there on skis in 1986. British firefighter Jim McNe...

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Q) Do flamingos turn pink from eating shrimp?
David Kresner, San Francisco, California
Actually, most of that coral coloring comes from algae and plankton. Flamingos consume vast amounts of these tiny snackables, which are loaded with a brilliant-pink pigment called canthaxanthin. In some habitats, they also eat algae-munching brine shrimp and other tiny crustaceans, allowing them to pick up some secondary color. In both cases, the pigment enters the birds' bloodstream during digestion and gets sequestered in growing feathers. In some zoos, where the birds don't always get enough natural pink chow, handlers feed them canthaxanthin supplements to make sure they match the cotton candy. In addition to flamingos, says Nancy Clum, assistant curator of ornithology for the Wildlife Conservation Society, "scarlet ibis, spoonbills, and orioles all depend on food for their coloration." So what would happen if you started subsisting on algae-shrimp smoothies? You'd absorb mostly yellow pigments, develop a freakish glow, and look tacky as hell out on the lawn.

Q) Can you really become an adrenaline junkie?
jon Newlin, South Glastonbury, Connecticut
Though the marketing gurus at Red Bull might have you believe otherwise, adrenaline addiction is not a clinical condition. Skydive, paddle a Class V rapid, or streak the homecoming game and your adrenal glands release the hormone epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), delivering an immediate energy boost. But unlike heroin or MySpace, adrenaline doesn't cause physical dependency. According to Dr. Tim Cermak, member of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, "adrenaline addiction" is a useful metaphor for the thrill thirst that can seize victims of psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. The term is often applied to athletes who hunt for new rushes after their skills have faded and even cubicle cases who get a kick from turning in TPS reports with ten seconds to spare. In the extreme, excess adrenaline can lead to a heart attack and death—the ultimate buzzkill.

Q) How do hurricanes get their names?
Nick Gorzkowski, New York, New York
A weather system earns its nom de guerre once it reaches tropical-storm status, then keeps it if winds reach 74 miles per hour, hurricane strength. The names are taken from lists the World Meteorological Organization maintains for the planet's hurricane hot spots and can feel rather parochial: Pacific islanders fear the wrath of Kong-Rey and Tingting, while our mates in Australia contend with Oswald and Warwick. The tropical Atlantic uses six rotating lists of 21 names, and titles of the most devastating storms are retired, as were Dennis, Katrina, and Rita in 2005. "We're 11 years into an upswing of activity that could last until 2035," says National Hurricane Center spokesman Frank Lepore. If all 21 names are used in a season, which happened for the first time last year, subsequent storms are assigned Greek letters. Which means that headlines in Miami (GAMMA IS RAGING!) may start sounding like party reports from fraternity row.

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