Episode 41: S.O.S.

Global Rescue is a business that, should you get yourself into trouble, will drop everything to come and save you, anywhere in the world. They employ former Navy Seals, helicopters, airplanes, and even yaks to get the job done. But this service comes at a price, and when disaster strikes, is it fair that a service that won’t save everyone can rush in pull out those who can afford it?

Say you’re going on an adventure somewhere you’ve never been before, you don’t speak the language, and you don’t feel 100 percent safe. You’re nervous about getting stranded on a glacier, or getting bitten by a poisonous snake, or maybe you just really want to avoid traveler’s diarrhea. You’re worried that if you’re not even sure how to ask for a hospital, you won’t know where you would turn for help. Hmm. This could go badly.  

Cancel the trip? 

Well, wait. A little company called Global Rescue might be able to give you a hand.

Running Out of Time on Top of the World

Mount Everest | Photo: Gunther Hageitner

Mount Everest | Photo: Gunther Hageitner

Robert Kay summited Everest on May 19th, 2016. The skies were clear and sunny and there wasn’t much wind. Stepping foot onto the summit was something Kay had been dreaming of since he was 15 years old. He was so elated, he barely felt the cold. Kay reached the top, along with two days worth of climbers, because bad weather the day before had caused a backup. At points the hiker traffic was so thick that Kay and his team were stalled for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

But he made it. Fulfilled his dream. And then started down the mountain

The going was slow. Too slow. Coming down from the summit to the south summit is about a 15 or 20 minute trip normally, but it took Kay and his Sherpas two hours because of crowding on the trail. And, to make matters worse, Kay began to have trouble breathing.

“Imagine putting a plastic bag over your face and tightening it up,” he says. “That’s how it feels. It’s like breathing through a garden hose. You’ve got 50 feet of garden hose and you’re underwater and you’re trying to suck air through this thing and you just can’t get enough air.”

Kay was developing a severe case of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, or “HAPE.” It’s the lungs’ response to getting too little air for too long: ;they start filling up with fluid and eventually you drown.  

Image Credit: Robert and Talbot Trudeau

Image Credit: Robert and Talbot Trudeau

He spent the night in Camp 4, at about 26,000 feet, where his friends kept him awake, so he wouldn’t go into shock,  and gave him medications to get him alive  through to morning. The next day, the team made the long, nearly vertical climb from Camp 4 to Camp 2, with Kay’s Sherpas and teammates unclipping and clipping Kay from every anchor point on the mountain and carrying his pack. At one point they had to switch out his oxygen tank for a new one and taking away that last bit of oxygen nearly did him in.

“I started convulsing and spasming on the ground and I couldn’t even sit up,” he remembers. He says he thought to himself: “I’m going to die in the next few seconds.” 

But he didn’t die. Because someone was there to intervene.

In the Business of Saving Lives

Before Kay left for Everest, he bought a membership with a company called Global Rescue. It’s a New Hampshire-based company, with offices around the world, that provides medical evacuations, security extractions, information and intelligence, and virtual health care systems in the U.S. and abroad.  

It’s like breathing through a garden hose. You’ve got 50 feet of garden hose and you’re underwater and you’re trying to suck air through this thing and you just can’t get enough air.
— Robert Kay

CEO Dan Richards founded the company  in 2004 and he explains that a membership is structured, “a little bit like AAA, but not for your car, for your body.” If something goes wrong, you can call them. They will direct you to local hospitals and provide all the consultation you need to get properly treated. They’ve partnered with doctors at Johns Hopkins, so they are ready to dish out top-notch advice to their clients over the phone or via Skype if needed, and if something goes seriously wrong, Global Rescue will come and get you out of the field, stabilize you, and bring you all the way back home.

All that for $329 a year.

Although a membership with Global Rescue doesn’t cover the cost of treatment (it’s not medical insurance), it’s a good deal if you want to avoid the hefty cost of a private helicopter rescue, which could add up to $15-20,000. The company also provides security services for an additional fee, in case you’re traveling somewhere that erupts into war or civil unrest. Their employees rescued clients trapped in Alexandria, Cairo, and parts of Tunisia during the uprisings there in 2011, as well as after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.  

CEO of Global Rescue, Dan Richards, participating in the Global Rescue Readiness Test | Photo courtesy of Global Rescue

Last year Global Rescue had about one million clients, ranging from individuals, to NASA, the U.S. Government, and National Geographic.

And who are the super humans rescuing all these people? 

Many of their employees come from a military background, and they go through some intense training to make sure they’re up for the task. They even have a biennial office-wide fitness test, just in case anyone has been slacking since they got hired. 

Besides the manpower they have to get things done, they also have the resources. Between helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, Global Rescue has thousands of aircraft around the world under contract. Additionally, they use all sorts of ground transportation, ambulances, vans—you name it. And Dan Richards says if the weather is too bad, or if motorized vehicles can’t reach the patient, “we’ll put them on a yak or a horse, sometimes accompanied by one of our personnel, as soon as possible.”

Global Rescue will come get you anywhere in the world…except North Korea.

Not all their clients need rescues, which is the reason they make any money at all. Most people go on their trips, it goes smoothly, and they never need the backup. But occasionally, something does go very wrong. Which brings us back to Robert Kay, who is near the top of Mount Everest.

Here Comes the Cavalry

As Kay’s lungs began filling with fluid, he realized he didn’t have much time left.

“At that point,” he remembers, “it just became an interesting fact. It was like, ‘huh, I get to know where and when I die, that’s interesting; the pain’s going to stop—that’s good.’ I didn’t even care that I was about to die.”

But fortunately he never had to face that fate. At 21,000 feet, Global Rescue sent a helicopter to pick up Robert Kay.

Kay says it was like seeing the cavalry coming. “You don’t know for sure if you’re going to live or die for 48 hours, and all of a sudden, you know, guaranteed, you’re going to make it.”

[Global Rescue Plans are] a little bit like AAA, but not for your car, for your body.
— Dan Richards

They flew Kay to a small clinic in Luklah, a town at the base of Everest. From there he was transferred to a bigger hospital in Kathmandu, where he rested and recovered before he caught a flight back to the United States.

And the remarkable thing is that Global Rescue’s work with Kay didn’t stop there. Although Kay expected them to drop him off and say, “we’ll pay the bills, good luck,” they didn’t. “They came to visit me in the hospital everyday,” Kay says, “just to check on me and see how I was doing. They were an amazing group of people. It wasn’t simply ‘pay the claim and move on,’ it was how were you doing as a person.”

And that seems to be the story from the majority of their clients—that Global Rescue really cares.

But parts of this story get tricky, too. Hundreds of people climb Everest each year. Some of those people are signed up to get saved if something happens, and some of them are not—like the Sherpas—because they can’t pay for a service like Global Rescue. Out of about 280 people that have died on Everest, an estimated 114 of them have been Sherpas.  

So is Global Rescue really making the mountain safer?

Ben Ayers, the Country Director for the dZi Foundation in Nepal, says maybe, but not across the board. “It’s making extreme adventure easier and safer for the privileged,” he says, “and it’s not making it easier and safer for everybody else.” 

Ayers has been helping improve working conditions for mountain porters and their communities for the past 18 years. Ben says companies like Global Rescue might be contributing to a culture of mountaineers taking greater risks than they would if they had to rescue themselves—risks that could endanger lives besides their own.

This leads us to our second rescue story, where the ethical implications of getting rescued become much hazier.

A Fundamental Inequality

Courtney Christman, Emily Schlegel, a Haitian teen, and Sara Trupp build a fence. | Credit: Megan Trupp

In 2010, Courtney Christman was in her senior year of college in Pennsylvania. She’d been going to the Christ Mertz Lutheran Church in Fleetwood, PA since she was little, and had gone on a few mission trips when she was younger. She liked them so much that she decided to lead her own week-long mission trip to Haiti her senior year. Her group of 12 people from the church flew down to Croix-des-Bouquets, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. There they volunteered for a nonprofit that provides rural people educational opportunities and basic health care called “Village of Hope.”

Courtney’s group helped paint the church and spent time with children in the Village of Hope school. “You couldn’t walk somewhere without somebody giving you a hug,” she says. And although hugs might not be a measure of real impact, Courtney says she felt good about being there.  

“You get there and you start building relationships and you realize: this is where God wants me to be.”

And then, disaster.  

At 4:53 pm on January 12th, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just south of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Courtney remembers this moment perfectly.

“The ground started shaking, and I remember looking at my friend Megan, thinking, ‘What is happening?’ And I heard her yell out, almost in slow-motion, ‘It’s an earthquake!’ The ground was moving and it looked like waves. It looked like ocean waves. The ground rose two or three feet in the air and then dropped.” 

Courtney and her group were back at their living accommodations after a day of work.They were staying in a complex of one-story buildings that had bunks and a kitchen. Fortunately, most of them were sitting outside.  

No one in Courtney’s group was hurt.

But many other people were. The death count is highly disputed, but ranges from 200,000 to 300,000. One million people were left homeless and an estimated 3 million people were affected. Today, 2.5 million Haitians are still in need of humanitarian aid.

Following the earthquake, Courtney and her group tried to help. But after a few days they started to get worried about their supply of food and water, and their safety. Trying to secure a ride home, Courtney took the group to the U.S. Embassy, where they were told 200 people stood ahead of them in line to get out of the country; it would take weeks for them to get out. So Courtney called her insurance company, which informed her that they had bought them a subscription to Global Rescue.  

The ground started shaking, and I remember looking at my friend Megan, thinking, ‘What is happening?’ And I heard her yell out, almost in slow-motion, ‘It’s an earthquake!’
— Courtney Christman

The earthquake was on Tuesday. On Saturday, two Global Rescue employees arrived in Haiti, and whisked the group to the airport at 5 am the next morning. In front of several hundred people waiting in Embassy lines and several thousand more who would never be able to afford to leave their ruined country, Courtney’s group boarded one of the first chartered flights out of Haiti.  

The moment she boarded the plane, Courtney says she wanted to tell the pilot, “turn around, let me out! Our work is not done.” She says she felt guilty leaving, especially because they had come to Haiti to make an impact. “It just felt like we had so much more work to do,” she says, “and we got to go home.”

Courtney and her group had come to Haiti to help spread their privilege—to give back. But when the time came, they used that same privilege to get out. 

Nealin Parker, the former Deputy Director of the Office of Transition Initiatives at the U.S. Agency for International Development, thinks this is more about the pre-existing systems of inequality than any kind of individual choice. “My experience in aid in general,” she says, “is that there is just a fundamental inequality and injustice in place. In the moments when you are getting on a plane and somebody else isn’t getting on a plane are those moments where there is the least amount you can do to fix that inequality and it is the most morally troubling.”

A Moral Question

As long as it doesn’t risk their own clients’ survival, Global Rescue does help non-members as much as they can—they’ll bring in medical supplies for free and evacuate non-members. But in the end they are not the Red Cross; they’re a business, with clients who are willing to pay for the services they offer.  

Dan Richards, the CEO of Global Rescue, thinks the choice not to insure your life raises its own moral questions. “You could argue that that is one of the most selfish things you could do, going to a place like Haiti. You could leave your family and the people who love you in the lurch.”

Still, there are people who prefer to travel without a fire escape. Mark Jenkins is the Writer in Residence for University of Wyoming, as well as contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine. He’s been on all sorts of dangerous adventures and often goes without any kind of backup.  

We’re always faced with this. This is the human condition. What do we really owe our fellow man?
— Mark Jenkins

Jenkins says, “the difficulty obviously arises when affluence gives one person a better chance of survival than another person—a person of lesser means. But this is precisely how the world works. If you get cancer in Holland your chances of survival are much higher than if you get cancer in the Congo. We are living not in the world of our choosing but in the world we have, which is packed full of the haves and the have-nots.” 

So maybe paying to insure your life is just a proxy for the greater inequities of the world? Mark Jenkins thinks so.

“We’re always faced with this. This is the human condition. What do we really owe our fellow man?”

And when it comes to saving your own life and the lives of the people you love, that question can get pretty hard to answer.

As for Dan Richards, he thinks it doesn’t need to be a question at all. “You’re talking to the wrong guy if you want an in-depth, microscopic examination of the moral implications. l’ll never be able to understand why there might be a moral question about rescuing somebody. Particularly at the risk of your own life. That’s just not a moral question in my mind.”


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Outside/In was produced this week by Cordelia Zars with help from: Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Logan Shannon, Molly Donahue, and Jimmy Gutierrez.

Special thanks to Frank Mauceri, Ben Ayers, Ann Shannon, and Megan Trupp for their help making this story come together. Thanks also to Robert Kay and Courtney Cristman for sharing their stories with us. A post-script: Robert has adopted two girls from Nepal. One of them is applying to med school this year. And Courtney is hoping to set up a physical therapy clinic in Haiti as soon as she can.

Music from this week’s episode was composed by Cordelia Zars.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder.

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-844-GO-OTTER (844-466-8837). Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

S03|E01: Fantastic Mr. Phillips, Science & Politics, & Ask Sam

In this week's episode we follow the trail of a very secretive pioneer in eco-activism, look into the long history of the relationship between science and politics including the bizarre Doomsday clock, and Sam answers some listener's questions about spring tails, wind, and Mount Mitchell.

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Parts 1 & 2

FantasticMrPhillips.jpeg

Fantastic Mr. Phillips

In the late sixties, a soap factory in suburban Illinois discovered one of its outflow pipes had been intentionally clogged by an industrial saboteur. Does environmental damage ever demand radical action? And when does environmental protest cross the line and become eco-terrorism?


Interlude

Martha Soukup - flickr Creative Commons

Martha Soukup - flickr Creative Commons

Science & Politics

Activists aren’t the only group that has to wrestle with the question of how far they can push before society starts to think less of them, scientists are trying to figure out how far their credibility can stretch, too. While the scientific community has consistently ranked as one of the most trusted institutions in the country—right up there with doctors and the military—survey after survey has found that among Republicans, faith in science is on the decline. This is particularly true when it comes to certain topics, like the climate.

This is not to lay the problem solely at the feet of the Right. While those same surveys find that liberals profess to believe in science, they’ve got their own subjects where they are skeptical of scientific conclusions: nuclear power and genetically modified crops, to name a few.

In response, later this month scientists, the science adjacent and the scientifically sympathetic will march on Washington and at sister protests across the US. This of course has prompted a whole new round of anxiety in the scientific community. A coastal scientist penned a New York Times op-ed declaring the march would only increase the political polarization of science, which spawned countless blog posts in response.

But can we really say that science has never been partisan? We spoke with Rob Meyer, a writer for The Atlantic about how, going all the way back to the 1940s, scientists have put out the nation’s longest running political advocacy gimmick: the Doomsday Clock.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists manages the clock, the symbolic warning system that indicates how close we are to nuclear or existential catastrophe. That clock is now the closest it's ever been to "midnight" or the end of the world as we know it.


Part 3

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Ask Sam: Snow Fleas, Wind, & Mt. Mitchell

What are all those tiny little black bugs that show up in the snow, is there more wind than there used to be, and what's the deal with Mount Mitchell saying it's the highest peak east of the Mississippi?

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-844-GO-OTTER (844-466-8837). Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-844-GO-OTTER (844-466-8837). Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

This week’s episode includes tracks from Jason Leonard, Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, El Palteado, and Jahzzar. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Episode 31: Ask Sam | Snow Fleas, Wind, Mount Mitchell

Every so often, we take some time out from telling stories to answer questions from you, our friends and listeners. These questions have been piling up, and so we thought we’d dig through them and bring you some of the more interesting ones.

If you want us to answer your question, you should give us a call! The number is 603-223-2448. If you’re technologically inclined, record your question on a voice-memo and send it to outsidein@nhpr.org.

Enough preamble, the the questions!

Question 1. Eric: I’m standing in the middle of Blue Job State Forest in Strafford, and it just snowed, and there are all these tiny little black bugs crawling around the snow. They look like snow fleas? I don’t know what they are. But there’s probably, oh there’s got to be billions of them, because they’re everywhere. And I was just wondering, what are they and where on earth did they come from?

A local caller! If you’re an out-of-state listener, Blue Job is a a little knob with very nice views in southeastern New Hampshire, but this particular type of tiny beasty is found all over the globe. Snow fleas are a type of springtail (cue link to a Wikipedia page!) which are one of the most abundant types of creatures on earth. They are literally everywhere there is dirt.

If you cast your memory back to our episode about all of the hidden biodiversity in a routine traffic circle, you might remember that we talked about microarthropods — which is science speak for itsy-bitsy bugs — as being the largest critter in the soil food web. Springtails are one of the creatures we were talking about. The munching that they do is one of the mechanisms that serves to decompose organic matter that falls onto the ground. Up here in New England, we call them snow fleas (and not dirt fleas) because, even though they live in the dirt, we only tend to notice them when they come out onto the snow, thanks to the contrast between their tiny black bodies and the white surface.

There’s an incredible variety in the number of species of springtails, and much we don’t know about the lifecycles of all the individual species, but there is a lot of interest in them because of their ability to survive and even be active in extremely cold temperatures.

One additional fun-fact. Springtails are useful to folks who care for insects in cages, like Gwen Pearson who manages Purdue Universities Insect Zoo. Because springtails eat mold and fungus spores, they can be used to keep the sultry enclosures of tropical creatures free of gunk. In fact, you can buy them in bulk on Amazon for just this purpose.

Question 2, Aubrey: I wanted to ask Sam about wind, because anecdotally I feel like there’s a lot more wind recently, than there was in the past. I’m just wondering if there’s any correlation between increased wind events and our global warming situation. It seems like intuitively, if there’s more energy in the atmosphere, there should be more wind, but maybe I’m just imagining it.

Full disclosure, Aubrey is my lovely wife (and as I often joke — as a powerhouse middle school science teacher —  the source of all of my knowledge). We have talked about this question for a long time, and she finally got fed up with me stalling and called it into the hotline so that I’d be forced to answer it.

There’s also a fairly easy answer, Ian Young of the University of Melbourne has been working on the surprisingly tricky task of teasing out global trends in wind speed. As you might imagine, its a big world and there are a lot of places that wind isn’t getting measured second-by-second, and satellite wind data can be a little noisy. But despite the challenges, he has an estimate, largely derived from wind speeds over the oceans.

“What our observations show is that for an area like the northeast coast of the United States we’ve seen wind-speeds increase, on average, by about seven percent,” Young told me when we managed to connect over the phone (at 11 PM his time, and 7 AM ours).

The tricky business for professor Young has been determining whether that increase is due to a general increase in background windiness, or a rise in the power of extreme wind events… stronger storms. He says they aren’t yet sure, but he leans towards stronger storms.

This discussion also yielded a fascinating revelation from executive producer Maureen McMurray: she hates wind chimes, and equates hanging up a wind chime within ear-shot of your neighbors to blasting Steely Dan’s Black Cow from your back porch all-day, every-day.

PSA: Take in your wind-chimes, people.

Question 3. Alex: I was just in North Carolina and went up to Mount Mitchell, which had a sign very proudly proclaiming it to be the highest peak east of the Mississippi, but we all know that’s false because the highest peak east of the Mississippi is Barbeau Peak, up on Ellesmere Island. So, I’m wondering how the state parks system can get away with such a catastrophic lie to the public?

Credit: mitchell adams via flickr cc, https://flic.kr/p/zXuvyh

Credit: mitchell adams via flickr cc, https://flic.kr/p/zXuvyh

Wow, Alex. Tell us how you really feel? He is correct, ladies and gentlemen, anyone with access to a search engine can indeed discover for themselves that Barbeau Peak is taller than Mount Mitchell. (Although it looks somehow… sadder.)

This is clearly a question of semantics. I think we can all agree that since if you go far enough east you’ll eventually circumnavigate the entire globe and find yourself back at Mount Mitchell, this sign is missing some sort of important qualifier. Is it the highest peak east of the Mississippi in America? In North America? WEST OF THE PRIME MERIDIAN?! MY GOD WHICH IS IT?

Leaving aside how exactly this “lie” is “catastrophic,” we at Outside/In do believe that accuracy is paramount. As such, in collaboration with Alex, we have come up with a proposed solution. If any listener happens to hike Mount Mitchell in the near future, try to figure out a way to make the sign more accurate. Using a method that does not deface the sign, please! Add a note using a sticky note, perhaps. Or stand in front of the sign without your own hand-fashioned placard which adds an appropriate geographical caveat afterward.

Once you’re done, send us a picture, and maybe the internet will make it go all viral. (Ok, I confess, I probably don’t know how viral things on the internet work.)

Question 4. Maureen: In the last few weeks we have had very cold weather and then a warm up and then it gets cold again.  As the snow has melted and I’ve been out walking, I’ve noticed what looks like rocks that have sunk into the ground.  My guess is that the rocks stay colder and heavier longer and the soil warms and expands, or loosens and the cold heavy rock sinks, then the ground refreezes over it.  Can you explain this phenomenon?

This one came in over email. And you know what that means: exclusive web only content!

I’ve been observing this phenomenon in my own back yard, Maureen, and what you’re witnessing (or at least what I’m witnessing and assuming is the same at your house) is the formation and later melting away of needle ice.

Basically, what happens is that when the soil is above freezing but the air is above freezing, moisture in the soil is drawn towards the surface (through capillary action, the same process that plants use to send water from the roots to the leaves) and as it rises it freezes in a column. As it rises it brings the mud or sand around it up as well. If the ice then melts (as it has done numerous times this winter in New England… *sigh*), you’re left with disturbed, aerated, slightly taller soil. So what you’re actually seeing is the dirt around the rocks rising up, not the rocks sinking down. Oh, those tricksy rocks!

Indeed, any gardener from New Hampshire will tell you that far from sinking because of their density, rocks in New England soil have a tendency to “heave” their way towards the surface as they undergo freeze-thaw cycles. This occurs for the same reason that you always find all the brazil nuts at the top of a can of mixed nuts.

As a fun bonus, needle ice can also be incredibly beautiful, if you’re willing to get down on your belly and look.


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown with help from Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

 

Episode 25: The 2nd Greatest Show on Earth

A quick note: this episode previously appeared in our podcast feed back in the spring of 2016, as an individual segment in one of our hour-long episodes we produced to air on New Hampshire Public Radio. So you might have already heard it, but…you might not have! And because there have been recent reports about a proposed new hotel for the summit, we thought it all the more relevant. 

Mount Washington is famously home of "The World's Worst Weather", but it also hosts a huge amount of tourist infrastructure. Senior producer Taylor Quimby brings us this tale of how the mountain was conquered, and how that process became the template for mountain tourism nation-wide. 

Voices From Mount Washington

As part of our research for this story, we went to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord to check out the Summit House Guest Register from 1854 - an incredible document where early tourists would sign their names and often leave short poems or comments about their stay on Mt. Washington.  What’s really fascinating is the diversity of reactions and writing styles contained in the guest register - everything from dreary verse about bad weather, to religious expressions of praise for the mountain, and the view. We mocked up some playful recordings of the more colorful entries.

Early Slam Poet?

THis PHOTO is OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

THis PHOTO is OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

Here’s an excerpt from one by Mary Huntington, who visited the summit on July 17th, 1854.  We think it sounds a little bit like a slam poem:

Sulky & Glum

THIS PHOTO IS OF THE 1854 MT. WASHINGTON SUMMIT HOUSE GUEST REGISTRY, WHICH IS HOUSED AT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN CONCORD, NH.

Here is another from August 20th of the same year. We’re not sure about the author on this one, but it sounds a little bit like an Edgar Allen Poe poem, or maybe a drinking song:

Near Death Account

Image from page 50 of "The White Mountains of New Hampshire : in the heart of the nation's playground" (1917)

Image from page 50 of "The White Mountains of New Hampshire : in the heart of the nation's playground" (1917)

On August 15th, 1854, a man from Philadelphia named W.N. Conckle penned a frightening account of his near-death experience on the summit, as he climbed through a terrific August storm.  Here’s just a bit:

Two Opposing Views

Tip Top House, Mount Washington, N. H. |   White, Franklin, 1813-1870 -- Photographer

Tip Top House, Mount Washington, N. H. |  White, Franklin, 1813-1870 -- Photographer

And finally, excerpts from two entries that appear back to back in the register - one a glowing appraisal of them mountain’s breathtaking scale, and another somewhat less enthusiastic review:


Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Taylor Quimby, with help from Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Cornelius Allsopp, a former project manager for Harvey Construction - he headed the construction of the awesome Sherman Adams Visitor Center, and knows personally how hard it is to build on Mt. Washington.

Also thanks to Jeff Leich, Executive Director of the New England Ski Museum, and Rick Russack, founder and president of WhiteMountainHistory.org.

And thanks also to the New Hampshire Historical Society, which houses the 1854 Summit House Guest Register.

Thanks to our historical re-enactors for this story, Kevin Flynn, Starskee Suavé, Sean Hurley, Maureen McMurray, and Taylor Quimby, as the voice of obnoxious circus man!

This week’s episode featured tracks from Podington Bear. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks.

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder

 

S02|E05: Ties That Bind

For alpinist Ben Clark, scaling the world’s toughest mountains is a source of pride and peace; for his mom and dad it is a source of constant worry. What's a parent to do if their son’s lifelong ambition puts him in harm’s way? Plus, The “Save the Whales” movement of the 1970’s was instrumental in putting a stop to commercial whaling. But even as humpbacks and other whale populations have bounced back, one species is still up against the ropes. Literally. Later in the show, Sam tackles the problem of whale entanglement and discovers that proposed solutions include crossbows, Australian lobsters, and Chinese finger traps.

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! We're currently offering up our seasons for FREE! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Part 1

Parenting at 24,000 Feet

For alpinist Ben Clark, scaling the world’s toughest mountains was a source of pride and peace; for his parents it was a source of constant worry. After they learned to live with their son’s adventurous streak, Ben decided to quit the mountaineer life altogether. Why? The answer may surprise you.


Part 2

Up Against the Ropes

The “Save the Whales” movement of the 1970’s was instrumental in putting a stop to commercial whaling. But even as humpbacks and other whale populations have bounced back, one species is still up against the ropes. Literally. In this story, Sam tackles the problem of whale entanglement - and discovers that proposed solutions include crossbows, Australian lobsters, and Chinese finger traps.


Part 3

ask-sam_wArrow.gif

Ask Sam - A Question About Canine Bathroom Rituals

Rebecca Lavoie asks: “Why does it take my dog so long to figure out exactly where it is that he wants to go to the bathroom? Number one, number two...it doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of pickiness going on. On-leash, off-leash, on walks on the road, running free…it doesn’t matter. Location seems to be incredibly important and I want to know why?”

Well Rebecca, (who is, full-disclosure, our digital director here at NHPR, and only called the Ask Sam line when we told her if she just keeps asking questions in the break room we’re not going to be able to create any content for the website) it’s because your adorable wheaten terrier is in fact descended from a timber wolf*.

For wolves and wild dogs, whose noses are simply astonishing, taking a poop is similar to leaving a trail of information behind:

 

“Who’s been there, when they’ve been there, what’s their reproductive status, what they’ve been eating, etc,” explains Dr. Brian Hare, who heads Duke’s Canine Cognition Center, and is the founder of Dognition.

“As people say often, it’s like a dog’s reading the newspaper to smell what others have left. They are creating content, and so just like you as a media person, you want to put your product your content in a place where people will see it. The reason that dogs for instance want to defecate or urinate on things that are high is because that’s going to be easier for someone else’s sniffer to run into.” 

Dogs, with their leavings, are attempting to create an “olfactory bowl” (a fancy science-y term for their territory), and it would totally defeat the purpose of all that effort if they pooped somewhere hidden and a dog passing into their territory just walked right by.

Other insights?

  • Dogs that learn on a single type of surface are weirded out about using something that they are not used to. These preferences tend to be set by about four-and-a-half-months-old.

  • Sometimes pooping is simply not your dog’s priority, and distractions -- especially the presence of other dogs -- can be an issue.

  • Dogs are sensitive to magnetism, and when the magnetosphere is calm (about 20% of the time) they like to orient themselves North/South. “Why they would do that?” Brian Hare says, “Nobody knows.”

So you can take the dog out of the taiga, but you can’t take the taiga out of the dog. Just a little something to appreciate every time [insert your pup's name here] refuses to just let you go back inside.

 

* this statement may not be 100% science.


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, Logan Shannon, and Megan Tan.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

This week’s episode includes tracks from Uncanny Valleys. 

S02|E04: There's No "i" in Team

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. This week we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend. Also, running and completing a marathon is an amazing achievement that is the culmination of many hours of hard mental and physical training. But can you really claim you finished when you collapse just a few yards from the finish, or is that cheating. And we'll finish it off with a heartwarming story of the ultimate gesture of sportsmanship from a place called Ushuaia, Argentina known as the "End of the World". 

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! We're currently offering up our seasons for FREE! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Part 1

Anothah Boston Cheat

Ari Ofsevit is a guy from Boston fueled by an intense, nerdy love for sports. The day after running this year’s Boston Marathon, his face was all over the cover of the Boston Globe and on all of the network news channels, but on the internet, people were accusing him of cheating. This is Ari’s story.


Part 2

WTF is TFC?

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Was this stone staircase always like this? Nope. Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. In this story, we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend.


Part 3

Don't Cheer For Me Argentina

In 2008, our host, Sam Evans-Brown, won the biggest ski race in Argentina, the Marchablanca. For him that was the whole story, but for the skier on the second step of the podiuma former Olympian named Martin Bianchithat race marked a major turning point in his life. 

Check out the highlights from the 2016 Marchablanca: 


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Martin Bianchi for giving Sam the big win and the opportunity to be a bus graphic celebrity in Argentina. Also thanks to Luis Antonio Perez for playing the part of Martin in our story; Weldon Johnson, former Yale runner and the co-founder of Let's Run; and former TFC members Kyle Peckham, Natalie Beittel, who are assembling a book of stories from the crew, and Barbara Whiton of the Trail Crew Association. Thanks as well to Rob Burbank of the AMC and Cristine Bailey of the National Forest Service, for setting up our day out on the trail.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

This week’s episode includes tracks from Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, and Tyler Gibbon. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Episode 16: WTF is TFC?

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Was this stone staircase always like this? Nope. Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. In this story, we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend.

“People think these staircases occur naturally,” says Nova.

During the rest of the year Nova is known as Alex Milde.  Alex is a clean-cut student at Cornell and a member of its varsity rowing team. But out here, in the wilderness of the White Mountains, he’s the leader of a trail crew and he goes by his woods name: Nova.

“We’ve had people do that. They’ve been walking down our work, talking to their kid, and we’re rolling around in the dirt, clearly putting in a staircase, and they’re like: ‘Yes, honey, these steps were put here by God.’” But they weren’t. They were put there by a crew of people -- mostly college students, working mainly with hand tools -- who labor in obscurity all summer long.

Officially, this is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s professional White Mountain trail crew. Unofficially, it's known as: the TFC.

“It came around in the '70s sometime. It stands for Trail Fucking Crew,” explains Aesop, a second-year member of the TFC, who declines to provide his real name, “We like to say, if your grandma asks what it stands for, you say Trail Fixing Crew.”

The History of AMC's Trail Crew

AMC’s White Mountain trail crew has been around for a long time. In the 1800s, hiking trails were largely cut by the owners of inns and hotels in the White Mountains. In the early 20th century some of the area’s more dedicated hikers, often faculty members of the region’s universities, started to connect these trails. The result was a trail network that was too big to be maintained by volunteer labor alone.

In 1919, the Appalachian Mountain Club formed its first professional trail crew, led by former New Hampshire Governor Sherman Adams, who was fresh out of boot camp and ran the crew accordingly. “He had a reputation,” says Bob Watts who served on the crew from 1952 to 1955 and now serves as the crew's unofficial historian.  Watts says Adams once hiked from Littleton to Hanover in something like 43 hours.

1924 Crew at the Flume Gorge

L to R:  Harland P. Sisk 1923-26(TM), Leonard B. Beach 1923-25, William J. Henrich 1924-27(TM), William L. Starr 1922-25(TM), Frederick Fish 1923-25, Harold D. Miller 1920-23(TM) & 24(TM), Dana C. Backus 1923, 24 & 26.

That superhuman trek was somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy miles, and Adams did it without Gore-Tex® gear, lightweight boots, or a CamelBak®. The culture that Adams created on the trail crew--hard living, hard working, hard charging--remains today. And in the intervening years, the crew has cultivated a mystique that surrounds them still.

Why is the TFC so legendary?

 

Pure physicality

Crew members are expected to do “patrols” for two to three weeks each summer. "Patrols" involve hiking between eight to twenty-two miles a day, clearing every fallen tree from the trail, and a year’s worth of accumulated leaves and dirt out of every water bar.

Once patrolling is done, the crew then gets to work on projects. In order to reach the project site, often set deep in the woods, they must pack and carry a week's worth of equipment and food. Their backpacks, which are technically pack boards, usually weigh more than 100 pounds. The TFC boasts that particularly burly crew members will carry 200+ pound loads. There's even a story of an unfortunate crew member who became momentarily trapped under river water after being toppled by the weight of his packboard.

These brutal workdays are accompanied by some equally punishing days off. Bob Watts reminisced about an impressive, but perhaps ill-advised, hike that he and his crew mate embarked on one summer. It took them 27 miles to the next project site and over Mount Washington (one of the most inhospitable peaks in the country) in the middle of the night. Every year, crew members take part in the fabled, 49-mile “hut traverse”.

 

Shenanigans

The trail crew is legendary for being composed of spirited college kids with a penchant for pranks. The most notorious example went down in the '50s when some trail crew members caught wind that President Eisenhower was coming to visit New Hampshire. They decided to put a goatee on one of the state's more notable icons, the Old Man of the Mountain. To do this, they managed to tie some bushes to his rocky chin, which was located forty feet below a cliff edge; all of this just to give him a funny little beard. “So these guys really, for almost a half a century went into hiding and never would admit their participation in this shenanigan,” says Watts.

Ben English, another crew member from the '50s, remembers the time he and his crew mates constructed an over-sized birds nest with sticks and moss. They hard-boiled some eggs, drew spots on them with a magic marker, and tossed them into the faux-nest. When curious hikers passed by and asked about the nest, they responded, “Why, that’s the nest of the alpine duck.”

This tomfoolery is harmless, but I’m also fairly certain they are some of the more PG stories. If you asked me to guess, the most legendary tales, the kind that attract new crew members from college campuses all around the country, don’t get told to a reporter carrying a microphone.

The Look

To match the mystique they’ve cultivated over the years, the crew has adopted a certain style. Members of the crew don’t look like earth-loving hippies, or tech-fabric wearing ultra-athletes. They’re more like filthy, muscled punk rockers, wearing heavy work boots and stained t-shirts. Many of them sport mohawks, which they say optimizes their aerodynamics for hiking fast.

“My theory is it’s also a radiator,” Nova explains, “So shave the hair on the sides so that allows a lot of heat to radiate out and you evaporate, and then you have the vein of hair coming down the center and that condenses the sweat coming off your head and recirculates it.”

Getting grimy is expected; this is pretty much a one shower a week kind of group. John Lamanna, who was on the crew in the '70s, explains the ethos this way: “Any trail crew guy worth his shit, he would rather have mushrooms growing out of his underwear--if in fact he wore underwear--than [...] ever be caught with his axe dull or not ready to go.”

What’s it like to be on the TFC?

Joan Chevalier was the first woman to be on the trail crew back in 1978. She had worked in the huts, but was always envious of the trail crew. “I wasn’t really a people person, per se,” she says. She started in the huts, and eventually became the caretaker of Guyot shelter the summer it was being rebuilt by the the trail crew, so she worked closely with them. Afterwards, the head of the crew invited her to join the team.

“AMC was one of the places where finally...that women and men were equal,” she says. “It didn’t matter, everybody did what they could do and made a contribution.”

Anna Malvin, a current crew member whose woods name is 10-Gauge, agrees, “The only time I really notice I’m a girl is when like, hikers will pass and make [...] sexist comments. Like, ‘Oh, why don’t you get the guys up there to help you and stuff like that.”

But, “it was almost like a fraternity,” says Chevalier. “They just really had a lot of fun, working very very hard and doing amazing things to keep the trails up.”

2012 Crew

There are echoes of fraternity culture in the TFC’s traditions.

“You don’t really get hazed,” says Malvin. She points to traditions like delegating more menial chores--like having to carry a week’s worth of trash out of the woods--to first year crew members. And then there was this: “We had to take a test at the beginning, just as a joke. Like ‘what color are this person’s tighty-whitey’s?’ While getting little balls thrown at us,” she says, laughing. “But it’s all in good fun.”

“It is sort of difficult, sometimes, to see the line between what’s hazing and what’s bonding,” says Peenesh Shah, who was on the crew in 2001 and 2002. He says an example is the tradition of always keeping your axe close at hand. Ben English explains this tradition stems from a tendency of porcupines to gnaw through the “salty handles” of the axes. Shah once left his axe on a workbench while eating dinner, and some senior members of the crew took it and hid it from him. "You know I think there’s some element of hazing there, but there’s at least some purpose to that.”

“Ultimately it’s pretty harmless right,” he says, but these traditions create a sense of cohesion. “I don’t think you’d be able to get that quality of work product, or just the amount of labor the crew puts in for the amount they get paid, unless there was some other benefit and that benefit is pride.”

“This trail crew job, this is not something that they just drop in out of the sky and work for a summer in the woods in the White Mountains,” says Ben English. “They might think that way when they plan to get here but they find out quite soon that it's different.”

But when it comes to telling the best stories of fun and fellowship in the woods, the ones that bring in new trail crew members year after year. Ben English and John Lamanna demure.

I ask, “Are these stories too good for radio?”John Lamanna responds “We have to maintain a certain mystique around us. We don’t want the whole friggin’ world knowing how good this is, because they’ll all want to do it.”

So there you have it. If you want to know what it’s really like to be on the TFC--the heavy loads, the long-days, the shenanigans in the woods and the life-long friendships -- you’ll just have to join up yourself.

 
 

Historic photos courtesy of Trail Crew Association archives.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted Bob Watts saying Sherman Adams once hiked from Whitefield to Hanover in 43 hours. Watts later amended his statement to say this hike actually was between Littleton and Hanover**


Robert Moor - On Trails

Robert Moor is the author of a book called On TrailsRobert started thinking about trails while walking the Appalachian Trail in 2009, and decided to write about trails generally when he realized that no-one was interested in another story about a middle-class white guy walking the AT.

"[He] began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet: How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others devolve? What makes us follow or strike off on our own? Over the course of the next seven years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, from the minuscule to the massive. He learned the tricks of master trail-builders, hunted down long-lost Cherokee trails, and traced the origins of our road networks and the Internet." (Source: robertmoor.com)

Walking the AT does have a profound effect on people, it certainly changed Robert,  as you can see from the photo below.

 
 

Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown, Logan Shannon, and Cordelia Zars. With help from Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, & Jimmy Gutierrez.

Special thanks to former TFC members Kyle Peckham and Natalie Beittel who are assembling a book of stories of people from the crew. Also Barbara Whiton of the Trail Crew Association who helped Sam track down old crew members. Thanks as well to Rob Burbank of the AMC and Cristina Bailey of the National Forest Service for setting up the day out on the trail. 

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder 

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.

S01|E05: Stake Your Claim

There used to be a time when you could strike out into the vast unexplored wilderness and stake your claim – but not anymore.  Today, the story of one seaside town where one homeowner is facing a brutal property dispute against an undefeatable opponent: the Atlantic Ocean.  
Plus, a group of 19th century pioneers lay claim to one of the world’s most inhospitable mountains and turn it into a premiere tourist destination. 
And, Sam goes on a hunt for Earth’s last unexplored places, so he can plant a flag and stake his claim.

Listen to the full episode:


aerial view of nahant, ma

Fortify, Accommodate, Relocate

Nahant, Massachusetts is a rocky crescent moon of land out in the Atlantic Ocean just north of Boston. It has a long history of being at the mercy of the ocean, and the people who live there are looking at an uncertain future. The seas are rising, and no one can say how long many homes by the water will be safe. 

Take a tour of Nahant and read about the challenges the town faces as the seas rise.

Photos by Lucian Perkins


The Hotels of Mt. Washington

Mount Washington is famously home of "The World's Worst Weather", but it also hosts a huge amount of tourist infrastructure. 

Senior producer Taylor Quimby brings us this tale of how the mountain was conquered, and how that process became the template for mountain tourism nation-wide. 

Voices From Mount Washington

As part of our research for this story, we went to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord to check out the Summit House Guest Register from 1854 - an incredible document where early tourists would sign their names and often leave short poems or comments about their stay on Mt. Washington.  What’s really fascinating is the diversity of reactions and writing styles contained in the guest register - everything from dreary verse about bad weather, to religious expressions of praise for the mountain, and the view. We mocked up some playful recordings of the more colorful entries.

Here’s an excerpt from one by Mary Huntington, who visited the summit on July 17th, 1854.  We think it sounds a little bit like a slam poem:

These photos are of the 1854 Mt. Washington Summit House Guest Registry, which is housed at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.

These photos are of the 1854 Mt. Washington Summit House Guest Registry, which is housed at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.

Space! Thous art pure and boundless expanse

For golden globes to make their mountains in;

Room, where all bodies mentioned may begin;

Where planets wheel along in mary [sic] dance

And comets voyage on in wild careers

 

Here is another from August 20th of the same year. We’re not sure about the author on this one, but it sounds a little bit like an Edgar Allen Poe poem, or maybe a drinking song:

 

For Four long hours we toiled our way

The setting sun to see

Sulky and glum the event to be

Sulky and glum went we.

 

We built our cairn then slept our way

Until the night should flee

Sulky and glum he rose again

Sulky and glum rose we.

These photos are of the 1854 Mt. Washington Summit House Guest Registry, which is housed at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.

These photos are of the 1854 Mt. Washington Summit House Guest Registry, which is housed at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.


On August 15th, 1854, a man from Philadelphia named W.N. Conckle penned a frightening account of his near-death experience on the summit, as he climbed through a terrific August storm.  Here’s just a bit:

Three quarters of the way up I was compelled to lay behind some rocks to [illegible] from the penetrating, impetuous whirlwind. A shower of rain now succeeded & [illegible] with the increasing darkness gave birth to a thought of death which death would only alleviate. Still I ascended slowly & despondently and my agitated thoughts would rage within me equally as impetuous as the storming whirlwind around me. A terrific gale now climaxed the increasing wildness of the storm. The wind roared and sang my dirge among the angry looking rocks around my very feet. The fog was my funeral pall and the slanting cutting rain was my shroud, and my mourners were deep [illegible] among the mountain glens. I yet remained to die.


And finally, excerpts from two entries that appear back to back in the register - one a glowing appraisal of them mountain’s breathtaking scale, and another somewhat less enthusiastic review:

August 27, 1854

Mount Washington; A specimen of the magnificence of God’s works. It is an impressive symbol of the unchangeable power and glory of the Creator… To come here just to say that you have been to the top of Mt. Washington shows a vain and frivolous mind.

Tip_Top_House,_Mount_Washington,_N._H,_by_White,_Franklin,_1813-1870.jpg

September 6, 1854

Be Japers I’d as soon sleep in a swamp! And when one gits up at morning’ his clothes hang about ‘im like a woman’s gown with no skirts. Och, bad luck to it! If iver I am the bottom again, may the divil shweep me if I climb these rocks another time!

The Weather on top of Mount Washington is still pretty epic as evidenced by this video taken at the top on May 16th, 2016. 

Weather Observers Mike Dorfman and Tom Padham took a brief break this morning to enjoy the windy and wintry conditions on the observation deck. Winds so far have topped out at 109 mph, with gusts near the century mark expected through this afternoon.

Despite planting a flag there, our laws say the moon isn't American.

Despite planting a flag there, our laws say the moon isn't American.

Is Staking a Claim Still Possible?

The world is pretty full up...which got us to wondering: is there anyplace left on earth, or beyond, where you can just claim something as your own?

The answer is yes... but once you hear how, you might not be so excited to give it a try.


Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Logan Shannon & Molly Donahue

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.

S01|E03: Nurture vs. Nature

Tyler Armstrong is 12-years-old. He loves video games, laser tag, and he wants to become the youngest person to summit Mount Everest. In this episode, Outside/In poses an ethical question: how young is too young to climb Mount Everest? Plus, what to expect when you're expecting a child...and a gold medal at the Nordic World Ski Championships. And a father wages a 17-year-long battle against the Department of Environmental Services over a dock. 

Listen to the full episode:

Photo Credit: Phobus via flickr

Photo Credit: Phobus via flickr

The Young Man of the Mountain

What did you want to do when you were 12? Play video games? Hang out with your friends at the mall? Go swimming in a lake? Tyler Armstrong is 12 and he want to earn the title of youngest person to climb Mt. Everest.


Bye bye toes, see you in a few months. Sure hope I remembered to put my skate boots on!

A photo posted by Kikkan Randall (@kikkanimal) on

Training While Pregnant

We’re in the middle of a bit of a shift when it comes to what’s considered a healthy amount of physical activity for women during pregnancy. Doctors say you can keep doing a lot of things you did before you were pregnant, pretty far into term. But culturally, we’re not quite caught up to the latest scientific understanding.

We talked to elite athlete Kikkan Randall about her experience training while she was pregnant. We also spoke to 3-time Olympic medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar who wrote the guidelines that NCAA schools are supposed to follow on how not to discriminate against pregnant student-athletes.


IMG_1445.JPG

Pier Pressure

In 1998, Forrest Quimby spent thousands of dollars building one of the most beautiful, elaborate docks on his lake. There was just one problem – it was illegal.

In this story, we hear about Quimby’s seventeen-year battle with the NH Department of Environmental Services, and find out why small-scale environmental regulations are so hard to enforce.


Illustration: Sara Plourde

Illustration: Sara Plourde

Ask Sam

Whether he likes it or not, Sam has become the go-to source for all of our questions, from showing him photos of birds we want him to identify, to plants that look weird, to what kind of wax we should use on our skis. And we're not alone - everyone has questions for Sam. We went to a bar and recorded a few and asked him to answer. 

If you have questions for Sam, leave him a message on the Ask Sam hotline: 603-223-2448


Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Logan Shannon & Molly Donahue

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder | Additional music by Uncanny Valleys

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.

S01|E01: Let's Take This Outside

How do you define wilderness? Why are humans drawn to summits? Will the cold-hardy kiwi save a struggling local economy, or will it destroy a native eco-system? What is nutria, and why does it taste so good? Meet Outside/In. A brand new radio show and podcast that takes a look at the natural world and how we use it.

Listen to the full episode:


Champagne on the Rocks

This past summer, Scott Jurek set a new record for running the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail. But on his triumphant day atop the last mountain in Northern Maine, his 21st century campaign for the trail's record ran afoul of a park founded on ideas about wilderness from a decidedly earlier time.


Why We Summit

Mariagrazia Portera's post-doctoral research focuses on evolutionary aesthetics, specifically Darwin's aesthetics. Essentially--using anthropology, philosophy, literature, biology,  genetics--she tries to understand why humans appreciate certain things that are not key to our survival. Things like going to the opera, admiring paintings, reading fictional stories, and climbing mountains. We asked her why humans feel compelled to summit mountains.


10x10: Vernal Pools

A little introduction to 10x10: Occasionally, we're going to be looking very closely at certain really cool spots. We're calling these types of segments 10x10, because--hey--we've got to draw the line somewhere. But it could be a 10x10 plot anywhere: in the woods, on a mountain, in the water, in the air. And really, it could be 10 anything by 10 anything: feet, inches, miles, FATHOMS...we're not big on making any hard and fast rules. 

For this first foray out into the woods, we're checking out something called vernal pools. Vernal, meaning springtime, and pools as in...pools. These are little (and sometimes not so little!) pools that form when spring rains combine with winter snow-melt to make some really wet spots. These puddles might look a little gross, especially after they've been sitting there for a few weeks--and are full of all sorts of sliminess--but they are absolutely essential to all sorts of bizarre critters.

Trust us, you'll never listen to the spring peepers the same way again.


The Cold Hardy Kiwi

Iago Hale has a vision: it’s one where the economy of the North Country is revitalized by local farmers selling delicious, cold hardy kiwi berries to the masses. Meanwhile, Tom Lautzenheiser has been battling a hardy kiwi infestation in Massachusetts for years, and is afraid that this fight will soon be coming to the rest of New England.

Should we worry about the cold hardy kiwi and what does the quest to bring it to market tell us about what an invasive species is?


Eat the Invaders!

So, like everything, there’s a lot of grey area in the definition of what’s “invasive”. But there are also plenty of things that are just straight up a problem. 

The American Chestnut--which was a super valuable tree for both lumber and food--was wiped out by an imported blight.

Rabbits introduced to Australia were so prolific that the Aussies were killing 2 million a year without putting a dent in the population.

And, Burmese pythons are currently in the process of feasting on the endangered birds and small mammals of the Florida Everglades.

Which is why we are going to be doing our part, here at Outside in, by eating some invasive species.

We ate Nutria Stew and Periwinkle Fritters and lived to tell the tale. Watch the videos of us making some culinary magic in the kitchen.

If you'd like to try out an invasive dish for your next party, here are the recipes we used.

Plus a couple hot tips: When you order your nutria meat, make sure it's actually boneless and if you're making Periwinkle Fritters for a crowd, ask the crowd to come early to help you pick out the periwinkles. 

You can find many more invasive species recipes at: Eat The Invaders. Happy eating!

 
 

Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown

With help from: Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Logan Shannon, Molly Donahue, and Megan Tan.

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.