The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Dec 2010

The Gear Junkie: Hatchets

Gränsfors Kubben-Axe
The steel head of my new hatchet was pounded out old-school style by a blacksmith in Sweden. His name is Mattias Mattsson, and beside a crown insignia stamped on the axe head, Mattsson marked his creation with a signature "MM" to personalize and claim the work as his own.

Hammers and hot steel are indeed still a part of the work ethic at Gransfors Bruks AB, a Swedish company that's sold hatchets, axes, and other blades for more than 100 years. Mattsson is one of several blacksmiths on staff, and he and his cohorts exhibit in their products a craftsmanship rarely seen at outdoors shops today.

My Gransfors Bruks axe, the Hand Hatchet model, is a stout chopper made for splicing tree branches and chopping wood for a fire. It has a heavy head and a short handle, weighing about a pound and a half including its leather sheath. It costs $108 and has a hickory handle that was soaked in hot linseed oil, dripped dry, and covered with beeswax before shipping off to the U.S.A.

For a comparison to the Swedish product, I decided to do a side-by-side with a hatchet of the same size from Coghlan's.

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Ship Loses Engine Crossing The Drake Passage

Ship

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

An Antarctic cruise ship, Cecilia II, lost an engine crossing the Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean Monday, going adrift in rough, dangerous seas, The Adventure Blog reports.

The Cecilia II was on the return trip from the Antarctic Peninsula to Ushuaia, Argentina when it lost an engine, along with power and communications. With 88 passengers and 77 crew on board, the ship drifted alone, battered by 30-foot waves that smashed windows and engulfed the bridge. Only one crew member sustained minor injuries.

Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, chanced upon the drifting Cecilia II and turned around to help when contact attempts failed. The National Geographic Explorer launched rocket propelled canisters containing satellite phones to reestablish communication and waited alongside Cecilia II while repairs were made.

Cecilia II regained power and resumed its journey to port and is expected to arrive safely today, The Adventure Blog says. The ship's captain, who has reportedly made 159 trips to the Antarctic Peninsula, was quoted as saying of the ordeal that he "had never seen such weather."

--Nick Davidson

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On the Death of Hendri Coetzee

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Though reports are still sketchy, Outside has learned that South African kayaker Hendrik (Hendri) Coetzee died after being attacked by a crocodile—on the Congo's Lukuga river. He was paddling with Americans Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic. Coetzee gained prominence after he led the first source-to-sea expedition down the length of the Nile, in  2004. He later returned and soloed the infamous Murchison Falls section of the Nile, as it flows through Uganda. That stretch is notoriously dangerous, both for its whitewater and its high density of crocodiles and hippos. Outside had been following the expedition with online dispatches, the last of which we received from Stookesberry on November 29. Stookesberry concluded his transmission (http://bit.ly/eUyLnI) as follows:

In just a few hours time, we will board a cargo vessel and cross 270 miles down and across Lake Tanganyika through Tanzania and to the massive lake's singular outlet at Kalemie, DRC: the beginning of the Lukuga River.

We received the team's last SPOT messenger transmission (indicating that everything was OK) on December 5, three days ago.

In an earlier dispatch (http://bit.ly/c254gB) from November 1, Stookesberry quoted Coetzee, who had more experience paddling among Africa's dangerous aquatic wildlife than just about anybody: "Stay out of eddies…especially the small BS ones, because there are three-ton hippos that will bite you in half. Stay off the banks because the crocs are having a bake and might fancy you for lunch. Basically, stay close behind me and follow my lead. Any questions?"

And in a post (http://bit.ly/apA3bl) from November 19, Stookesberry mentions a notorious crocodile on the Rusisi River.

[T]here is a crocodile at the river's mouth named Gustav that is an ancient, well-fed man eater. If you are as worried about this next week of the expedition as we are, please take Hendri's advice and refer to Rule #3. [No matter what, don't panic.]

We'll post updates as we confirm them.

The following is an official statement from Eddie Bauer. We will post an update from Ben and Chris as soon as we hear from them.

Yesterday Eddie Bauer received word that the South African whitewater guide, Hendri Coetzee, who was leading First Ascent Kayakers Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was pulled from his kayak on the Lukuga River by a crocodile and is presumed dead. Following the incident, Ben and Chris were able to paddle to safety and contact the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who dispatched a team to evacuate them to safety. U.S. and South African embassies were also notified.  The team is completing formalities with local authorities in Congo and expects to return home shortly.

The First Ascent kayak team, including Ben, Chris, Jesse Coombs and Darin McQuoid, partnered with Hendri, a well-known African guide with many first descents and extensive knowledge of the whitewater in and around the DRC, in a first of its kind whitewater kayaking expedition from the headwaters of the White Nile and Congo Rivers into the DRC. The mission for the Africa kayak expedition was to run and document the unexplored whitewater of the region, while focusing on the people and clean water crisis in Central Africa. Jesse and Darin returned to the U.S. in November after the first leg of the trip, as originally planned, while Ben and Chris continued on.
 
We are saddened by the tragic accident and express our deepest sympathies to Hendri’s family and friends.  We would like to thank the IRC and Solidarites International, who continue to provide assistance and support to the team. 

--Grayson Schaffer

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Skydiving Naked Isn't That Sexy

At least that's what the world's sexiest skydiver says. Italian Roberta Mancino appeared on Conan O'Brien last night to reveal that jumping out of a plane naked isn't that enjoyable. Every part of your body fluctuates in frantic waves while falling. It can hurt, especially in those places not normally exposed.

Skydiving naked four times certainly hasn't hurt Mancino's status. The 29-year-old skydiver and BASEjumper recently appeared on E:60 (below) and in Men's Fitness—as the "hottest sports babe ever".

The nudity certainly isn't the only reason she gets noticed. She's joined her boyfriend, Jeb Corliss, for some BASE jumping and proximity flying. Next she wants to jump off of the Dubai tower in a BASE suit and circle it on the way down. Then she wants to jump out of a plane and re-enter it as it dives.

--Joe Spring
@joespring

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Too Much Manliness May Have Drawbacks

Chimp

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Researchers studying 22 male chimps in Uganda's Kibale National Park found that males with more testosterone also had more parasites living in their stomachs, ScienceNow reports.

Male chimps compete aggressively for dominance, like most primates, and testosterone aids in this aggression. After collecting fecal samples from the chimps in Uganda, researchers found, predictably, that the higher-ranking males had more testosterone, but that they also had apparently suppressed immune systems that allowed parasites greater reign. Their findings suggest that testosterone may play a role in the weakened immune systems.

Looks like we guys at Outside may want to tame our manliness a bit, if it can be done. But I doubt it. Immune systems are for sissies.

--Nick Davidson

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