March 7, 2014

Great White Shark     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Great White Crosses Atlantic

Shark at 19,000 miles and counting

A great white shark known as Lydia is about to complete a mission no other great white has accomplished before: crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

In March 2013, 15-foot-long Lydia was tagged by satellite as part of the Ocearch project in Florida. She was last spotted about 1,000 miles from the coasts of County Cork in Ireland and Cornwall in Britain. Researchers tracking her progress said she has traveled 380 miles in just 72 hours. If she maintains that pace and direction, she'll reach British waters in two days.

So far, Lydia has traveled upwards of 19,000 miles.

"Although Lydia is closer to Europe than North America, she technically does not cross the Atlantic until she crosses the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which she has yet to do," Gregory Skomal, senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries, told the BBC.

Scientists are still unsure where her journey will take her next, but Europe and the coast of Africa are in the cards.

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Four-time champ Jeff King releases helmet cam footage from 2014 Iditarod     Photo: Jeff King YouTube/Anchorage Dail

WATCH: Iditarod By Helmet Cam

Worst conditions in history

No snow and fast conditions have made the 2014 Iditarod one of the most harrowing in the race’s legendary history. If you’ve ever wondered just how intense it is on the 1,000-mile sled dog trail, check out four-time champ Jeff King’s helmet cam footage, released today. King captured this video on Monday, March 3 between Rainy Pass and the Rohn checkpoint near the Alaska Range. Many competitors said they were lucky they survived that particular stretch, and several dropped out due to the conditions.

Iditarod update: Martin Buser regained the lead on Friday after Aliy Zirkle took a two-hour rest in Galena. The Yukon River section awaits mushers this weekend, which is often a deciding section of the race.

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This decision will likely require quick action from the FAA.     Photo: Robert Mandel/Thinkstock

FAA Drone Ruling Overturned

Small craft exempt, says court

Judge Patrick Geraghty of the National Transportation Safety Board dismissed a $10,000 fine from the FAA yesterday relating to commercial drone use. Raphael Pirker was fined in 2011 for reckless flying near Charlottesville, Virginia, while he was shooting a promotional video. The judge's ruling directly undermines FAA regulations on commercial UAVs and may be a catalyst for the agency to change its drone policies.

The FAA has been battling with the rise of UAVs and a way to regulate them for several years. In its most recent 2014 update, the FAA confirmed that anyone flying any sort of craft in U.S. airspace must have "some level of FAA approval." However, the FAA’s current framework hasn’t stopped anyone. UAVs are being used to shoot Hollywood films, real estate, agriculture, and just about everything else.

In his decision, the judge stated that “there was no enforceable FAA rule” to support the agency’s fine. The agency is reportedly reviewing the decision and maintains the option to appeal.

The FAA has yet to issue any permits for commercial drone use outside of the Arctic, but it did approve six test sites for drone delivery late last year.

Eric Hansen piloted his DJI Phantom across the country for Outside’s March issue.

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Europe has seen a massive spike in e-bike sales.     Photo: profahrrad/Flickr

We're Huge in Europe!

Why the Old Country Loves E-Bikes

Sales of e-bikes have seen a major boom in Europe since German-based company Bosch entered the market in 2011, according to a Financial Times report.

Although some cycling purists see the bikes as inauthentic, they've generally been a huge smash, generating almost $139 million in revenue in 2013 alone. Last year, sales in Germany exceeded 400,000 units; one in 10 bikes sold in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are e-bikes. European sales in 2012 totaled around 854,000 bikes.

The e-bike boom has counteracted wishes from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pushed for Germans to own a million electric cars by 2020. The big pros to purchasing e-bikes? If electricity runs out, riders can always revert to "classic" pedaling. Plus, the e-bikes plug into normal wall sockets.

While cyclists may malign the bikes, they're not just electrified vehicles for the lazy. The motors on e-bikes only kick in when riders begin pedaling, and with a force equivalent to the rider's efforts. The bioelectrical hybrid feels less like a motorized vehicle and more like an invisible hand providing a little help. Computers on the bikes also provide riders with data about speed and battery use.

E-bikes have already taken over China, where 30 million are sold every year. The bikes have their drawbacks—they're expensive, and they're heavy for commuters who need to carry them—but that hasn't stopped investors.

If you're considering getting a Beamer, you might want to hold off a little longer—the iconic car company is working on a collection of e-bikes.

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Ashton Eaton competes in the 60-meter race of the men's heptathlon during the World Indoor Championships on Friday in Sopot, Poland.     Photo: Petr David Josek/AP

Fastest Indoor Runners Face-Off

High Stakes at Track Championships

With no Olympics or World Outdoor Championships in track and field this summer, the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, which begins today and runs through Sunday, is the blue-ribbon event of the 2014 athletics season. But many of the names that usually grace track and field headlines will be staying stateside during the competition.

Following controversy during the 3,000-meter run at the U.S. Indoor Championships, Jordan Hasay "did not want to make a national team under these circumstances," she said in a statement.

Mary Cain announced last week that she also will not compete. Concerned about aggravating a calf injury that cleared an MRI scan, she said in a statement, "I still feel the pain when I wear spikes and have decided not to risk making it worse in Poland."

Even with two of the biggest names in U.S. track and field out, there are still two good stories to follow:

Ashton Eaton: The defending heptathlon champion, current world record holder, and perennial Outside man crush says he's not going for a new heptathlon world record this weekend but is just competing for the win and—probably—a better performance than his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who competes for Canada.

“My coach will definitely be the most tired tomorrow. This is the first time [Brianne and I] have done a World Indoor Championships together. This will be the first time we’ve competed [in the combined events] at the same meet in such close proximity," Eaton said. "It’ll increase our performances being able to feed off each other.”

Eaton competes in the heptathlon today and tomorrow.

Bernard Lagat: Like fine wine, Legat only gets better with age. At the U.S. championships, the 39-year-old defending 3,000-meter world champion put two seconds on runner-up Galen Rupp—who is 12 years Lagat's junior.

"I'm excited to go to World Championships. You know why? Because I'm the defending champion. In my head, I'm thinking, can I still do this?" Legat said after his U.S. Championships victory. "If I can pass the strong guys who are going to be running hard in the front, I think everything is possible."

Lagat competes in the men's 3,000-meter on Sunday, which NBC is broadcasting at 10:10 a.m. ET.

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They are cute and fun to watch. But otters have a dark side.     Photo: Mr.TinDC/Flickr

Otter Devours Alligator

Are we next?

How do you spend most of your time at work? If you’re like most people, the answer is “watching video of the latest advances in robot technology and getting so scared about the coming ‘singularity’ (when self-aware computers rise up to destroy us) that you have to watch a video of cute little otters frolicking on a riverbank just to calm down enough to avoid screaming out loud.”

Well, I have some good news and some bad news:

The good news is that it won’t be robots that rise up and destroy us. The bad news is that it will be otters.

“Otters?!” you say. That’s impossible. They are so cute and fun to watch as they play and slide and swim in the water, rolling on their backs with what seems like the specific intent of letting us watch them use a flat, table-like rock as they crack open an oyster shell and eat with their hands like a human being. You want to tie bibs around their necks and hand them cups of mignonette sauce. You’re not afraid of them.

Well, you should be. River otters are vicious predators. They can grow to be four feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds—and they have to eat 15 percent of their body weight in food every day. And they don't kill just for food or survival. Male sea otters, close relatives of the deceptively attractive river otter, have been observed raping baby seals to death, seemingly just for pleasure. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence, but it is true.)

They’ve been known to attack human beings. Like 13-year-old Kierra Clark and her 11-year-old cousin this past summer in Washington State. Or 96-year-old Morell Denton in Florida in 2010. Or, in a terrifying incident captured on video, 19-year-old Will Gibbons, also in Florida, that same year.

And now, this week, thanks to a series of photographs taken in (where else?) Florida, we learn that these voracious terror-beasts hunt and kill prey as formidable as alligators! (Alligators are having a tough week.) The eyewitness to the attack said she was sure the otter ate the alligator because she heard “crunching noises” as the dagger-toothed “water-leopard” broke through the reptile’s scaly armor to get the tender meat inside.

These furry killing machines are at the very top of the food chain. They hunt in packs. They respond to acts of human kindness with violence. They are growing in number, have started invading heretofore otter-free urban areas, and appear to be getting bigger and more aggressive.

It’s time we face the music:

The otters are coming for us. They will eat us alive and pick their teeth with the bones of our pinky fingers.

The Anatomy of an Otter Attack

Otters do prey on gators, but rarely do they attack such large specimens. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The otter attacks from behind to avoid the gator's bite. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The gator thrashes itself into a lactic acid frenzy, hastening its own demise. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In this battle, the otter's best strategy is patience. Eventually, the gator will tire. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On land, the otter will eat the gator alive, ripping off the hide to get at the guts inside. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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