Monday, April 28, 2008

Arctic Levitation

In Alaska, come December, I'll be flying my paraglider in strange conditions: darkness, extreme cold (you need wind to do this kind of flying, and you fly into the wind, which means windchills of -100F or more), and a very constrained region of mechanical lift called the "lift band," where air rushes up a bluff face, raising the paraglider like a kite -- with you on board. But hang too far back, and I'll slip into "rotor", turbulent air that can send me down, or fly too far forward, and though I'll have a decent landing on the sea ice, I'll be out of the lift band. For this reason I'll have to fly back and forth across the bluffline. When I want to come down, I'll ascend up and out of the lift band, adn make my ideal landing approach, Downwind, Base, then Final approach. These are the plans, so far! But of course, no plan, as they say, survives contact with the enemy. The Arctic isn't my enemy, only a fool would go up there thinking that way, but you get the idea. I expect things to come unglued the moment I lift off :)

Right now I;m working on my arctic-grade helmet & flight suit, and surveying photos and maps of the north coast to find suitable bluffs. The drawing above is a schematic of an ideal location for this kind of ultra-low flight or "levitation".

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lone and Level Sands

A spine-chilling work by Percy Bysshe Shelley (written in 1817), on the passage of time and human conceit;


I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,

The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains: round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

If that doesn't goose your skin, I don't know what will! Now, having said all that, Ozymandias is not Satan, as is often thought, but represented an Egyptian pharaoh. And today the pharaohs aren't forgotten in a lost desert -- they and their works are visited by millions of tourists every year. But having said that, far more "Great Kings" than the couple hundred or so pharaoh have trod the Earth, and the vast bulk of them are now dust.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dive, Dive, Dive!

Hood Canal, two weeks ago (too long already) with Todd Olson. Learning to work with ropes, tools and other equipment in poor visibility. If it seems dark, noisy, cold, confusing, and basically hard to tell what's up, down, left or right...there you have it. That's exactly how it is.

"Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans."

Jacques Yves Cousteau