Archive for April, 2008


Wingsuit flying gaining in popularity

April 29, 2008

Human flight with wingsuits traces its history back to the 1920s and 1930s, when “bat men” tried to fly using suits made of canvas, whalebone and wood.  About 90 people in the early part of the 20th century were documented as having tried to fly, more than 70 died in their attempts to be a ‘flying man’. The materials used were very archaic and didn’t fly well but with construction of the wingsuits becoming safer in the 1990s the popularity and reputation of this extreme sport has gained a momentum that will only gather pace.

In the United States there are less than 10 wingsuit flying academies, Scott and Chris Gray operate one such academy at Skydive Orange,in Virginia. Wingsuit pilots need to have extensive parachuting experience. At The Brothers Gray, people need to have completed at least 200 skydives and hold a current skydiving license to try wingsuit flying. Scott Gray said some people with more than 500 skydives are legally allowed to don a wingsuit and jump without instruction, but it isn’t recommended because the suits require more skills to fly. After jumping out of the plane, wingsuit pilots spread their arms and legs at a certain time and immediately begin to fly. As they float around at speeds in excess of 100mph altimeters keep them aware of how close they are to the ground. The level of a wingsuit pilot’s license determines how low they can go before deploying their parachute.

The Brothers Gray Wingsuit Academy has pilots with experience from a few wingsuit jumps to more than 1,000 jumps. Although the owners have traveled elsewhere to teach new pilots how to fly, they call Orange their home base.  Twin Otter planes are considered desirable for skydiving because the light craft can take jumpers to full altitude in about 10 minutes. The brothers decided to open up their own school after doing about 30 wingsuit jumps. Scott said they noticed there weren’t many wingsuit pilots in Virginia or Maryland, and decided opening a school was the best way for them to create that community. The Grays’ wingsuit school operates every other weekend, and the brothers travel to other drop zones when they can. Scott Gray said he is part of a group of wingsuit pilots who are going to try for a new world record. The attempt, which will happen this November in California, will involve 71 pilots – two more than the last world record.


All 8 divers rescued alive after 36 hours adrift

April 29, 2008

I’m pleased to be able to report that after more than 36 hours adrift in the sea off southern Taiwan all eight of the divers have been rescued and are alive and well, albeit very thirsty and frightened by their horrific ordeal. One of the divers who had been separated from the group was able to raise the alarm after he swam ashore on a remote island where he found a fisherman. They were able to raise the alarm and give the search and rescue teams a more precise location of the whereabouts of the other divers. The divers had drifted in the strong currents for more than 30 miles from where they had started their dive and were eventually picked up by a search and rescue helicopter. For those in the water it was third time lucky as they had previously seen two other helicopters before being finally spotted and winched aboard the helicopter at 2.30 a.m. – exhausted and thirsty but alive.


The Great Barrier Reef

April 29, 2008

Do you remember this happening off the Great Barrier Reef several years ago? Can you imagine the feeling of being “left behind”? It must be unimaginably terrifying. “Where are they, what’s happening, what shall we do, can you see a boat, can you see a spotter plane, can the spotter plane see you…?” It hardly bears thinking about. Can anyone remind me of what the results were at the GBF? I remember the rumours floating around for weeks, maybe months, but I’m ashamed to say I have forgotten the consequences. Perhaps I should Google it! Perhaps I will…

No trace of 8 missing divers found yet
The China Post news staff

PINGTUNG, Taiwan — A massive air and sea search failed to find any trace of the eight missing scuba divers for a second day in seas off Taiwan’s southern tip yesterday. Officials of the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said the search mission will continue with emphasis on the seas east of southern Taiwan.


Strong winds and sea currents blamed as 8 scuba divers go missing in Taiwan

April 28, 2008

An all-out search for eight missing scuba divers in waters off the Kenting National Park at the southernmost tip of Taiwan had not yielded any results as of last night. Officials at the Coast Guard Administration said yesterday the search will continue today.
The eight holidaymakers — six men and two women — were reported missing while scuba diving in waters near Chihsingyen (Seven Star Rock), located some 12 nautical miles southwest of Kenting in the southernmost county of Pingtung. They left for Chihsingyen along with four other members of a diving club aboard a yacht early in the morning. The 12 began scuba diving in waters between Oluanbi and Chihsingyen at 10:30 a.m. and were supposed to return to the yacht at 11:30 a.m. However, eight of them failed to return to the yacht on schedule.The skipper of the yacht said strong winds and rapid currents in the region prevented him from finding the missing divers.
Coast guard teams launched an all-out search, including sending out two helicopters, as soon as they were informed of the case at around noon. It is believed that five of the missing divers have earned diving licenses and are qualified as diving coaches.
Diving experts said the Chihsingyen region has the most beautiful underwater scenes, including rare coral reefs as well as countless varieties of marine animals and plants. Divers should always keep very alert on the weather conditions, including the strength of the winds and the speed of the currents.


Never too late

April 28, 2008

Following on from my rant about too many people goggling  at their computers and TVs you should check this out because you’re never too old to get your adrenaline fix. That’s the message from 60-year-old American Lynn O’Donnell, one of about 200 competitors in this week’s ninth World POPS (Parachutists over Phorty Society!) championships being held at Toogoolawah in southeast Queensland, Australia.They are proving that life does indeed begin at 40.The oldest competitor in the event is Jim Brierley, an 83-year-old who completed his first jump in a more stressful situation – as a soldier in World War II. Last month he completed his 3,000th jump!

If you keep doing what you’ve always done and don’t stop … don’t sit in front of the television and get fat you’re never too old to be a thrill seeker. It doesn’t matter whether you love golf or fishing. It just keeps people alive and motivated. You need goals as you go through life.

Former commercial airline pilot, Ms O’Donnell was forced into retirement last year because of her age but the New Jersey woman is grateful to have more free time to jump out of aircraft rather than fly them.”I’ve been sky diving since 1972 – now I’ve retired I have time to come to events like this,” said Ms O’Donnell, who will explore Australia and New Zealand after the eight day championships end on Saturday.”It’s a wonderful way to meet people. The common bond is that we’re all over 40.”The bones may be more brittle but there’s surprisingly few injuries for the greying skydivers from 17 countries who have converged on Toogoolawah.”We’re not hot-headed young people anymore so we know when to slow down and take it easy if the winds aren’t good,” Ms O’Donnell said.”We’re better at paying attention to aches and pains.”

The disciplines for the competition includes formation skydives, sport accuracy landings and wingsuit flying. So a big shout of respect goes out to those competitors who are proving that there is more to life than the VDU, even when you are over forty!


Extreme Glacial Surfing.

April 25, 2008

How’s this for extreme:

Two surfers, Garrett McNamara and Kealii Mamala, hang around a glacier until a giant chunk falls off, fire up their jet ski and attempt to surf the ensuing wave.


Rock Climbing continued:

April 25, 2008

Here are the five main types of rock climbing – from the most simple to the most … dangerous:

Full-safety climbing

Full-safety climbing is the safest way to climb, but it’s also the least exciting. With full-safety climbing, you are tied to all kinds of ropes and you climb up a surface by grabbing onto pre-installed grips. Furthermore, someone on the ground will be pulling on the rope (if you need it) to help you haul your body up to the top, just in case you’re not strong enough to do it yourself. Basically, it’s just like rock climbing on one of those walls in the mall. You can do it, but it’s not nearly as fun.
This is the extent of my climbing at the moment and I love it … you have the feeling, possibly false but hopefully not!, that nothing can possibly go wrong. You have faith in the person at the bottom holding the rope, and although I like to look for the cracks on the rock face it’s nice to know that the pre-installed grips are there. The children, of course, have long since outgrown this stage, and are up cliff faces like monkeys.

This video, taken in China, shows you, a little, what it’s like when you first start.

Free climbing

Free climbing is the most common type of rock climbing out there, and is considered to be the “essence” of the sport. Equipment is used only for safety, not for creating holds (the places where you grip the rock). Your first climbing experience will consist of quite a bit more safety, but this will still most likely be the type of rock climbing that you will do as a first-timer. In your own good time, you, too, can hang off a cliff face with only one hand and one small safety rope between you and disaster!


Another popular first-time climbing option is bouldering, or a short climb unaided by equipment. This style is used on a low, freestanding rock or at the base of a larger rock (where falls aren’t very steep or dangerous). Nevertheless, a spotter should always be present.

Aid (or artificial) climbing

This should be left to pros. Used mainly when free climbing becomes impossible, aid climbing uses equipment (like hand-held suction cups) to create artificial holds in the rock. Complicated and scary and definitely only for the professionals.


Soloing should be left to those with a death wish. It is a longer climb unaided by safety equipment. This style is very dangerous, and even many professionals refuse to do it. Dean Potter, who I have shown a couple of times before, is a master at this – but this isn’t him!

Within these types of climbing, there are other safety features you can use. A very
popular safety feature is belaying: when two people climb together while hooked up to each other. Used in free and aid climbing, belaying prevents long falls (definitely a good thing!). The “leader” climbs first, and the “second” follows. While one is climbing, the other belays him/her — that is, releases enough rope for him/her to climb. The rope is anchored to some fixed point on the rock (like a crack or a tree) while the belayer stays steady at that point to attend to the rope. Should you fall, you will only fall as far as the amount of rope that has been anchored.