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Surfing on a shark

OREGON   

In the derring-do department, Doug Niblack certainly stands out: The surfer found himself standing on the back of a great white shark and lived to tell the tale. Niblack, who was surfing off the Oregon coast near Seaside, north of Portland, was paddling some 50 yards from shore when his board hit something that felt like a rock. Next thing he knew, he was knee-deep in churning water on the back of a 10-to-12-foot-long shark. In case you're wondering what that feels like, he says that it felt rubbery, like a Neoprene wetsuit. "There was a moment there when everything was going on, I just kind of made my peace. I honestly thought I was going to die." Perhaps equally unhappy about having a rider, the shark slid out from underneath Niblack, leaving him to paddle back to shore in shock: "I was praying the whole time. Like, 'Don't let it be following me.' " Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee in Canoga Park, Calif., says Niblack is actually the second person he's heard of who ended up on top of a shark; a kayaker off Catalina Island, Calif., in 2008 also experienced that phenomenon and survived, reports The Associated Press.

 

THE WEST

The Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon suffers from an unemployment rate as high as 17 percent. It also suffers from, or (depending on your point of view) is blessed by, the high possibility that it contains huge amounts of uranium. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will decide soon whether to allow these canyon lands along the Arizona-Utah border to be explored and mined for uranium; meanwhile, local officials have put together a coalition to try to discourage Salazar from one possible decision that would protect the area from mining for 20 years. At a recent eight-hour coalition get-together in St. George, Utah, most speakers talked about the decline of their small rural communities because they lacked an industrial base. But Brian Bremnar, public-lands administrator for Garfield County, Utah, also worried about the effect unemployment has on the development of the manlier qualities, reports Today's News Herald: "When the man is pulled out of the home and a boy is raised with a mother and three sisters, do you think he will be able to throw a football better or do hair better? Is he going to be able to cook better than he can change a tire?"

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HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor