I always knew that Dragonflies were enemies to insects but I had no idea they were as cold, calculating and viscous as they actually are.
The top-10 list website, Listverse has set of 10 surprising facts about dragonflies. Here is my favourite fun-fact from the list:
Fact: They Can Isolate Their Prey in a Swarm
Dr. S.D. Wiederman discovered when he began studying the way Emerald dragonflies select their prey. Curious about the way dragonflies hunt, Dr. Wiederman and his team placed a nano-electrode inside the visual processing neuron of a dragonfly. They then positioned the "subject" in front of a TV monitor with two moving objects.
In simple nervous systems, multiple objects tend to fade out; the insect can’t handle the attention multitasking. But dragonflies have the ability to switch their attention between objects at will. Under observation, the dragonfly focused first on one object, then shifted to watch the second, then shifted back to the first again, never losing track of where they were. This selective attention span allows the dragonfly to single out one target in a swarm, then zero in on it exclusively-while remaining aware of the rest of the swarm to avoid a collision.
All I can say is thank goodness that they are not big enough to hunt us.
More dragonfly fun-facts on Listverse.
Photo credit: Dragon Fly | Flickr by meke http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_CA / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
I got news over the weekend that Amy and Dave Freeman finally completed their massive 3-year, 11,700 mile expedition called the North American Odyssey which included traveling by kayak, dogsled and canoe.
Back in April, 2010 they started their afternoon adventure in Bellingham, Washington paddling the entire coastline of British Columbia, then across the Yukon and eventually working their way back to Lake Superior. The last leg of the trip included kayaking to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence then down the eastern seaboard and eventually ended up at the southern tip of Florida.
The expedition was a partnership with their non-profit organization, Wilderness Classroom whose mission is to “increase students' appreciation for the environment while improving core academic skills by introducing students to the wonders of exploration and wilderness travel through live, web-based expeditions and school assemblies.”
We interviewed Amy and Dave last year just before starting the final leg of their trip.
For those who haven’t seen Dragons Den before the idea is simple. Business owners (and weird inventors) come on the show and only have a few minutes to pitch their big idea to a group of investors (called Dragons). The Dragons decide on the spot if they are in or out. If they like your idea they make a deal and invest in your company. If they don’t like it, you get the old walk of shame... In the US you might have seen a similar version of the show called Shark Tank. Here in Canada it's promoted as Canada's most popular unscripted show with 1.3 million people tuning in each week.
This is a pretty big deal for Seaward so they have been preparing like mad for this Saturdays taping for several months when they first auditioned for the television show. “I’m president for our local Toastmasters club so the members are absolutely sick of hearing my pitch.” says Doug Godkin, General Manager of Seaward Kayaks, “That being said, the group has been great at pretending to be the Dragons and asking the tough questions to find holes in my pitch.”
Nobody at Seaward wanted to give the spicy details away about the upcoming proposal but did say that Seaward is looking to expend their kayak line into new areas and take the company to the next level.
Doug feels that they have a decent chance of attracting the attention of at least one of the dragons. “We are very proud of the fact we are an established company and all of our kayaks are built here in Canada. There is always pressure to take the cheaper way out and start production overseas but we feel strongly about keeping the manufacturing here. For that we are looking for outside investment.”
The plan is to tap the episode this Saturday (April 6) here in Toronto and it should air sometime in the Fall. “The producers haven’t given us an air date yet. In fact, there is the possibility that we won’t even get on the air. It all depends on how well the taping goes.”
I wish the best of luck to Seaward Kayaks. With 1.3 million Canadian’s watching, this is easily the biggest audience the little company will ever have so showcase their products. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to introduce kayaking as a healthy and fun activity to Canadians.
I will post an update when we know more details about an air date and all that good stuff.
More info: cbc.ca
Photo credits: cbc.ca and Seaward Kayaks.
Back at the end of January I had the pleasure to be invited to attend a strategic planning meeting for Paddle Canada. I got invited because I’m the Chair of the Sea Kayak Program Development Committee. The goal of the weekend meeting was to develop a 3-year plan and it already had a catchy title: Float Plan for Success.
The reason for the meeting came about because the Board of Directors felt the organization was just about to enter a new phase in the life of the Organization. For those who studied the long and sometimes weird boring history of Paddle Canada will remember several years ago when the Organization had major financial trouble that left it hanging on for dear life. Thanks to good leadership at the top who made some tough choices, Paddle Canada has come back stronger than ever and is now ready to tackle some new projects.
Overall the weekend was a lot of fun (as fun as strategy development can be I guess) and filled with lots of fellow paddling policy wonks nerds like me who were happy to chat the days (and evenings) away talking about how to turn all Canadians into paddlers.
A couple of days ago Executive Director, Graham Ketcheson posted a finished report about some of the changes you will see over the next 3-4 years. If you are bored already the short summary is that the new strategic plan isn’t ground breaking but it is a change in direction for the organization.
Here are a couple of highlights:
1) New Vision and Mission Statements
The new Vision and Mission Statements have a stronger focus on the development of its paddling instructional programs and the development of complementary partnerships with other organizations.
2) Strategic Priorities and Goals
After hours of brainstorming as a group we boiled down the ideas into four major categories which are Public Awareness & Membership, Youth, Partnerships and Instructor Development.
That does this all mean for Paddle Canada?
There are a couple of advantages to formalizing a strategic plan. As I mentioned earlier, none of these were ground-breaking revelations or direction changes. What it does do is to make sure that the members of the Board of Directors are on board with the new plan and everybody has bought in. The second (and more important) outcome of it is that the Board has developed a clear set of “marching orders” for the Executive Director to take and figure out how to implement over the next 3-4 years. This gives him a lot more freedom to work with people and grab the opportunities as they come along without wondering what the board thinks about this new direction.
What does this mean for you as a member or instructor member?
It means that there is going to be a whole lot more work coming down the pipe for the volunteers so we will need your help. If you have 10 minutes of free time on your hands and are interested in helping out, get in touch with Graham and he can set you up.
More info: paddlecanada.com
Mobile satellite communication company, Thuraya will be introducing this April a new product called the SatSleeve that will easily transform your iPhone into a satellite phone allowing you to be able to make phone calls and send SMS messages around the world.
The new phone case has a couple of features including an extra battery built in to charge your phone and give it more talk time in the field as well as a built in emergency button that will make an automatic call to a pre-programmed number.
Right now the SatSleeve will only transmit voice and SMS but look for a version to be released in the third quarter of this year that will also transmit data turning your iPhone into a truly global smart phone. Just think how fun it will be to be able to get work emails throughout your entire canoe trip vacation in Northern Canada.
The price for this bad boy isn't cheap with an MSRP around $500. No word on the proposed pricing for the data version but rumours put it at a couple hundred dollars more.
More info: thuraya.com
Oh John Rambo, why do you tease us with those massive God-given pipes while kayaking with your daughter on vacation in Hawaii last week?
The Daily Mail wins the award for the worst headline in the Sylvester-Stallone-going-kayaking coverage: Don't Rocky the boat! Sylvester Stallone enjoys kayak ride with daughter in Hawaii
Photo Credit: Splash News
If you are looking for an adventure this summer you should consider joining me on Lake Superior as we circumnavigate the extremely remote, Michipicoten Island (map link).
The Michipicoten Island Expedition (as we've dubbed it) is being organized by Naturally Superior Adventures and is an 8-day sea kayaking adventure for intermediate paddlers looking for a challenge yet still want to be under the care of a guide.
The plan is to take a 60 kilometer boat shuttle from Michipicoten Bay out to the mystic Michipicoten Island. We will then circumnavigate the island, make the 18 km perpendicular crossing from Bonner Head to the mainland, then eastwards along the Superior Highlands shore before finishing back at the NSA base in Michipicoten Bay, a total of about 140 km over the eight days.
Michipicoten has a very interesting cultural history. Once shunned by First Nations peoples as a place of malevolent giants, Michipicoten Island became one of Ontario's most promising sources of copper and an easy access point to Lake Superior's seemingly endless bounty of fish in the early 1900s. Since then, the copper mine and fishing village have been abandoned. All that remains are old mine shafts, ramshackle buildings and flourishing populations of woodland caribou and beaver. Throw in a couple of lighthouses and a few shipwrecks, rugged shoreline and you've got everything all wrapped up in this island expedition.
For those who have always wanted to do a trip on Lake Superior but shied away from a fully pampered guided trip, this is the adventure for you. It's unique in that it's designed as a self-reliant expedition so all members of the group are responsible for their own food & gear. I won't be cooking for you but I'm quite happy to bring you a cup of my famous poor tasting and burnt coffee in the morning. My role in the as leader will be to provide logistical support, local knowledge, a safety net and completely made-up stories of my time living with a pack of wolves.
Because it's a self-reliant trip in a very remote an inaccessible part of Lake Superior participants need to make sure they have a strong level of both kayaking skills and wilderness camping experience.
Michipicoten Island is an amazing place and completely unique to the rest of Lake Superior. I had the opportunity to visit back in 2007 and have wanted to return ever since.
The dates of the trip are Friday, August 2-10th. There is a floating price scale depending on the number of participants so for example, if we have 3 people the price is $1190 but that price drops to $750 if we get six people onboard so make sure you get a buddy to come along. Of course taxes are not included in those prices.
Check Naturally Superior Adventure's website for all the details and feel free to contact me or NSA with any questions you may have.
It's going to be wicked awesome.
Google has rolled out a treasure map mode for Google Maps just in time for April Fools and I'm currently on my knees praying that this is becomes a permanent feature as it's terrific. Arrrrr.
They even released a cute video explaining the key features of Google Maps: Treasure Mode.
Good hunting people.
Don’t let the recent poor press steer you wrong. The Cook County Forest Preserve is still a family friendly place despite the occasional discovery of a dead body. Adventure awaits kids!
I'm totally on a paddling film roll these days but don’t worry, I will get back to other boring topics soon enough.
Last year at this time I interviewed Steve Weileman to shed some light on an expedition he was planning which would look for and survey Tsunami debris that has floated over from Japan and washed up on Washington state coastline.
Well, the kayak expedition happened and it was a complete success and Steve made a film out of it which was released earlier this winter. It did quite well at a couple of paddling festivals winning Best Environmental Film at both the Waterwalker Film Festival and the Reel Paddling Film Festival.
This past week Steve uploaded the full-length documentary, Ikkatsu: The Roadless Coast to Vimeo and released it free to the public.
In March of 2011 Japan suffered a devastating earthquake followed by a series of equally devastating tsunamis. As the waters receded, an estimated 1.5 million tons of debris was washed back into the Pacific - all of which was destined to land on distant shores.
In the summer of 2012 three professional kayakers, supported by a group of scientific advisors, undertook an unprecedented journey to paddle the roadless coast of Washington, and to survey the debris on some of the wildest shoreline in the United States. When they returned, they shared the data they had compiled with the scientific community and put together their story of adventure and environmental crisis in this documentary.
Steve is planning on going up to Alaska this summer for a month to survey that region and is hoping for your support. All the details on their expedition can be found here.