August 18, 2014

The tourists were traveling to Komodo Island, which, as the name implies, is home to the world's biggest lizard, the Komodo dragon.     Photo: Gabriel Hsia/Flickr

An Unbelievable Survival Story

Tourists swim for hours, drink urine, and brave volcano after boat sinks

A group of foreign tourists traveling between two Indonesian islands had to think way outside the safety pamphlet after their boat sank in rough seas. They survived for two days before getting rescued, though two tourists remain missing.

The boat carrying 25 people—some Indonesians as well as tourists from Britain, New Zealand, Spain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands—sank during a storm while traveling between Lombok and Komodo. Survivor Bertrand Homassel told Agence France-Presse that they were about three miles from the coast when this happened, but there were large waves to contend with and the lifeboat would not fit everyone.

After 12 hours of floating with life jackets, the 10 tourists who could not fit in the lifeboat swam for six hours to the island of Sangeang, making it to shore as the sun set. As if they hadn't already had a very bad day, the island's active volcano was erupting when they arrived, and the place was deserted. But, Homassel said, they remained there anyway until a passing boat rescued the group. In the meantime, they had to drink their own urine and eat leaves for sustenance. After all this, Homassel, for his part, remained optimistic: "I was really very lucky," he said.

Fishermen spotted the remaining 13 people who had stayed on the lifeboat, including the entire crew, and they were rescued two days after the boat sank. Now the survivors are recovering, rehydrating, and eating KFC on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. A Dutchman and an Italian woman remain missing, though bad weather continues to make the rescue search difficult.

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They are beautiful, no? Too bad they still come wrapped in plastic.     Photo: www.thedieline.com

The Future of Food Is Edible Packaging

Stonyfield Farm wants you to also eat the cup

Gary Hirschberg, chairman of the Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt brand, has long been obsessed with packaging, or, rather, finding ways to eliminate it.

"I've always believed we should use less," Hirschberg told PSFK.com. "In fact, my ultimate obsession was when you finish eating the yogurt, you should eat the cup."

Hirschberg's dream is now coming true. Sort of.

Stonyfield has collaborated with edible-packaging company WikiFoods to create a new product line called Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls. These single servings of frozen yogurt come encased in an edible protective film made from natural food particles. Much like the skin of a grape, this protective layer keeps its contents moist and protected from contaminants.

Wikifoods already has a number of products in its nature-inspired WikiPearl line, all of which resemble spherical works of art, in addition to edibles you can pop in your mouth.

At the moment, Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls (which, sadly, still come wrapped) are only available at Boston-area Whole Foods markets, but we are hoping for a wider distribution soon.

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A DC-10 Air Tanker helps firefighters see the forest for the trees during the 2013 Rim Fire, the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada region.     Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Forest Service Is Building a Firefighting Airforce

Aims to purchase 28 new tankers

Sometimes the only way to contain a large and destructive wildfire is by plane, but after a number of U.S. Forest Service air tankers crashed in the early 2000s and the agency's budget imploded, the USFS began severely shrinking its elderly fleet from more than 40 planes in 2000 to nine in 2012.

After several close shaves, and despite still-limited funds, the USFS is attempting a new fix to its aerial issues—growing and modernizing the fleet of fire-retardant-dispensing tankers instead of parking old planes for good.

It's hard to fight new problems with technology dating back to World War II, like the first generation of air tankers. The government has required that its next generation of tankers, commissioned in 2013, be capable of carrying 3,000 gallons of retardant and flying at 300 knots.

They'll likely also be bigger. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg had to call in an 11,000-gallon DC-10 air tanker after his squad almost failed to contain Idaho's Springs Fire in August 2012. The government has been hesitant to commission these jumbo jets because of cost, but many contractors have failed to produce the smaller planes that were commissioned.

Hahnenberg said the agency hopes to have 28 large air tankers available within three years. As of late May, 21 planes have been commissioned, four of which are DC-10s.

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