Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Fungi That Came in From The Cold

A while back i declared my undying fascination  for all things arctic exploration, those stories are so incredible.
From folks who tried to take a microcosm of the their world with them, right down to button polishing boards (mustn't get polish on the uniform old chap - you never know who might drop by to inspect us). To the wisdom of abandoning all preconceptions and doing as the locals do, traveling fast and light by dogsled dressed in the time served apparel of the indigenous people.
E.W. Bingham in his bath with Kernac 

So i thought this was an interesting follow up. Basically the historic sites of Antarctic exploration are being eaten by mould. Yes there are fungi that have been hanging on in there living on penguin droppings and guano for millennia, just waiting for someone to build them a nice wooden hut to eat! 

A scientist call Robert Blanchette may have discovered as many as three new fungi where no one believed they existed or could exist and he says they're feasting on the historic wooden huts built a century ago by legendary British explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. The small buildings, constructed during Shackleton's and Scott's efforts to explore Antarctica and reach the South Pole between 1901 and 1915, are considered invaluable links to the "heroic age" of polar exploration, between 1895 and 1917. 

The huts, among the only remaining structures from attempts to inhabit the continent, are cared for by the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust, so scientists, eco-tourists and history buffs can visit the structures, and marvel at the litter the fathers of polar exploration left behind— newspaper clippings, cans of food and clothing— all abandoned by Shackleton's and Scott's expedition members. When conservationists noticed signs of decay in the huts—rotting planks and wooden crates covered with black speckles they assumed the moulds were contamination brought in from warmer climes. But according to Robert Blanchette's research they turned out to be the only forms of fungi ever found that can live in the deep freeze. Every day's a school day eh! Who'da thunk it?

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Caliber Of Advice

FolksI'm absolutely delighted that so many of you have started commenting regularly, and my blog wouldn't be an extension of my home if some radically different viewpoints weren't sharing table space. 

I've tried sifting through various discussion forums on the prickly subject of suitable hunting caliber's and to be honest with you, apart from getting the idea that one hunters 'perfect' is another's 'totally unsuitable' I'm really none the wiser.

As I know the sum total of 'knack all' about the subject and a few of you have fired more rounds than I've eaten hot dinners (and my love of a cooked lunch is legendary) I thought I  seek guidance from my readership. If you'd be so kind.

To quantify the colloquial measurement of knowledge 'knack all' I've only ever fired:
HS precision .300 win mag - one shot fired = one whitetail dead
Un known .270 three rounds fired at a target no record kept as the light was fading.
Un known 6.5x55 moderated one shot 2.5 inches to the left
Tikka .243 one round fired - BANG ON!!!Sako .22 three shots fired 1.5 inch group 

Results are, to my uneducated eye, promising and I'm feeling the need to take the plunge and buy a rifle of my own.

What I want to hunt and whereBoar - Scotland, England, Italy, France, USA and New ZealandDeer - Scotland - Roe and Red, England - fallow chinese water, muntjac , and Sika USA whitetail, Italy and New ZealandElk - Finland,USA and New ZealandMongolia - GIANT mountain sheep
Further criteriaGun shops in blighty seem to prefer to stock .243 and from what i understand (feel free to enlarge my world view) the UK's police forces prefer to issue FAC for .243

Mutjac are very small and Boars can be very big, most of my hunting will be a 100/200 yards except in Mongolia where it could be up to 600 yards. 

The Swedish 6.5x55 has it's fans and from what i understand a very wide range of bullet weights. But I've also been told that each barrel has it's preference, would that mean it wouldn't matter if the choice was there if the barrel only liked one bullet weight/design? I've read that the 6.5x55 needs longer barrel lengths to get the most from it? 

The Kiwi .338 Whisper has a lot going for it 300g bullets and super short and subsonic. Would amuntion be easy to come by?

James Marchington - Chief advisor on all thing firearms to this blog recommends .308 other people have said 'why do you want a cannon like that'. Also in France .308 and some other cartridges are considered military rounds and are not allowed for civilian use. Is this true anywhere else?

My budget and storage option mean that I'm really hoping for 'one rifle for everything' if any of you think that's possible

Also I'm very unlikely to be able to keep my own tracking dog in the foreseeable future so one shot - strait to the floor kills are VERY important to me.
Any thoughts?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Blogs & Blades 2

Black Rabbit has sent me this picture of the work in progress. I'm lovin' the Hunter blade shape and as you can see he's really got it. We toyed with keeping the rasps of the file but while they look way cool they're a bit of a rust trap, and if the blade were ever to be used for its intended use on an Elk hunt they'd me an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. So this time function will dictate form.
We been batting back and forth ideas about blade thickness; a Mora sometimes looks a little flimsy (proven not to be - but they're SO thin) and the Fallkniven F1 often seems like overkill with its 5 mm of super steel. Black Rabbit's going to work the blade so the spine will retain plenty of metal, while everything towards the cutting edge will be thinned to give the blade a little of the Mora's finesse.

Once again massive thanks Black Rabbit 

Your pal
The bushwacker

Friday, 17 April 2009

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt8

Reading Holly's blog is always thought provoking (best comments section on the web - end of), but this time she's been provoking further attacks of the avarice that's afflicting this blog for a couple of posts!

As ever I've been thinking about a time [soon to come] when finances improve and I'll be able to buy myself a rifle of my own. Up until now I've mostly been thinking Swedish. But nothing's set in stone.
This weekend I've been looking at the Blaser 93 in all its myriad incarnations, including this conversion to rimfire.

The design is a modular marvel where every stock fits every action and every barrel.
Who says AR15 owners should have all the fun. And if I were to suddenly win the lottery how about their unique take on the double rifle?

Two side-by-side barrels and receivers. With each cycle of the bolt two cartridges are loaded simultaneously, like a classic side-by-side double rifle. But better. The magazine contains six cartridges and two in the barrels. Ideal for the really big pigs.

Albert I thought of you.

Maybe I should go German?

Your pal
The Bushwacker

Friday, 10 April 2009

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt7

'You can tell gentleman by his shoes and his watch' - Unknown

The two most predictable questions to ask a returning adventurer are:
Q 'Why?' 
A 'Because it's there' [I know what you mean but couldn't you find a new way of saying it?] 

From my earliest days reading about adventure, and adventurers, the intrepid adventurer has always had certain bits of kit that are; if not actually indispensable, at least touchstones. Those pieces of craft that can take us places, especially when we've taken ourselves places. Yes I'm including myself in the adventurer category now that I've led an intrepid solo expedition to the frozen north. Well Leeds anyway.

Predictable Question 2 
Q 'What's the one thing you'd always take?'
As ever Eric Newby had the best answer. 
A'Wanda!' (his Mrs).  

Apart from his beloved the other thing Newby  always had with him was his Rolex, bought on route to the hindu kush. Lacking his wit and good fortune lots of adventurers  seem to go that most pedestrian of answers ' a swiss army knife'. 
Don't get me wrong. They're OK. I've owned a few of them myself but i can think of better options; a stack of $100 bills'll solve most problems, from lighting fires to calming traffic cops. While it cant light fires, when the Benjamins are gone a Rolex can always be swapped  for a ticket home from anywhere.

I've been a fan of Rolex since I first saw them advertised in an ancient copy of National Geographic as a teenager, and how many dreams were born between those pages?  The trouble with Rolex is that every fourth Essex wide boy's got one, and the other three are wearing 'Bangkok rolys'. In order to reestablish some of the exclusivity they once had there's a now a fashion for coating Rolex sports watches in a variety of black finishes - the same sort of coatings people use to weatherproof rifles. Way cool, and there's a certain cache to not-for-sale. 

Then there's the real deal - IWC - The International Watch Company of Schaffhausen Switzerland. Every model is a thing of great beauty in its own way. To my eyes, especially the the sports watches from the 1970s. My friend Nurse Kate has one of the coolest examples. Her stepfather saw her eyeing it up on his wrist and gave it to her in a fit of pique shouting 'Stop waiting for me to die'.  She's spent the price of a Tikka T3 on servicing it and it still doesn't tell the time. Cool paperweight though. 

You can see where this is going. A hand made watch is possibly the ultimate boys toy, completely useless - your phone keeps better time, but some how way cool. In fact the more you spend the less good a watch is at its stated function. If you don't 'get' watches you'll be queuing up to leave pithy comments at the end of this post. If you do get them you'll be too busy following the links to comment. 

So here it is. The latest 'I Want One' its totally customizable, and its a hell of a lot cheaper that even a new strap for an IWC, it combines the time keeping qualities of an phone [almost] with the machinists craft and the cache of super low volume manufacture.  The Swiss assembled models have a few choices. But it's the assembled in the USA models that interest me. Completely custom, you make yours up from an options list that include choices of case, bezel, faces, and hour, minute, second and second time zone hands. All to your own exacting taste. Corr!

MKII call my favorite the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (pronounced "LuRP") which if you include the short walk to school and back is a pretty fair description of my lifestyle.

There's a 'seeker' born every minute - and two to sell him must have accessories.

Your Pal 
SBW (that's Sucker Boy Wants)

Friday, 3 April 2009

Blogs & Blades

'You Cant Always Get What you Want. You can't always get what you want. And if you try sometime you find You get what you need''

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my hotel room, surfing away, looking at the output of customer knife makers. As yer do.
Trying to resist exposing you dear reader to further outbursts of my avaricious 'I Want One - a not so occasional series' posts, and fighting the urge to bankrupt myself when,it was as though the the kit collecting god smiled upon me. 
 I received an email from Black Rabbit who writes the Obsidian Rabbit blog

....... I'd like to ask you to review one of my knives. In return for your time, I'll happily make you the knife to your specifications and send it to you before you write the review - this way you'll be able to play/work with it first, get a feel for it, and be able to form your own honest opinion. Now don't get me wrong - this knife would not be payment for a favourable review - you can say write whatever you want about it, as long as it's fair (but I wouldn't expect anything else) - and after you've posted, the knife remains with you, for keeps.

Well YE HARRRR!!!! I waited all of .00000001 of a second before biting his hand off - right up to the elbow!!!!

So we've been bouncing a few emails back and forth, chewing a few ideas over and the project is coming along nicely. Very nicely.

We looked at three wildly differant ideas:
The Hunter - my favorite interpretation is the fallkniven TK5 and TK6
The BIG Leuku - The Sammi design that's sort of half way point beteen a camp chopper and a machete
The Bushtool - a relatively new design pioneered by Rod Garcia which he calls the skookum bushtool

I've never been remotely interested in the 'woodlore' style bushcraft knife developed by Ray Mears, I'm sure they're great but they just don't speak to me. The bushtool on the other hand looks like something really genuinely different and i've been keen since the first review i saw.

Here's a few of the reviews I've seen over the last couple of years
Bushcraftuk with a field test in the jungle
Britishblades with a moan about the ordering process
Dirt Times review with a bit of background on how Rod Garcia developed the design
karamat (the bushcraft school that hosts Mors Kochanski's training's which inspired the design)
Old Jimbo now hosting the outdoors magazine review

I've only ever seen one traded 'pre loved' and even that was out of my price range. A maker called Mick Spain does his interpretation of the design and it too is both a stunner and unaffordable at this time.

So I was delighted to seize the chance to get my chubby little hands round one. The best thing about having a knife made for you is that all those little details that no one ever seems to get quite right are suddenly solve-able.

Some thoughts:
Not too thick - a thinner blade offers you a little more finesse 

Not wood - handsome rare woods are certainly amazing to gaze at, but a real 'user' will be subjected to the blood and guts of field butchery and may need to be sterilized many times during it's life. Micarta or G10 are the best options for the small scale maker. Micarta is layers of cloth or paper set in resin, G10 is the same idea with fiberglass.

ORANGE - BoB (Brother of Bushwacker) is more of an outdoorsman than any of the armchair warriors posting on the internet even wish they were and he reckons outdoor kit comes in two colors 'where did i put that green? and So that's where it is ORANGE!' 

Deep Choi - the Scandinavian esthetic (popularized by Mors Kochanski) has it that a finger guard only gets in the way. While i agree that it does limit the options for sheath design it also serves the valuable purpose of limiting the potential for a cut finger. Call me a wuss if you like, but I've seen some nasty accidents and had a few not so nasty ones myself. Limiting the potential for disaster is part of the design brief. So a deep 'cut out' that secures the users grip is essential - this one's coming on an Elk hunt and will cut many sandwiches between here and there.

Innovation - Sorry to say this chaps but most knives are just so [yawn] same-old-same-old, the Skookum is different, Raidops aint to everyones taste but his work is different, fallkniven has super cool laminated steel, Wild Steer knives are literally the ugliest thing I've seen since ex-Mrs SBW's sister in law, but at least WSK are trying to do something clever and innovative.  So I was delighted when BlackRabbit tentatively suggested insetting a southern cross into the handle. The Southern Cross is a constellation only visible in the southern hemisphere and a potent symbol of Australia. Different AND it nicely ties the makers work to his locale. 

More news of the project as it comes in
PS get Black Rabbits side of the story here

Careful With That Thing

I was recently emailed this story by Tobermory. An Aussie called General Cosgrove was interviewed on the radio recently where he was talking about a program where a boy scout troop would be visiting his military base.

So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?

I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on the rifle range.

Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.

But you're equipping them to become violent killers.

Well, Ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?

The radio went silent and the interview ended.

People! What are they like?

Your pal

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

On The Beach At Hastings

Lately i've changed the signature i use on web forums to 
Tolerable Craftsman, Terrible Fisherman and Wannabe hunter
It's a raised a smile, and a couple of chaps have 'fessed up 'I'm a terrible fisherman too'  but in all honesty however bad you think you are, I'm worse, I suck at fishing. really I do. 
On the other hand - Buying fishing equipment I excel at. Really, I'm gods gift to anyone who owns a fishing store. There's no recession if I'm in your shop. It is my heartfelt belief that under no circumstances should i ever knowingly pass a fishing shop without popping in and dropping a tenner. Minimum.

In order to convince myself that I'm more than a collector of fishing equipment and to appease the fishing gods this weekend I went back to my roots. Fishing in hastings, with crap gear. The best catch i ever had was off the boat landing beach in Hastings with a rod, reel and line set up that cost £30. Since then i've spent 100's and caught the sum total of not-a-lot. Maybe the gods don't take offerings made over the internet via fishing shops in Japan and I'd actually have to get my butt down to the water, in time for the tide, and throw some bait out there.
As usual Johna is my fishing buddy of choice, and his pal Steve was roped in for the trip.

Johna "There's a beach it's been cut off by a landslide but I know we can get down there'
SBW " Real adventure fishing! Bring it on!"

We took the unprecedented step of leaving in plenty of time, and turned that into a double whammy by going to the bait shop while the bait was fresh - I know most unlike us - but as the man said
 'doing what you've always done an expecting different results is THE definition of madness'

£11 lighter and with the most promising bag of bait i've seen in years we made our way up on to the cliffs in the country park and set about the scrabble down to the water. Expectation pays a large part in perception and of course perception is the local reality. We walked in a downward direction untill a fork in the road. 
SBW ' looks like its this way'
Johna ' no it's this way'
SBW 'well OK. errr if you say so'

To say the going was rough an muddy would be an understatement, like a recreation of the Somme on a 60 degree slope.
Man Down - Johna takes a tumble

Watching Johna struggle to his feet whilst trying to get the camera out nearly had me on my arse too. Fortunately he quickly fell again so i was able to add a photographic record. By the time we made it to the waters edge we we all covered in mud. But the sun shone, I lit a driftwood fire, and and all was right with the world. 
I set up with a Paternoster rig. Usually i think of the paternoster as a pier fishing rig, they don't cast so far but seeing as we had a decent stash of likely looking bait I was hoping two hooks would equal two chances.

Today's lesson:
I'm an advocate of circle hooks wherever possible as the research suggests that they are much less likely to be 'deep swallowed' resulting in a positive hooking through the fishes lip giving you a choice of 'catch and release' or 'catch and eat'. As i mentioned at the start it's been a while since i've landed anything at all and as a result my fishing confidence had been at an all time low. I'd started fishing with 1/O (the smallest size of sea fishing hook) having convinced myself that I was getting nibbles but not bites due to too larger hook sizes. 
The whole point of circle hooks is that the little fella's can't bite down on them and live to grow to a better size.  This was made true for me with the only catch of the day. I landed a Huss which would have gone straight back if he hadn't swallowed the hook so deeply that it made release impossible. Point taken 3/O and 5/O from now on.
 Mr Huss received his invitation to lunch by way of a rock to the back of the head.

I wrapped him up in the fronds of a fern (any bushcrafters out there care to let me know which one it is?)

I popped him on a flat rock i'd pre heated in the fire, stuck another rock on top.....................
And scared the daylights out of my self when rock one exploded launching rock two into the air!

A quick rebuild of the fire later and Mr Huss cooked gently while we amused ourselves casting rigs costing £3.50 a time out to the rocky bottom of the english channel. Where they stayed, fishless.
Mr Huss turned out to be a most agreeable luncheon companion. 
If mother nature had not provided a bounty, she had at least laid on an appetizer. 

Despite the agreeable nature of the morning, I would hesitate to recommend the beach as a fishing venue for two reasons.
Firstly it has been described to us as a nudist beach - yet it was devoid of hot swedish naturalists and seemed instead to be a meeting point for gentlemen of certain 'interests'. Also when the tide was fully out it became apparent that the beach fails miserably to provide any reason for fish to be there. We saw one, yes ONE, limpet on the whole beach. 
No food = No fish. 
It was too nicer day to be rushing back and we stayed to the bottom of the tide. A most unusual thing happened as the tide went out - we got nearly all our broken off and snagged rigs back! 

The journey back wasn't without its moments of high comedy. Of  all the 'other users' of the beach who'd passed by during the day not one of them was covered in mud, and there was a reason for that. Expectation = perception and perception is the local reality. Where we had gone looking for a landslide that lead to the beach they had looked for a flight of steps that led to the beach.
As we struggled, puffing and wheezing, up the steps, we passed the very point where Johna had insisted that we go by the road less traveled. As we stood catching our breath with Johna lamenting his poor choice Steve's voice drifted up from the lower slope
"Is this not where the bushwacker said to go, Johna?"

So my faith, having been sincerely tested, was renewed by the days events. I did catch and eat a fish. After all this time!

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Brought Me back In

Your pal
The Bushwacker.