The Outside Blog

Dispatches

James Bond Will Revolutionize Diving

Despite decades of scuba sessions and submersible trips, about 95 percent of the world's oceans are still waiting to be examined. A new technology called the Exosuit will have us swimming in undersea exploration possibilities as soon as the end of this month.

One of the biggest hindrances to research has been the isolation of submersibles. When you're in a submarine, it's difficult to interact with and examine your environment. Most no-decompression scuba suits—those that enable divers to avoid the hurdle of acclimating to pressure differences as they descend and ascend—can be used only within 100 feet of the surface and for short periods of time. The $1.3 million, 530-pound Exosuit, which can descend to 1,000 feet and remain underwater for 50 hours, removes most of that hurdle. 

"In a normal submersible, you're kind of just sitting inside a sphere, and you can’t really reach out into the environment other than being some kind of robotic arm or something," said John Sparks, curator in charge at the American Museum of Natural History's department of ichthyology, in an interview with the Guardian. "This is much more tactile and much more maneuverable than that would be." Sparks tested the suit at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts earlier this month. 

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The result of 35 years of research by Canadian firm Nuytco Research, Exosuits greatly extend researchers' range of motion and ability to get close to their subjects. Reminiscient of JIM suits (of James Bond fame), the suit's 18 rotary joints enable motor movements fine enough to pick up dimes from the ocean floor—and, more important, sea creatures. 

Sparks hopes to pilot use of the suit in research on the Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition at the end of July, when he will look for new medically relevant bioluminescent molecules, as well as fish, off the coast of New England.

"[The suit will be great for collecting] on real deep reefs, getting the face of the suit right up against the reef, almost lying down in the rubble and kind of picking through it for fish," Sparks said.

The dive will be the first with an atmospheric suit working in tandem with a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV). The Exosuit pilot will be able to trap the specimen in a chamber, and then enable high-resolution images via a camera on the $600,000 DeepReef-ROV operated by researchers at sea level.

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The Sexiest Bike Rack Ever

When you are a Tour de France Team Sky cyclist, you ride in style thanks to sponsors such as Rapha and Oakley. Your custom-made Pinarello Dogma F8 bike also gets the VIP treatment, in the form of the sexiest transportation a bike could probably receive—a Jaguar F-Type with a bike rack.

Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations designed a version of the 5-liter V8 supercharge engine coupe specifically for the Tour's Stage 20 time trial. The coupe comes complete with a unique Team Sky paint job, a built-in rear bike rack, and a separate electric supply in the trunk to power the team director's radios and televisions. With 550 horses, if this car can't keep up with time-trial riders, no car will.

"This F-Type concept is a world-class vehicle that will help get the best out of the team on the TT stages," said Team Sky general manager Sir David Brailsford in a Team Sky press release. "The development of this F-Type Coupé is the latest example of our shared belief to push the boundaries and provide technologically innovative solutions, both on and off the bike. The visual impact of the F-Type Coupé during Stage 20 will also of course bring added attention to Team Sky."

With only seven remaining riders still in the Tour after Chris Froome's withdrawal, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's termination, and Richie Porte's illness, Team Sky needs every opportunity to "get the best" out of the rest of the race.

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Live Chat: Everest's Deadliest Season

Outside senior editor Grayson Schaffer will be hosting a discussion today on the true story of Everest's most horrific day, the Sherpas who paid the price, and the aftershocks that will change the mountain forever. Schaffer's recent feature, Black Year, can be read online or in Outside's August 2014 issue. 

Please join us between 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Grayson will be responding to your questions in the comment section below.

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The Last of the True Cowboys?

It took six pairs of boots, 240 horseshoes, and 24 months for Filipe Leite to ride on horseback from Canada to Brazil. The cowboy traveled 10,000 miles through 10 countries to reach his home in South America, an epic journey that has earned him a spot in the historic Long Rider's Guild, an international association of equestrian explorers that requires its members to ride at least 1,000 continuous miles. 

We last caught up with Leite back in 2012, when he was only three states into his journey and about to cross the infamous and treacherous Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. Since then, the cowboy has snuck through jungles full of drug traffickers, ridden bulls, encountered endless bureaucratic obstacles, and experienced unending generosity on the trail. As he nears the final stretch of his journey, we asked him for an update.

OUTSIDE: Aside from countless miserable border crossings, what has been the most difficult part of the ride?
LEITE: Keeping my horses healthy. I have spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week with these animals for the past two years. As we made our way south, we created a bond only comparable to that of father and son. When I didn't have the basics to offer them, like water or a pasture to graze, it broke my heart. We crossed many countries where vets were extremely hard to find and medication for horses even more so. Keeping my animals healthy required me to work extremely hard and become a bit of a vet myself.

This Long Ride has also been full of dangers. We crossed paths with a grizzly in Montana. One of the horses (Bruiser) fell in a deep ditch in New Mexico. The other (Frenchie) was hit by a truck in Southern Mexico, and the third (Dude) walked into a cattle guard in Nicaragua—nearly breaking his leg. I remember having Dude's head on my lap after finally calming him down while he lay there with his front right hoof stuck in that cattle guard thinking I was going to lose him. These were by far the worst moments of the trip. These horses are an extension of my soul; they are my children, my heroes, my everything.

What type of schedule do you maintain to give the horses, and yourself, much-needed rest?
On a Long Ride like mine, there can be no set schedule. You must always listen to your horses and let them rest as they need it. I always try to ride no more than 30 kilometers [nearly 19 miles] daily and allow my ponies to rest for a day or two every four to five days of riding. This has been a good system for us. I have also stopped for a month at times in order to give them ample time to rest or recover from an injury.

Scariest moment of the ride?
Hearing a husband trying to kill his wife with five gunshots just outside my window in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I will never forget her yells of desperation as the gunfire silenced her pleas.

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What about the loneliest moment of the trip?
The loneliest moment of the trip was crossing a mountain in southern Wyoming. I spent several days riding without seeing another human being. It was only the horses and I, and I had an extremely hard time finding water for them. I remember coming down that mountain into a town of 25 people, swallowing my tears. I ended up staying with an elderly gentleman who lives by himself in a ranch home. It's funny how life works out. It was one of the deepest connections I made on the journey.

You've traveled through jungles infested with drug traffickers and passed through dangerous cities. Was there ever a time you've been afraid for your life or the life of your horses?
My entrance into Honduras from Guatemala was with the protection of a major Honduran drug lord. He not only rode with me but also hosted me in his fortress for two days. His house was in a little village in the mountains and sat behind high walls and a thick metal gate. His house was a mansion with plasma TVs, a home gym, and even a small petting zoo. While trying to sleep the first night, I kept imagining the shootouts and killings happening at the hands of the drug cartels in town nearby. Needless to say, it made it hard to get some shut-eye.

You've been posting video segments throughout your journey. Tell us how you film while riding alone, edit footage, and post updates while on the trail?
Filming my Long Ride has been extremely difficult! I have to get off my horse, set up the tripod and turn on the camera, get back on, ride by the camera, then go back to stop filming and fold up the tripod—all while making sure all three horses are watched after. My girlfriend, Emma Brazier, has helped me a lot in this aspect. The moments she has traveled with me, we have been able to capture moments I couldn't otherwise. The dispatches are edited in Nashville by OutWildTV. I'm very thankful for having such an amazing group of professionals behind me. It makes all the difference.

Most of your nights are spent camping in a tent. What key items have made this possible for two years?
My Leatherman is always on my belt. Other items include a one-burner stove for preparing dinner, my MEC Tarn 3 tent, MEC Mirage sleeping bag, and peanut butter. I've also been carrying Naomi's ashes. In Colorado, a gentleman who hosted me asked if I would carry his sister's ashes to Brazil with me. He told me how she loved horses and adventure and had recently passed away. He felt as if faith brought me to his home and that Naomi had to go on one last ride. I have carried Naomi's ashes all the way to Brazil and will spread them in the field where the horses will be retired.

You're trying to pass through the largest rodeo in Latin America, the Festa do Peao de Barretos. Think you'll make it?
Definitely! Because I left from the largest rodeo in Canada, the Calgary Stampede, it has always been my goal to pass through Barretos. This past year, they began sponsoring my trip and are currently building a monument of the horses and I that will be forever in the rodeo grounds for people to visit. On August 23, I will ride into the rodeo's arena as more than 50,000 people watch from the stands. I imagine it will be a very emotional moment.

What are your plans for after you arrive?
I will retire my horses at my parents' farm in Espirito Santo do Pinhal, Sao Paulo, and work on a documentary on my ride. I will also be writing a book on my two-year journey from Canada to Brazil.

Can we expect to see a Journey America documentary from your travel?
Absolutely.

Catch all of Leite's Journey America videos at OutWildTV and follow along as he finishes his journey at @FilipeMasetti on Twitter and Instagram.

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Rwanda's Mountain-Misted Jungle Paradise

For fans of extra-large primates, there’s arguably no more coveted experience than viewing a mountain gorilla in its natural habitat. If you fall into this camp, consider a bucket-list trek to the upscale Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda’s northwest Volcanoes National Park—a mountainous, jungle-covered area made famous by the late naturalist Dian Fossey and her mountain gorilla pals.

Today, Rwanda is home to about 400 of the endangered apes, with another 400 to 600 spread between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/sabtinto-rwanda-national-park_fe.jpg","caption":"Volcanoes National Park is home to five of the eight Virunga Mountain volcanoes."}%}

Sabyinyo’s eight stone cottages sit in the foothills of the Virunga Mountain range and just two miles from park headquarters. Each is decked out with a terracotta roof, fireplace, a spa-like bathroom, and sheltered veranda. You’ll find a restaurant and lounge in the main lodge, as well as an information center and small shop. In case you’re concerned about where your Rwandan francs are going, know that Sabyinyo isn’t just some fancy pet project for outsider investors. The lodge is owned by an area community trust that funnels some of its profits into local conservation and socioeconomic initiatives.

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The Details: Sabyinyo is a two-hour drive from the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Room rates vary depending on the season—right now, they range from $775 to $970 per person per night. Only 80 visitors per day are allowed in the park, so make your reservation early and be prepared to buy a $750 permit for the gorilla hike.

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