The Year in Wild Outdoor Stories

As 2012 comes to a close, we’d like to look back on the wildest outdoor-related news stories of the year. From tiny frogs to Felix Baumgartner, here were some of our favorite headlines of the year.

Crazy Critters
Apparently, 2012 was the year of biological anomalies. According to National Geographic, the year’s discoveries included the world’s smallest frog (7.7 millimeters wide) in Papua New Guinea, a white orca believed to be the only one of its kind off the coast of Russia and a 3-inch Californian centipede that scientists have labeled the ‘leggiest’ animal on Earth. Other oddities included a rare maned lioness spotted in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and a fish with genatalia attached to its head that was discovered in the Mekong River. But arguably the creepiest finding was recorded last October on Florida’s Pompano Beach — a solitary eyeball the size of a grapefruit. While the Internet buzzed with rumors of a sea monster roaming the mid-Atlantic, a report issued by the Fish and Wildlife Commission revealed the eyeball’s probable owner: a swordfish.

Fact: Sasquatch Loves Apples
Sasquatch encounters are hardly news-worthy, but Frank Siecienski of Hubbardton, Vt., wowed the public last month when he released photographic ‘proof’ of a bigfoot roaming the woods near his home. The amateur gumshoe set out one evening to find out who (or what) was devouring all the apples from trees on his property. The photographic evidence revealed a large, hairy creature, crouching in such a way that its face was not visible (hmmmm…). Don’t believe Siecienski’s story? Judge for yourself:

Rolling Rocks
69-year-old Ja’Nielle Gendelman of Poway, Calif., earns this year’s ‘Cosmically Lucky’ award. For if she had been anywhere near her garage (and not watching television in her living room), Ms. Gendelman might have been seriously hurt (or worse) by the 12-ton boulder that rolled down a nearby hillside, traveled hundreds of feet and eventually crashed into her garage. She heard the loud crash and opened the door that led to her patio, only to find that her patio (and much of her fenceline) was no longer there. Bob Jaczko and Peter Wilson are the runners-up for the award; they were driving through Sedona, Ari., when a 150-pound boulder fragment sailed through the window of their rental car. Both men were treated for minor cuts.

When Waterfowl Attack
Ingrid Cardozo of Sarasota, Fla., was minding her business and watching ibises when the 78-year-old woman was attacked by a deranged wild animal — not a gator, but a large muscovy duck. The bird raked both of Cardozo’s legs and drew a substantial amount of blood. “I wasn’t bothering him,” she told Tampa Bay Times. ”I wasn’t feeding him, I wasn’t doing anything to him.” She was treated by paramedics, and said the attack left her unable to walk for two days. The muscovy could not be reached for comment.

Sky Fall
In October, a certifiably insane Austrian gentleman named Felix Baumgartner broke a Guinness World Record when he recorded a 24-mile freefall from space. During his plunge, which lasted 4 minutes and 20 seconds, Herr Baumgartner reached a top speed of 833 miles per hour and broke the speed of sound (‘destroyed’ might be a more accurate term). But he didn’t lose consciousness at any point during the freefall, and even managed to land on his feet in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Prior to the stunt, many experts warned of the high likelihood that Baumgartner would perish, so the mere fact that he landed in one piece was considered an achievement in itself. In addition to the world record, Baumgartner’s jump had a practical purpose: research for scientists to design better, more durable spacesuits for astronauts.

Snoopy Sloop‘s Incredible Journey
Last month, a sailing vessel christened Snoopy Sloop began a trans-Atlantic voyage that owner Robin Lovelock believes will earn him a place in the record books. The reason: Snoopy Sloop is a robotically powered toy boat that only measures four feet in length. If the watercraft completes its 6,000-mile trek, then it will become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic. Lovelock, a former scientist for NATO, spent four years designing the vessel and logged more than 5,000 miles before setting it adrift in the English Channel. If everything goes according to plan, Snoopy Sloop will complete its journey by way of the Azores and the Bahamas before (fittingly) landing at Plymouth Rock.

Two Close Calls
Erin Longworthy must have a guardian angel. How else can we explain the Australian woman’s survival after her bungee cord snapped during what should have been a routine jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe? Following a 364-foot plunge into the Zambezi River, Longworthy’s troubles only began as she swam to safety through the crocodile- and hippo-infested water. Not only did she cheat death, but Longworthy only suffered cuts and bruises. Check out the terrifying video below:

In October, Norwegian Richard Henrikson experienced a very close call of his own in the mountains of Norway. The gymnast basejumper (yup, you read that correctly) was practicing maneuvers on a high bar that sat precariously close to a cliffside when the contraption broke and Henrikson was thrown into the air. Though he plunged nearly 4,000 feet, he was able to avoid hitting the rocks and safely deployed his parachute. And — you guessed it — there’s video footage of this incident, as well:

Stupid Teenagers…
In August, employees and guests of the Harrah’s casino and resort in Reno were surprised (to say the least) when a young, 100-pound mountain lion cub arrived on the premises and hung out for awhile (despite the establishment’s strict age restriction policy). When the cub was unable to enter through the revolving door, he crawled under an outdoor stage and presumably worked out a plan B. Chris Healy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife explained that the animal’s behavior was akin to that of a “stupid teenager”; when mountain lion cubs reach a certain age, their parents chase them away from the lair, leaving them to fend for themselves. However, most wait at least a few years before resorting to a life of gambling.

The Elusive Goat Man
We’ll leave you with a bizarre story that began as a real head-scratcher. In June, wildlife biologists were tracking a herd of goats in the Utah mountains when they spotted a strange site: a grown man, dressed head-to-toe in an elaborate goat costume, climbing the rocks alongside the other, real members of the herd. When their footage surfaced on the web, the perpetrator — a hunter from California — contacted the scientists and revealed the explanation: he was merely testing his new goat suit (which was comprised of a hooded painter’s uniform attached to a fleece) in anticipation of the upcoming hunting season.

Did you experience any bizarre encounters or attempt to record an outlandish outdoor stunt this year? Tell us about it… or better yet, send us the footage!

By Brad Nehring