Cyclist Sets New Round-The-World Record

A British cyclist named Mike Hall, riding in a round-the-world race, has set a new record for circling the globe on a bike. Hall completed his 18,000-mile journey last week, arriving back in London just 91 days and 18 hour after he set out. That breaks the previous record, set by Alan Bate in 2010, by more than two weeks.

When Hall left London three months back he was racing against eight other riders in the first ever World Cycling Racing Grand Tour. Each of the riders set out to circumnavigate the planet on a route of their choosing, although they were required to cover at least 18,000 miles along the way. Traveling west to east, Hall first crossed Europe into Turkey, where he then hopped a flight to India and continued his ride all the way to the border of Bangladesh. From there it was off to Australia, where he rode across that continent before cycling the length of New Zealand. After that, it was on to Vancouver and a crossing of North America that ended in Maine. The final stage of the ride was from Portugal back to the U.K., arriving at the finish line on June 4.

Halls approach to the race was to travel as light and fast as possible, and to that end he carried only the bare minimum of gear. While most of his competitors set out with 60 pounds of equipment strapped to their bikes, Hall took a little more than half that. This helped him to cover an average of nearly 200 miles per day for the entire three months that he was on the road. Meanwhile, the three other men who still remain in the race are continuing to make their way toward the finish line. One is currently in India, another is in Turkey, while the third is in New Mexico.

As if setting a new world’s record wasn’t enough, June 4 also happens to be Mike’s birthday. He was lucky enough to not only arrive home on that day but also celebrate his record setting win with friends and family.

[Photo credit: Rory Hitchens of Upgrade Bikes]

Panamanian surfer rides wave for 41 miles!

The Panama Canal is truly a modern wonder of engineering and construction. Stretching 48 miles in length, it offers a narrow corridor of water between North and South America through which ships can pass to and from the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. This past weekend, champion surfer Gary Saavedra grabbed his board and hit those waters, hoping to set several new records in the process.

On Saturday, Saavedra made history by becoming the first person to ever surf in the Canal, but that was just the prelude to what he really had in mind. The 13-time national champion of Panama hopped on his board and began riding a wave generated by a lead boat, and then proceeded to surf for 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 2 seconds straight, covering 41.3 miles in the process. Both of those marks are new records for time and distance in open water.

The ride was no simple walk in the park however, as Saavedra had to deal with windy conditions, plenty of choppy water, and the wake generated by a number of passing cargo freighters sailing between the oceans. The long ride took its toll physically as well, as he rode the final hour with a cramp in his leg which is ultimately what brought an end to his day on the water.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday huh? What did you do this past weekend?

[Photo Credit: Associated Press]

Solar plane lands after two-week flight

A week ago we reported on the Zephyr solar airplane flying nonstop for a week. Yesterday it landed safely after flying nonstop for two weeks, achieving the goal its designers set for it.

The unmanned drone runs on efficient solar cells along its wingspan that charge batteries to keep it running through the night. Sunny skies over Arizona helped boost its power. Engineers hope that it will be the first “eternal plane”, never having to land. Qinetiq, the UK defense firm that designed it and flew it over a US military base, said there was no need for it to land yesterday but that it had proven its worth and is now ready for production.

The US military is interested in using it for military purposes, but Qinetiq is also pointing up the plane’s scientific and commercial possibilities.

The previous endurance record for an unmanned drone was 30 hours, 24 minutes. A manned solar plane, the Solar Impulse, recently flew through the night on a 24-hour flight.

Photo courtesy Qinetiq.

Solar plane flies nonstop for a week

We recently reported on the historic flight of the Solar Impulse, the first solar-powered plane to fly through the night. Now another barrier has been broken. The Zephyr solar plane has flown nonstop for seven days.

Unlike the Solar Impulse, which carried a pilot, the Zephyr is an unmanned drone built by the UK defense firm Qinetiq. Drones have seen extensive service in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years but are hampered by the need to return for refueling and thus losing sight of targets. Drones that never need to land have an obvious advantage. The civilian potential is obvious too, with researchers already thinking up applications for using them for scientific observation.

This development also marks another step forward for potential solar-powered commercial flight. The Zephyr has solar cells along its 22.5 meter (74 ft) wingspan that drive the propellers and fill batteries that are robust enough to power the plane from sunset to sunrise. Will we one day see solar-powered commercial flights? It may be a long way off, but considering the rapid pace of technological change, it’s unwise to say that anything is impossible.

The Zephyr is still in the air near the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and its support team plans to leave it flying for another week.

The naughty postcard museum

The British have always been famous for their humor, both dry wit and the naughtier brand. One man who combined the two is being celebrated in a new museum that opened in Ryde in the Isle if Wight yesterday.

Donald McGill, Britain’s “king of vulgarity”, illustrated thousands of postcards over an almost sixty-year career. He was best known for simple double-entedres like the one pictured to the right. He also has the distinction of making it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most sales of an individual postcard–one featuring a bookish man and an attractive young woman sitting under a tree. The guy peers over a volume and asks the girl, “Do you like Kipling?” to which she replies, “I don’t know, you naughty boy, I’ve never kippled!” That sold more than six million copies.

One of his most popular, and most controversial, shows two men admiring an attractive woman as one says to the other, “She’s a nice girl. Doesn’t drink or smoke, and only swears when it slips out!”

In the age of Internet pornography these barely qualify for a PG rating, but in Britain before the Sixties they shocked stogy traditional sensibilities. In 1953 many local jurisdictions raided the shops selling his postcards and burned any they found. The next year at the age of 79, McGill had to face what the museum’s curator called a “show trial” for obscenity. He got off with a fine, but the ruling almost killed the saucy postcard industry.

The Donald McGill Museum website is still under construction but shows some more examples of McGill’s work.

Photo courtesy Donald McGill via Wikimedia Commons.