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18 August 2017

Tickets for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics Available from Monday

Preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of PyeongChang are well underway, with tickets for the traditional games having gone on sale back in February. Next week however is not short of notable occasions concerning the games, as Monday marks the first day of sale for Winter Paralympic tickets.

Organisers have stated that tickets will go on sale at 2pm on Monday 21st August, with the date being chosen to mark the commencement of the 200-day countdown to the opening ceremony.

280,000 tickets will be available for purchase for events including para alpine skiing, para biathlon, para cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, para snowboard and wheelchair curling. The Olympic Committee are hoping to sell 70% of tickets to the home crowd, i.e South Korean residents. The remaining 30% will be sold overseas.

Any one individual can purchase up to 50 tickets regardless of the chosen event(s).

According to the S. Korean news agency Yonhap News, tickets for the opening ceremony will cost as much as 140,000 Korean Republic Won (KRW), which roughly equates to $123.20 (or £95.63, assuming our currency gets no worse between the writing and publication of this article). Tickets for the closing ceremony will range from 10,000KRW to 70,000KRW.

As for the actual sporting events, tickets to para biathlon, para cross-country skiing and para snowboard events will cost 16,000KRW each. Prices for the preliminaries, semi-finals and finals in para ice hockey and wheelchair curling will range from 10,000KRW to 50,000KRW.

A discount of 50% is available for people of national merit and patriots, people with disabilities, seniors over 65 years of age, and local residents of host cities. Meanwhile discounts of 30% will be given to government agencies, regional governments and non-profit organisations. These discounts do not however apply to the opening and closing ceremonies.

To purchase your tickets, head over to the official site on Monday from 2pm. The games are scheduled to take place from the 9th to the 18th of March 2018.

Paralympic tickets will also be available at the main ticket centres of Seoul City Hall, the Gangwon provincial government headquarters, Gangneung City Hall, the Incheon and Gimpo international airports, and 19 KTX stations from November 6th.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.

Plans to Link Famed Swiss-Italian Ski Areas Unveiled

News has emerged from the pistes of Southern Switzerland and Northern Italy which will fill you with either excitement or trepidation, depending on your outlook, concern, and priorities. I refer to the recently announced plans to link the Cervinia-Zermatt ski area, located in the vicinity of the Matterhorn on the Swiss/Italian border, with Italy’s ‘Three Valleys’ of Monterosa some 8km to the south-east.

Looked at purely from the perspective of a winter sports enthusiast, the announcement is momentous as the two areas combined would contain around 530km of piste, making it the second largest ski area in the world according to official figures. Each of the aforementioned areas is famed and beloved by skiers in their own right, so if combined the result would be truly awe-inspiring.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that two modern 3S Gondolas would be used to make the 8km connection, each capable of carrying 35 people per cabin. The project is estimated to cost around €65 million, with backers asserting that this would be covered by various ski lift companies and would not require additional public investment.

However environmental concerns have led to some opposition to the project, largely due to the planned route between the two locations. The proposed route passes through an area of pristine alpine valley and could cause significant disruption due to the necessary installation of four to five support towers. This would not only spoil the scenic appeal of the region, but could also cause harm the local flora and fauna as initial installation works are carried out and regular maintenance occurs in the future. One nature photographer quoted in the La Stampa newspaper described these plans as “insanity”, and his assertion is not without merit.

An alternative route plan, which incorporated direct links between Plateau Rosa, Valtournenche, and the Ayas region, was scrapped due to an estimated price tag of €250 million. This does seem to suggest, at least to some degree, that the planners prioritise finances over environmental concerns; if an eco-friendly route was not viable, perhaps the plans should be scrapped altogether…

Before any plans can be put into motion, locals will first get their chance to raise any concerns and objections at a referendum to be held in the Monterosa resort of Gressoney-Saint-Jean.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.

17 August 2017

Spider Silk Could Be the Future of Clothing

We’re beginning to realise that clothes can be made out of some of the most unexpected things.

Here on Keep Me Warm we’ve discussed milk-based clothing and how wood chips can become clothing fibres, but now a team of researchers from the UK and Italy have found an even more extraordinary material that could have wearable application in the future – spider silk.

Yes, those freaky eight legged fiends could actually have a use outside of inciting fear in half of the population.

The research, led by Italian Professor Nicola Pugno, investigated the properties of spider silk because of the strength and toughness it displays as an organic material. This silk is light enough to float in the air, yet is also able to hold the weight of a spider and its prey without being damaged, posing many questions about its viability as a clothing material. After all, light and durable are two ideal qualities for certain items of clothing.

“We already know that there are biominerals present in the protein matrices and hard tissues of insects, which gives them high strength and hardness in their jaws, mandibles and teeth, for example,” explained Pugno. “So our study looked at whether spider silk’s properties could be ‘enhanced’ by artificially incorporating various different nanomaterials into the silk’s biological protein structures.”

It was found that through the addition of graphene, the strength of the silk was boosted by around three times and the toughness by ten. The researchers tested this by introducing three different species of spider to water infused with graphene and then analysing the results.

“To combine the nanomaterials and the silk, we sprayed a corner of the box where the spiders lived with the nanosolution. The spiders then drank the solution, and the nanomaterials and the silk combined as the spiders span their webs.”

The strongest batch by these species produced silk with a fracture strength of 5.4 gigapascals (GPa) and a toughness modulus of 1,570 joules per gram (J/g), up from the average of 1.5 GPa and 150 J/g respectively.

With the added presence of graphene proving to have an incredible impact on this silk, the potential application of it in the future is far-reaching. As well as being ideal for making clothes, it could also be used as a material for parachutes, sails and many other things. With a lot more research and testing, this could be just the first of many successful combinations between artificial materials and natural substances.

“This is the highest fibre toughness discovered to date, and a strength comparable to that of the strongest carbon fibres or limpet teeth. These are still early days, but our results are a proof of concept that paves the way to exploiting the naturally efficient spider spinning process to produce reinforced bionic silk fibres, thus improving one of the most promising strong materials.”

Whether spider silk clothing is something in our near future is obviously difficult to know right now, although it will probably be several years until we start to see some real world application of this new discovery. For now, we’ll just have to try and learn to love spiders so that the thought of wearing their webs doesn’t freak us out too much.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.

Inuit Reports Offer New Insight into the Fate of the Franklin Expedition

May 19th 1945 is an infamous day in history. On the morning in question, Sir John Franklin’s long-lost expedition departed England aboard two ships, namely HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. At the age of 59, this was Franklin’s fourth and final expedition; the aim was to successfully traverse the final yet-to-be-navigated section of the Northwest Passage, a famously iceberg-dense sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

By September of that year the expedition had come to a sudden halt as the two ships became trapped in the ice just off King William Island. Not a single member of the crew, comprised of 129 individuals, survived.

Countless scientific studies, search missions and even TV documentaries have over the years attempted to piece together the puzzle of the crew’s ultimate fate, with hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning, scurvy, and many other equally-nasty diseases being attributed as the eventual cause of their demise. Some evidence even suggests that at least some members of the crew engaged in cannibalistic practices.

We know that by April of 1848, the few remaining crew members had abandoned the remains of their ships and attempted to walk towards the Canadian mainland. Although they never made it, new reports from the Inuit communities who encountered the group are now shining new light on what befell them.

This information comes from a study led by Russell Taichman, a dentistry professor at the University of Michigan, and published to the journal Arctic. The research involved the careful study of records left behind by the Inuits of the time, in which they detailed the malnourished and diseased visage of the crew. Horrifically thin and with many sporting mouths and lips which had turned hard, dry, and black, they were a far cry from the men who left the shores of England a few years earlier.

While not denying that conditions such as scurvy and lead poisoning may have had a highly-negative impact upon the health of the collective crew and contributed at least in some way to their eventual demise, Taichman insists that the research team’s findings point towards a diagnosis of Addison’s disease, and that this was likely what sealed their fate.

A fairly rare condition, Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands and can cause them to cease functioning entirely. Sufferers have significant trouble with regulating sodium levels and fluid balance, which causes dehydration and a drastic loss of body weight even when adequate food sources are available. To others these individuals will appear unhealthily thin, with darkened skin, lips, and gums; exactly the description given by the Inuit.

“In the old days, the most common reason for Addison’s in this country was TB [tuberculosis],” Taichman said in a statement. “In this country now, it’s immune suppression that leads to Addison’s.

“Scurvy and lead exposure may have contributed to the pathogenesis of Addison’s disease, but the hypothesis is not wholly dependent on these conditions. The tuberculosis-Addison’s hypothesis results in a deeper understanding of one of the greatest mysteries of Arctic exploration.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.

16 August 2017

Athletes Breaking World Records As They Row Across The Arctic

A group of rowers have already broken seven world records on the first leg of their 2000km journey across the Arctic Ocean.

The voyage, dubbed the ‘Polar Row’ by Icelandic skipper Fiann Paul, sees a nine-strong crew of some of the world’s fastest rowers travelling ‘south to north’ across the Arctic to try and help raise money for the construction of a school in the Himalayas. The team includes Paul, Carlo Facchino of the USA, Tor Wigmun from Norway, India’s Roy Tathagata, and Welsh rower Jeff Willis, all of whom were involved in the first leg of the journey. The UK’s Danny Longman and Alex Gregory MBE have joined the crew for the second leg alongside Tyler Carnevale from the USA, with Willis having had to back out due to an injury.

It started back in July when the crew departed from Tromsø, Norway, and a few weeks ago they docked at Longyearbyen in Svalbard. By managing a pace of 2.58 knots over the 512 miles, the crew were able to set a new fastest average rowing pace for the Arctic Ocean, far surpassing the original pace of 0.78 knots. Now the men are back on the water again in the process of completing the second leg from Svalbard to Siglufjörður in Iceland.

As well as setting a new fastest pace, the Polar Row team have also set records by reaching the furthest point north – 78° - in a rowboat and having the largest crew to row across the Arctic. Fiann Paul declared these achievements as “unexpected”, but attributed a lot of their success to having more advanced technology than those who attempted such journeys in the past.

“We are spoiled kids compared to him,” Paul said, referring to Russian rower Eugene Smurgis who previously held the record for reaching the northernmost latitude in a rowboat. The luxury of navigation systems, medicine and nutritional foods that the Polar Crew has access to is not something that rowers like Smurgis would have had in their day. However, that isn’t to say that the journey has been smooth sailing.

“We experienced some serious technological setbacks and challenges along the way which took up valuable time and effort to resolve and work around,” Paul added, noting how they had to deal with problems like the boat’s power backup system failing and the fear of losing GPS navigation. With the journey presenting enough in the way of physical and mental challenges as the temperatures continue to hover around freezing, these technological issues definitely haven’t been a welcome addition, but the crew pulled through to make it to Svalbard earlier than expected.

 “The hard work and spirit of the team was outstanding and we pulled together to eventually overcome every hurdle we faced on our epic voyage.”

In just a few weeks’ time the crew should be firmly back on land with what they hope to be eleven world records in the bag. The rest will be much needed after twelve hour days of rowing in 90-minute shifts that offered very few opportunities for proper sleep.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.

Australia Receives Para Ice Hockey Grant in Preparation for PyeongChang 2018

Australia as a nation isn’t exactly known for winter sports, for rather obvious reasons. Associated more with extreme levels of heat than fields of snow and ice, aspiring winter sports enthusiasts are somewhat lacking in suitable training locations, and likely due to this fact even securing the proper gear can be a challenge. This is particularly true for Paralympic athletes and hopefuls, as these activities tend to require some rather specialist equipment.

Fortunately for the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC), the organisation recently received a grant to the value of €12,500 as part of the PyeongChang 2018 and Agitos Foundation Equipment Grant Programme in collaboration with World Para Ice Hockey. The funds are to be used exclusively in the acquisition of Para ice hockey equipment.

Said equipment includes 21 Para ice hockey sledges and sticks as well as telescoping noses and picks, and is currently in the process of being distributed by the APC.

Tim Matthews, Performance Talent and Para sport Manager at the APC and the individual responsible for applying to World Para Ice Hockey in an effort to secure the grant, commented on the good news:

“The hope is that this equipment will be a catalyst for the development of a Para ice hockey program in Australia.

“The Australian Paralympic Committee is very grateful to receive this support and we’re now really excited to help grow Para ice hockey here and highlight why it is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Paralympic Games.

“I think, particularly when specialised equipment is required and not readily available in Australia without support, the reality is that the sport couldn’t launch here in a sustainable way without this programme.

“As one of four countries to be chosen to receive the EUR 12,500 grant [approximately AUD 18,000], the Australian Paralympic Committee will work with Ice Hockey Australia to develop deep pool of players from which regular training and other programs can evolve.”

Andrew McDowell, Vice President of Ice Hockey Australia, also commented with the following:

“Ice Hockey Australia has over 5,000 registered members, and with our experience and enthusiasm in running ice hockey, we believe we can really help Para ice hockey to get going, and to become a serious winter sport in Australia.

“We love the game, and want to assist and contribute to its success.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.

15 August 2017

Homeward Bound Initiative Looks Set to Break Own Record as 80 Women Head to Antarctica

Back in December of 2016 we reported on the Homeward Bound Initiative, an Australian programme created with the intention of “heighten[ing] the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet”, as stated on their official website.

The women of the Homeward Bound expedition in 2016   - Img: Homeward Bound/Songqiao Yao
Launching in 2016, the initiative’s first year-long programme brought together 76 women from a potential pool of 1,000 targeted individuals and culminated in the largest ever all-women Antarctic expedition; now, the organisation look set to break their own record.

The year-long leadership programme for 2017 is already firmly underway, and brings together 80 women from 14 countries; namely the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy, Norway, Venezuela, Colombia, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and China. In February of next year this extraordinary group of women will embark upon a three-week-long expedition to the icy waters of Antarctica, beating the 2016 record by just 4 participants.

One such participant is Maddie Brasier, a PhD student at the University of Liverpool and Natural History Museum in London who has collaborated with the British Antarctic Survey on expeditions and research projects in the past. Speaking to Cambridge News, she offered a little more insight into what the trip will involve.

Ms Brasier told the publication, “We are sailing from Argentina and will be heading down to the western region of Antarctica. There will be a conference on board the ship to find out what the other scientists are doing around the world.

“We will also have several landings on sites of scientific importance in Antarctica. Most of the women on the ship won't have been to Antarctica before.

“For me the challenge is going to be learning more about myself and meeting all those amazing women without being intimidated.”

As the expedition is self-funded, with the majority of participants being expected to pay for their own travel and accommodation aboard the boat (10 of the 80 women will be funded by scholarship grants), Ms Brasier has combined forces with fellow participants Cathy Sorbara and Hannah Laeverenz Schlogelhofer to host a fundraising event which they have called “An Evening of Empowering Women”. Taking place at Gonville & Caius College on Friday 13th October, the event will feature talks from inspiring women about their journeys, an open discussion on the challenges facing women leaders, a keynote address about Homeward Bound‘s vision, a silent auction, and a tribute to the first voyagers to Antarctica.

More information on the event can be found on the official website.

For those in a relevant field who may be interested in getting involved in next year’s programme, Homeward Bound will be opening up applications from Friday 18th August through to Friday 15th September. Again the programme will consist of a year-long leadership programme and end with an expedition to Antarctica in early 2019. It will be interesting to see if they continue to break records year-on-year.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.