The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Mar 2011

American Paragliders Arrested After Flying Into India

Indian officials arrested two American paragliding pilots on March 16 in the state of Sikkim after they flew over the border from Nepal, according to The Telegraph. The arrest is a matter of improperly obtained permits, and it could have serious consequences.

American pilots Brad Sander and Eric Reed were attempting to complete a paragliding traverse of the Himalayas, a trip that they started last year. Reed was the US paragliding champion in 2003. Sander has flown higher than anyone in Pakistan and further than anyone in Asia. The dream trip turned into a bit of a logistical nightmare after the two landed.

Here are the preliminary details as compiled from a news report and blog posts. Authorities arrested the team because they need to log in at a checkpoint and get a permit known as an ILP in order to come over the  border. Sikkim doesn't have a checkpoint. Two locals told the paragliders they would file the ILP permits for them in a different town and deliver them in Sikkim. The two Indians applied for the ILP permits in a town called Rangpo, saying the Americans would come through that area of the country, rather than Sikkim. Those two local paragliders were arrested for abetting because, in short, the Americans crossed the border over an area their permits did not cover. If the Americans are convicted, they could face two to eight years in prison or large fines, according to the Himalayan Times.

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Siblings to Kite-Ski Northwest Passage

A kite-skier in action (from Bengt Nyman on Flickr)

At the end of the Trans-Canada Highway in the small town of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, on Saturday, siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry made their final preparations and began to navigate the Northwest passage—by kite-ski.

According the Adventure Blog, Eric, 26, and Sarah, 24, plan to follow the route Roald Amundsen first sailed in 1906, a distance of nearly 3,000 km (1,864 miles). The Iqaluit, Nunavut, residents are no strangers to adventure. The Exlorersweb reports that Sarah and Eric, at ages 18 and 20, respectively, became the youngest people to ski to from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. The siblings have also been kite-skiing in Greenland, buggy-kiting in the Gobi Desert and kayaking in Mongolia-Russia. Last year Sarah guided a ski expedition to the Geographic North Pole, and Eric set a 24-hour kite-ski distance world record.

"Our goals are similar to our previous expeditions," Eric and Sarah say on their web site. "We want to inspire youth to get active and get outside."

From Tuktoyaktuk, the siblings will head east to the communities of Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, and Arctic Bay. Their final destination is Pond Inlet on Baffin Island. You can follow their progress on their blog at

Below, Sarah talks about her involvement in National Geographic's 2008 Ellesmere Island Expedition.

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7 Questions with Alexandra Horowitz

Alexandra Horowitz Alexandra Horowitz on her bestseller Inside of a Dog, summer tips for your pooch, and why the Far Side gets it right. To listen to the extended interview click here, or subscribe to our iTunes podcasts.—Stayton Bonner

How does a Columbia University psychologist end up writing about dogs?
Accidentally. I was curious about my dog Pumpernickel’s mental life and realized dogs had never been taken seriously as cognitive subjects. I studied play behavior, thinking that might give us insight into what animals know and understand. Dogs are the pre-eminent players of the animal kingdom.

For our readers, what are some of the better outdoor activities this summer?
If you watch how dogs and wolves run, they don’t do six miles and then stop. They sprint and then stop. So running is great if you’re in a position where you can be off-leash with them. They’re great hikers. Really good climbers.  Anything in which they can participate is a good outdoor activity. They want to be with you, more than anything else.

Is the Far Side cartoon where the owner gives a long speech and the dog just hears “blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah, blah, blah” accurate?
Larson’s a pretty good observer of animal behavior. A dog will simply pick out his name because that’s the word we mostly use with him. But if you’re very careful to use the same words when describing objects or events every single time, then your dog will become attuned to those words. Recent research underscored the dog’s capacity to understand when John Pilley trained his dog Chaser to recognize the names of 1,022 different toys. The fact that dogs can take on another species’ use of nouns and verbs is wild. The cross-species gap is big and we don’t bridge it, so it’s interesting they do.

Inside of a Dog, Photo by Erin Vey                                               Inside of a Dog, Photo by Erin Vey

Why do they go nuts for playing fetch?

All cells of the eye function by converting electromagnetic radiation into electrical activity. We’re really taking little snapshots of the world when we have our eyes open. The rate at which we take these snap-shots—the flicker-fusion—is for humans 1/60th of a second. Our brains smooth these over. Dogs have a higher rate. They’re taking more snapshots. They might actually see something happening a split-second before we do and could react a split-second faster. So maybe the ability to snap something out of the air isn’t just due to muscular prowess or predatory instinct but also due to their eyes working a little faster than ours.

How do dogs “smell time”?
It’s my way of trying to understand how being a creature of the nose shapes your perception of the world. For example, tracking dogs are able to tell the odor difference between a left and right footstep. Sniffing something under foot is like smelling the past and sniffing something on the breeze is like smelling the future. Their experience of time has olfaction as a major part of it. What an expanded view of the present moment. It has a little of both the past and future in it.

Are they marking territory when they pee on hydrants?
It doesn’t look like they’re marking territory. Wolves do this, but how many dogs walk around an apartment peeing on the wall? It seems that marking for dogs has changed to where it’s simply information leaving for other dogs. So another dog peeing in the same spot is less an act of marking territory and more an, “Oh, this is a good spot because someone else has been here.” It’s like a bulletin board.

It’s like their Facebook.
They were way ahead of us in this particular game. Theirs is a smellier Facebook.

Want to volunteer your dog for science and treats? Go to

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Kayaker Tyler Bradt Injured on Oregon's Abiqua Creek

We're wishing Tyler Bradt the best. According to his Facebook page, he injured his spine on Oregon's Abiqua Creek yesterday. Bradt's L1 was pulled apart and he has surgery in the morning. The surgeon says he can expect 12 weeks of recovery time. "I'll be back on the river sooner than later," he wrote on his Facebook page. You can watch Bradt breaking the world record for the highest waterfall run in a kayak here.  For more information on kayaking waterfalls, check out Grayson Schaffer's story The Evolution of Whitewater Kayaking.

--Kyle Dickman 

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Climber Killed by Falling Rock

A 36-year-old Briton died Sunday after being struck by falling rock while climbing in Pembroke, the British climbing site UK Climbing reports.

Jonathon Woods of Bristol, U.K., was rock climbing with his girlfriend at Pembrokeshire sea cliff of Bosherston Head when he was hit by the rock. He sustained chest injuries and died later at the hospital. Woods, known as "Woody," was an experienced climber and well known on the UK climbing scene. An environmentalist, Woods was the son of Michael Woods, a naturalist and Chairman of the British Mammal Society.

Tim Emmett, Woods' best friend, issued a statement saying in part that "the climbing community is devastated by his loss. It was such an unfortunate accident. Our thoughts go to his family and friends."

Woods' accident is unfortunately not the first fatal incident involving climbers and falling rocks, a scenario we looked at in our January 2008 issue.

--Michael Webster

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