Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Neanderthal and our survival!!

Over the years I have put forward several less than savoury theories, the fact that modern man is breeding in inheriant weakness by turning natures concept of survival of the fittest backwards or by suggesting that our ancestors where more intelligent, adaptable than those of races that never ventured out of Africa.

Well my suppositions where/are simply based on common sense and knowledge of the sort of skills required for people to survive that type of journey and in those types of climate - for example making fire on a frozen glacietate continent requires a huge leap in thinking from lighting fires on the sun baked savanna - but it seems science has finally backed me up.

Yep and in a most interesting way.

It seems the mystery of the Neanderthal disappearance and our own Western Ancestors ability to over come the problems of migration which saw others fall by the wayside (true survival of the fittest) is due to the fact the cromagnon man and the neanderthals joined forces - more correctly we absorbed them into our species - mating with them, not multiracial - multispecies.

Up until now the only real clue of this were the remains of one small child who showed similar characteristics to both species and of course the shared caves of Isreal.

But now Scientists have found, in DNA, a gene from the Neanderthal's and it is present in about a third of the human population THEY THINK..........what they are saying is that Neanderthals lacking the intelligence to make superior hunting tools like the ATLATL for example had to be more communicative and hunt in groups while Cromagnon man had the ability to be a solo hunter but was also more gifted in curiousity and inventiveness - the joining of both types of hunter ment groups of curious, inventive, communicative and cooperative hunters could cross the ice in persuit of game - working in teams and problem solving, finding new ways to make fire, finding new plants and game to eat ..............IMPROVISING ADAPTING AND OVERCOMING!

Nature doesnt do Political correctness ............

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Bushcraft is dead - long live camping!!

18 years ago when I first started down bushcrafts dusty trail I bought a book in a small book shop on Padstow Harbours front - the Author a chap called Raymond Mears captured my imagination with his almost unbridled love of the subject he was writing about - get out there build nature shelters, light fires and live like a native it cried from every page ..............

A few years later same guy was doing 3 minute clips on a programme called Tracks the same theme, armed with a blanket, a billy and a cutting tool he showed us how to go bush .........

And inspired we copied him, we went bush - for several years I only took a us army poncho liner, a mess tin and a knife and would go out and over night camp in all sorts of places all over the world for this is what bushcraft was all about - I was living like a native, when it was cold at night I built a bigger fire or changed the lay! When I was hungry I looked for food but didnt mind the empty stomach if I found nothing that day ....................

Then bushcraft became a hobby ..................................BECAME POPULAR .......................was twisted and changed beyond recognition...................didnt it??

Now most, if not all, self professed bushcrafters go camping in the woods! The desire to live the simple life, like a native, has been replaced with a commercial franzy that tells us we need the latest hammock and designer techno tarp - your not a shrafter without the must have (or one of the many copies of) a woodlore style knife! The average shrafter needs a 125 litre plus bergen to carry his kit which is OK as the car parked at a safe walking distance from the expedition style camp so he'll not even break sweat!! He needs food - and lots of it - he needs his kitchen set up and his folding chairs and his ..................the list is endless!!

Bushcraft has become camping ................camping without the showers and the camp shop for sure but camping none the less

You think I'm being over dramatic, maybe but think on this - there are now 50 or 60 schools in UK - some good, some bad - some teaching to the highest standards others appaulingly lacking but ALL teach the same skills, shelter building, fire lighting, carving, foragng ect ect - these subjects ARE what bushcraft school to my knowledge teaches "How to put up a tent" "how to fry a full english over a camp fire" "how to put the batteries in your shiny GPS"

The term Bushcraft suggests the use of crafts - crafts require the application of skills - today you dont need skills to go bushcrafting, pah why bother, when you can buy everything you need, if you lack the knowledge you just buy more kit to replace it ..............................

So if the subjects and skills taught are bushcraft why is it that so few people who pretend to be bushcrafting actually build and sleep in shelters? How many so called bushcrafters forage their meals (and no a trip to the local supermarket isnt foraging!)

Bushcraft has become camping, it is what I as a kid we called camping, its what families did when they went camping! What we called bushcraft skills when I first started out are now called Survival Skills ...............

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Follow baggy the bear!!

Havent seen this for awhile - it still makes me laugh so my continued thanks to Tref and his

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Survival - its not a dirty word

In the bushcraft world many people get quite ................... ermmmm excited at the mention of SURVIVAL SKILLS ..............WHY??
What do they fear? Kit separation anxiety syndrome (after all must bushcrafters cant survive without all their flash gucci kit can they? or is it just going outside their comfort zone (we all like being in the bush when the suns out - its warm - we have a campfire and a car full of food near by)
Survival skills are key to bushcraft skills for without the later we can not build bushcraft skills we can depend on any more than we can build a house without foundations!!
Survival skills are the common sense skills, the nitty gritty that leads us to bushcraft!
To qoute Lofty Wisemen "Life we survive til we die"
A recent google of "survival course" found 158,000 sites .................of those almost all are professed Bushcraft schools who also list survival in their itinery .............bushcraft and survival courses ........wilderness living and survival ............our own WEISS course (wilderness experience International Survival school) whats the hang up with wanting to do survival training?
Even Mr Mears' books and programmes "the survival HANDBOOK" "EXTREME SURVIVAL" even "the WORLD OF SURVIVAL" - Good enough for Ray good enough for me say!!
Maybe its a comfort zone thing - UK shrafters like to sit around the campfire!! Before you ponder this think on the fact that from my own experience Swedes, Danes and even Spainards.......... our shall we say europeans all seem more iinterested in learning survival skills over bushcraft!
But its just a word and I think the reason most schools list bushcraft and survival courses rather than just bushcraft or just survival (and you will note there courses themselves rarely are just bushcraft or just survival) is because the over lap is to great .................bushcraft and survival are the same thing - they are feathers on the same bird - so survival isnt a dirty word well not if you wish to be a well rounded outdoorsman with the skills to live and thrive in the wilderness!

Winter WEISS

It may seem a strange time of year, the heart of english summer time, to be thinking of winter and sub-arctic bushcraft or survival but for us at bearclaw bushcraft the March 2009 Winter WEISS course is our next biggest adventure.

This excellent course is without a doubt one of our best and certainly one of my favourites! Unlike the testing Temperate WEISS course the Winter course is built around the standard educational model we use for standard courses, ie Students are well feed, kept warm and taught .............. each lesson following the standard EDI instructional pattern.

For this course we provide all the food and equipment so I you need to bring is warm clothing and a smile!!

We have a couple of places left at the moment so to fill them and thus aid us in closing the books I'm offering a 10% discount to anyone who books now (this will likely cover travel costs - offer closes when last place is gone - or 5 November whichever comes first)

So dont miss out on a great, fun and fulfilling experience - book today - your deposit secures your place in a winter wonderland!!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Beekeepers WEISS TRIP - A BLOG

Stuart - aka the beekeeper, has written a excellent peice on his travels to sweden and the courses we had the pleasure of having him on.

Hope you dont mind me adding the link here buddy!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

KUKRI - the bushcrafters friend

KHUKURI \ KUKRI KNIFE: A mid-length curved knife comprising a distinctive “Cho” that is the national knife and icon of Nepal, basic and traditional utility knife of Nepalese, a formidable and effective weapon of the Gurkhas and an exquisite piece of local craftsmanship that symbolizes pride and valor which also represents the country and it’s culture. Believed to have existed 2500 years ago; “Kopi” is the probable source of the Khukuri that was used by Greek in the 4 th BC. However, khukuri came into limelight only in and particularly after the Nepal War in 1814-15 after the formation of British Gurkha Army. Basically carried in a leather case, mostly having walnut wooden grip and traditionally having two small knives, it is one of the most famous and feared knives of the world.

Kukri Blade
Belly (Bhundi): Widest part/area of the blade.
Bevel (Patti): Slope from the main body until the sharp edge.
Bolster (Kanjo): Thick metal/brass round shaped plate between blade and handle made to support and reinforce the fixture.
Butt Cap (Chapri): Thick metal/brass plate used to secure the handle to the tang.
Cho/Notch (Kaudi): A distintive cut (numeric 3 like shape) in the edge functioned as a blood dropper and others.
Edge (Dhaar): Sharp edge of the blade.
Fuller (Chirra): Curvature/Hump in the blade made to absorb impact and to reduce unnecessary weight.
Fuller/Groove (Khol): Straight groove or deep line that runs along part of the upper spine.
Keeper (Hira Jornu): Spade/Diamond shaped metal/brass plate used to seal the butt cap.
Main body (Ang): Main surface or panel of the blade.
Peak (Juro): Highest point of the blade.
Ricasso (Ghari): Blunt area between notch and bolster.
Rings (Harhari): Round circles in the handle.
Rivet (Khil): Steel or metal bolt to fasten or secure tang to the handle.
Spine (Beet): Thickest blunt edge of the blade.
Tang (Paro): Rear piece of the blade that goes through the handle
Tang Tail (Puchchar): Last point of the khukuri blade.
Tip (Toppa): Starting point of the blade.

Kukri Scabbard
Chape (Khothi): Pointed mettalic tip of the scabbard. Used to protect the naked tip of a scabbard.
Frog (Faras): Belt holder especially made of thick leather (2mm to 4mm) encircling the scabbard close towards the throat.
Lace (Tuna): A leather cord used to sew or attach two ends of the frog. Especially used in army types (not available in this pic).
Loop (Golie): Round leather room/space where a belt goes through attached/fixed to the keeper with steel rivets.
Lower Edge (Tallo Bhag): Belly/curvature of the scabbard.
Main Body (Sharir): The main body or surface of the scabbard. Generally made in semi oval shape.
Strap/Ridge (Bhunti): Thick raw leather encirlcing the scabbard made to create a hump to secure the frog from moving or wobbling (not available in this pic).
Throat (Mauri): Entrance towards the interior of the scabbard for the blade.
Upper Edge (Mathillo Bhaag): Spine of the scabbard where holding should be done when handling a Khukuri

Cutting tool Used for domestic purposes, for kitchen use, for gardening, backyard clearance, household work, in and around living area; a basic cutting tool.

Outdoor For jungle use as a machete, during safaris, trekking, camping out in the woods, hunting, fishing, cutting and clearing bushes, branches /small trees, forestry activities, also used as hammer, digger etc, basically a survival tool.

Military For parade (Kukri drill), on duty or guard, training, exercises, warfare, combat, close counter fighting, army ritual ceremony, presentation (when an officer retires, he is given a special “Kothimora” sliver Kukri to mark his loyal service and duty), regimental insignia and distinction.

Religious and Cultural For beheading domestic animals during festivals (mainly Dashain), to perform ritual ceremonies (which requires slaughtering for example; vehicles opening), during marriage ceremonies (bridegroom with his traditional marriage dress), royal ceremonies (in the absence of the king, his kukri will represent him), special ritual occasions (particularly which requires blood and blessings), Poojas. Also in castes like Rai, Magar Gurung’s tradition, a kukri is buried along with the dead with a belief that by doing so it would destroy all his demons and sins. In remote villages there is a practice of presenting kukri to a grown lad to mark his manhood and maturity.

Presentation, Display and Collection As gifts (to honor or thank someone in a special way), for decoration (to decor or adorn ones place, a special way to enhance the beauty and ambient), Collector’s pride and preference, unique souvenir and memento, prizes and cup, owner’s prize possession, business promotion and awards.

Myths and Beliefs The famous legendary story goes- every time a Gurkha draws his weapon out, if he was unable to find his enemy’s blood then he had to put his own, other story also goes- long time ago it was believed that Kukri was also used as boomerang; means; it was thrown towards the enemy, beheaded him and swung back to the user’s hand; kept under pillow to prevent bad dreams and nightmares, in villages and rural areas carrying kukri symbolizes manhood for boys, to keep away satins, ghosts and black magic, to safe guard and protect a family spiritually and religiously. As well, a very popular saying in Nepalese as “Kukri Bhanda Karda Lagne”, sarcastic meaning “To be over smart than his/hers elders”

Pride and Honor National icon, national weapon, national souvernity, symbols/monograms for many Nepalese Government departments and branches (army, police, security, forestry, scouts etc), representing Nepal internationally and worldwide, naming local products after “Kukri” (Khukuri Rum, Khukuri Choorot/cigarette etc), unique national memento and souvenir, honest and powerful recognition, trademark for security forces at war and peace, a precious gift used at the highest official level

Ornaments and wealth Precious and valuable ornaments (to adorn oneself with special curio type replica kukris), to show one’s status and size (gold and silver Kukris at home, office etc), history shows kings, ministers, generals etc displaying big expensive kukris to demonstrate power, money and pride.

But above all this a Kukri is a excellent full sized camp knife Ideal for all the tasks we'd ask of an Hatchet or small forest axe. And with the two smaller knives a far more complete outfit. THe smallers knives (usually 3" in length) are the Karda which is a utility blade ideal for whittling, food or game prep and all tasks the bigger blade is deemed to cumbersome for. The OTHER tool is a chakmak this is a sharpening device not really a stone more like a file ................but it is also the tool used with flint for fire light as in your standard flint and steel.

And as a parting thought - if you have to have a Kukri wielding buddy - fingers cross you have one like this ...............

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Candle iin the wind

Illuminating the darkness, warding off that which scares us in the primordial night has always been one of mans concerns............nothing is as comforting on a night alone in the woods as a fire, a torch ya great 0 but a fire now thats a friend.

But what about modern man in our plastic world...........susperstitions bah......... the dark holds no fear for me .............. ya right, Ive camped many a lonely week both near and far and even I get spooked by the boogey man once in a while.

The Native americans called the boogeyman the Wind-a-go spirit, a creature which whispers in your ear, twisting your thoughts - scaring you or sapping your morale - the Indians say the only way to dispell a wind-a-go is to do something positive action on a cold lonely night, in a place where a fire isnt a option I've often found a candle does the job nicely !

Ok, ok SPOOKs aside lets consider the humble candle!

I always carry a pair of tallow candles in my bergen, its a old habit learn from years of experience. Tallow is a edible veg oil so in theory a food source but better than this (you'd have to be bloody hungry to eat a candle) this type of candle has a long life - both on the shelf and in its burn time (typically 10 hours) thats a lot of illumination for a tent or shelter and its a lot of battery power saved!

More importantly a candle is a source of heat - we often burn candles in our teepees on courses to drive out the damp air - they warm the tent by a few degrees (in a snow hole this is critical) but more importantly they warm the tent to the eye casting a comforting welcoming golden glow!

Any candle will do of course - IKEA tea candle 100 for a £1 are almost as good - but I still prefer the long life candles and will often burn the tea candles saving the long life ones for real emergencies .............have you every wished you had a candle in that dark bothy or shelter?

No, next time you venture out into the woods try it - take a candle and see how you get on, not just for light but for the thousand of other uses they can be put to from lubing a bow drill bearing block to waterproofing matches .............