“Saving South Sudan” is a very special and timely project that uses the entire contents of VICE’s 50,000-word print magazine, an online event at VICE.com, and a three-part documentary series. Taking a multi-platform approach, VICE tells the story of how the world’s newest sovereign country descended into its third civil war in a century.
While the magazine has published innumerable issues devoted to single topics and themes—from art to humor to war crimes in Syria—this is the first time all of its 130 pages have been filled by just two contributors: author and filmmaker Robert Young Pelton and photographer and filmmaker Tim Freccia.
The idea originated with Pelton, who in early January pitched VICE a long-form story about traveling to South Sudan with Machot Lat Thiep, 32, a former Lost Boy and current manager of a Seattle Costco. Machot had returned to his homeland a year earlier to help put together a new constitution. It had been a jubilant and triumphant trip for the former child solider.
Pelton’s ultimate goal was to find South Sudan’s former vice president, Riek Machar. Machar had been fired from the government led by President Salva Kiir, and on December 15, 2013, the Nuer leader had found himself the target of an assassination. An onslaught resulted in the destruction of his home and the massacre of his advisers. Since then, Machar has been hiding out at a secret bush camp as thousands of Kiir’s men have tried to hunt him down.
This time around, Machot viewed returning to his homeland as an attempt to help pull South Sudan out of yet another dive into a seemingly never-ending cycle of war and starvation. For Pelton and Freccia, it was a chance to get on the ground and document the conflict, which has turned the three-year-old country into the world’s latest failed state.
Machot would serve as an avatar for the readers and a touchstone for the emotional impact of war. He would deliver an insider’s point of view to ensure that the history of the region was appropriately taken into context.
The journey was not easy. The team almost had to give up and return home after weeks of being stalled in Nairobi, Kenya, unable to find a pilot foolhardy enough to fly them into the middle of the violent war. Then, once in South Sudan, the lack of vehicles and fuel meant they had to haggle and negotiate their way across the land to link up with Machar. After they secured the interview and lived with him at his secret bush camp, Machar granted them permission to witness and record his rebellion firsthand, hiring an escort to take them north to the front lines in Malakal, on the White Nile.
In Malakal, Freccia and Pelton exclusively experienced and documented widespread rape, murder, and looting by the “White Army”—a fearsome, makeshift force of Nuer cattle farmers historically commanded by tribal prophets.
Before Pelton and Freccia’s unprecedented access, the White Army had largely been something of a myth, a frightening apparition that until then had never been filmed in action.
VICE’s approach to the story of South Sudan is vast—historically, thematically, and emotionally. The multimedia event delves deep into the history of colonialism, covers misguided Western interference, and revolves around a profile of rebel leader Machar and a Lost Boy’s attempt to save his country. As Machar plots and coordinates his rebellion from his bush camp, Lost Boy Machot wanders inside one of the most dangerous, dysfunctional countries in the world.
“Saving South Sudan” is a terrific, sobering work that no one on Earth but Pelton and Freccia could have produced. Pelton, 58, is the author of the best-selling, one-of-a-kind travel guide The World’s
Most Dangerous Places (now in its fifth edition). He interviewed “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, was kidnapped by right-wing death squads in Colombia (whom he photographed), and lived with an elusive retired Special Forces colonel training Karen rebels deep inside the jungles of Burma. Like many journalists, Freccia, 50, was inspired by Pelton’s endeavors, and he has made it his life’s work to document conflict and crisis across Africa and elsewhere. His photos provide a stark, riveting, and sometimes horrific look at the realities of life in South Sudan.
The VICE team worked feverishly to release this important project just as the world is turning its attention to what may be Africa’s newest and most disturbing humanitarian catastrophe.
You can read, watch, and experience “Saving South Sudan” on VICE.com now.
SAVING SOUTH SUDAN
Adventurer & DPx Gear® Founder Robert Young Pelton Becomes the First Outsider to Ride Along with South Sudan’s White Army in Combat, Finds Rebel Leader Dr. Riek Machar and Documents Experiences as Sole Author of Latest Issue of VICE® Magazine
San Diego, California – April 28, 2014 – Adventurer, Author, and Founder of DPx Gear, Robert Young Pelton has penned the entire 50,000-word, 130-page April issue of VICE magazine about he and photographer/filmmaker Tim Freccia’s recent experience hunting down rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar in South Sudan and riding along with the White Army in combat. When VICE Editor-in-Chief, Rocco Castoro, learned of Pelton and Freccia’s plans, he seized upon the opportunity to devote an issue to the adventure. Although VICE, a cutting-edge lifestyle magazine, has done single topic issues they have never dedicated an entire issue to the work of one person.
Returning with exclusive interviews and footage, Pelton and the VICE creative team set about writing, editing and getting the publication to press. The printed magazine will be available staring Monday April 28, 2014 followed by an online version and a 45-minute documentary of the trip. The electronic article and documentary will be posted at http://www.vice.com.
About Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton, 58, is an explorer, author, and adventurer known for his coverage of conflict in Somalia, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Philippines and many other regions. He is author of the New York Times best selling book, The World’s Most Dangerous Places; Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror; Come Back Alive; Raven and the upcoming Finding Kony. He has written numerous articles and been profiled in National Geographic, Foreign Policy, BusinessWeek, and Outside magazine and is a regular guest on FOX News. Learn more at www.comebackalive.com.
About DPx Gear
Founded in 2008, DPx Gear, Inc. designs, tests and builds hard use equipment for special operations, expeditions and law enforcement. Learn more at www.dpxgear.com.
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In February 2014 BLADE Magazine released their eBook: BLADE's Best Factory Knives: The Best Factory Knives of BLADE's First 40 Years and the DPx HEST/F Triple Black Special Edition ("T3") knife is featured on the cover. The eBook is a three-part series recognizing the top 40 factory knives from 1973-2013. The DPx HEST/F Triple Black Special Edition was named as one of the top knives of 2013 by BLADE Magazine, an accolade DPx Gear is quite proud of considering DPx Gear's short tenure in the industry at the time of the award (about 2 years). The same knife also won BLADE show's Most Innovative Imported Design award in 2012. In April 2014 DPx Gear released its production version of the DPx HEST/F Triple Black with revised hardware to eliminate the need for an expensive tool and availability in four different configurations: right-handed, left-handed, plain edge and serrated edge.
At SHOT Show 2014, DPx Gear introduced a survival knife line called the DPx HIT (Handle Inversion Tool) with an integral pivoting blade guard that forms the handle. This patent pending concept is called DPx Centric and will part of new line of knives starting with an action-oriented "DPx Hit Cutter” and followed shortly thereafter by the "DPx HIT Skinner". The DPx Centric system uses a rugged carabiner and an innovated rotating, locking patent pending edge protector. That means there is no need for a bulky or heavy sheath since the blade edge is revealed with a flick of a finger as the guard smoothly becomes the handle. When not in use the guard snaps back and locks due to the clever DPx Centric design created by Robert Young Pelton.
The DPx Centric function is demonstrated in a YouTube video that can be viewed here.
The DPx HIT is constructed of martensitic CPM S35-VN heat treated steel from Crucible Industries and is manufactured by White River Knives based in Coopersville, Michigan. MSRP will be around $187.50 and the DPx HIT will be sold with a soft leather embossed pouch.
The DPx HIT is a patent-pending idea that adds to the dozen patents or so held by DPx Gear founder Robert Young Pelton. Pelton is better known for his ability to survive kidnapping, plane crashes, car accidents and over two dozen war zones. His exploits as an explorer, TV host, survival expert, best-selling author and filmmaker have taught him what works in the real world. Pelton was encouraged by ESEE co-owner Jeff Randall to design a survival knife for a decade until finally in 2008 Pelton launched the DPx (Dangerous Places, in extremis) HEST (Hostile Environment Survival Tool) Original. The knife was a success and Pelton never looked back. DPx Gear now makes over a dozen unique knife designs.
|Blade Steel:||CPM S35-VN|
|Blade Steel:||CPM S35-VN|
*specifications subject to change
Like many other popular knife designers and manufacturers, DPx Gear has been victim to an onslaught of overseas "copy cats". Our trademarks and patented designs have been used without permission on low quality, low price knives. We make a significant investment in protecting our intellectual property and will prosecute any infringers to the fullest extent of the law. To that end, we have added a new page to our website featuring some examples of counterfeit DPx products which includes links to public notice of our patents as well as links to current patent and trademark infringement law.
The majority of the infringers are located in China and the infringing products are posted for sale on websites such as Alibaba.com, dhgate.com and eBay in large quantities. The most commonly copied product is our DPx HEST/F and the fake product typically has a masonic symbol on the scale. Some other variations we've seen include a version with the ESEE Knives Izula logo on one side of the blade with the DPx "circle" logo on the other side of the blade as well as a version with nylon sheath.
The longer our product is out, the closer the infringing product may look to the actual product which may cause confusion to the consumer; especially if the consumer has never seen our product in person. We recommend only purchasing your DPx product from an authorized dealer. If you have any concerns about your product being a counterfeit or if you want to report a possible counterfeit product, we encourage you to contact DPx Gear directly at email@example.com or +1 619 780 2600.
The DPx HEFT 4 Woodsman is featured in Active Outdoor's Gear Guide and is recommended for the "mountain man".
Hey guys, its Tag again, with another spectacular product coming your way! This time We're checking out the DPx Gear HEFT 4 Assault edition. this knife can be found at http://www.dpxgear.com/dpx-heft-4-milspec.html
In just that list, you can tell that the knife has a lot of bang for your buck. But, thats not all that you want to hear, because it sounds like a sales pitch. so lets talk about the knife itself.
Also, I love the fact that when you remove the handles, they're hollow, and can easily fit a firesteel and a pea lighter inside! I sadly dont have pictures of this, but I assure you its great! Also, the HEFT 4 has the bottle opener and hex driver in its handles as well. While I really like this functionality, I would like it more if they gave me a set of bits to put in the sheath.
Check out the latest review of DPx Gear's Danger Tag by Tactiholics on YouTube. See this handy little EDC cut through zip ties and duct tape. Perfect for carrying everyday in your wallet, car, or pocket. Buy yours for $5 here.
We'd like to invite you to follow Lisa Pelton, DPx Gear's COO on Instagram today at dpxgear_lisa. We’ll share behind-the-scenes photos from the DPx headquarters as well as plenty of photos of our various adventures. We may even squeeze in a giveaway or two just for our followers. Also be sure to tag your photos with #dpxgear, so we don’t miss any!!
By Will Grant
In a remote corner of West Africa, the River Gambia remains one of the last major undammed rivers on the continent. Flowing from a small rivulet in the Guinean highlands, known as the Fouta Djallon, the river runs northwest and west for 733 miles to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean—a six-mile-wide estuary of mangroves, sand bars, and braided streams.
In what may be the first source-to-sea descent of the river, Jason Florio, a New York-based photographer, and his wife, Helen Jones-Florio, have set out to witness and document the river in its entirety. With folding canoes and Pelican cases full of hardware, the two will spend the next three months on the river.
“I’m not an explorer or adventurer,” says Florio. “I’m really a photographer at heart. So this is kind of new territory for me.”
Rife with hippos, poachers, crocodiles, and a thousand unseen hazards, descending the River Gambia will be no walk in the park. Florio, who is far more comfortable shooting a camera than a rifle, does not seek out the dangerous side of life. Nor does he intentionally visit hostile environments—though he’s been shot at by a sniper in Somalia and trekked through warzones in Afghanistan. He knows this expedition will be long and difficult in many ways, but the hope is that this will be a trip without violent confrontation, armed rebel groups, or warring militias. To the Florios, it’s a river trip through a wild slice of Africa.
The first challenge will be finding the source of the river. To do that, they’re mostly relying on a book by Frenchman Gaspard Mollien, one of the earliest Europeans to explore West Africa in the nineteenth century. In 1820, Mollien published a book called Journey into the African Interior in which he documents finding the source of the River Gambia. That book, and a handful of maps from the Royal Geographical Society, where Florio is a fellow, is all he and his wife have to go on.
At the river’s source in the Fouta Djallon, the river is too narrow and shallow to float. The Florios will trek 150 to 200 kilometers downstream to their stashed canoes in Senegal where the river widens and deepens. From there, they’ll descend through scattered gold mining developments and fishing villages to Niokolo-Koba National Park, where the poachers are reputably as dangerous as the hippos.
“There’s a lot of poaching in the park,” he says, “but as long we don’t bother the poachers, we think they’ll leave us alone. That’s what we’re hoping, anyway.”
About half the river is considered navigable. With the folding boats, which the two tested between pubs on canals in rural England, they hope to be on the water a lot more than half the time. The two will rely heavily on prearranged guides, mostly local fisherman, to coordinate border crossings, necessary permits, and resupply points along the way.
The Florios have timed their expedition to coincide with the end of the rainy season when the flows will be high enough to paddle most of the river but the regular, monsoonal drenchings will have ended. As the river dries out, it becomes less friendly to paddlers.
“If the water gets too low,” Florio says, “the rocks will be bad and the hippos will congregate.”
As the saying goes, behind the mosquito, the hippopotamus is the most dangerous animal in Africa. In fact, hippos are responsible for killing more people than any other animal on the continent. Some people have told Florio that the hippos won’t be a problem—that people deal with them everyday without incident. Others have warned him that the animals can be aggressively territorial and to give any they encounter a wide berth.
“They reckon there are four to six thousand hippos on the river,” he says. “If the hippo situation becomes problematic, then we get out and portage. We might have to get out of the river at night.”
While descending the river at the end of the wet season seems like a good idea, the logistics of an expedition this size are sure to be fluid. The first change of plans was a three-week delay of the ship carrying their gear to Gambia. Their tentative launch date is now November 11.
The Florios are intent on travelling light. They’ll be eating a lot of local food, like fish from the river and millet bought at villages along the way. They’ve also packed Clif Bars, energy snacks, and several bundles of Ramen noodles (at $0.18 per pack, a super-cheap form of nourishment).
They’re paddling folding canoes made by Norway-based Ally Canoes. They’ll provide live tracking through a Yellowbrick tracking device. They’ll boil water for their Ramen noodles with stoves from Kelly Kettles. They’ll also be carrying an array of DPx Gear knives for both their own use and as gifts for the locals.
The hardware, though the heaviest part of their load, is arguably the most important. The cameras, solar chargers and laptop computers will allow the two to document the river and the people who rely on it for their livelihood. As they hunt for the river’s source, trek downstream, paddle their folding boats, and negotiate hundreds of miles of riverine wilderness, the Florios will maintain a blog of their journey, while also posting updates on their Facebook page.
But in the end, the expedition is about creating a document of the people and the river. Although it’s one of the last major undammed rivers in Africa, that could, and most likely will, change.
The Gambia, the country nicely bisected by the lower third of the river, is the smallest country in mainland Africa, with a population of 1.7 million. The river is the lifeline of the country and the livelihood of nearly all that live on its banks. But development is scarce. Bumpy negotiations between Gambia and Senegal have stood in the way most major projects.
Talk of damming the River Gambia has gone on for the last decade. In many ways, a dam is inevitable. And when the waterway is changed, the effects on the people who depend on it will be irrevocable.
Florio first traveled to the River Gambia in 1996 to document an ecotourism project. He returned in 2009 to produce “A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush—930 km African Odyssey,” which won first place at The International Photography Awards of 2010. During the 2009 expedition, Florio and his wife circumnavigated Gambia, the country, travelling up one bank and down the other.
“That trip felt like a warm-up for something bigger,” Florio says. “Now we want to meet the people, see if they know about the damming, see how it will affect them.”
The Florios expect to reach the river’s mouth sometime early next year. But the expedition could take longer than that—either due to logistical complications or interesting places to spend time. They don’t intend to hurry through this cultural and environmental cross section of West Africa. But they have little idea of what lies in store for them.
“This is one of the biggest things we’ve tackled in terms of logistics,” Florio says. “There are a lot of question marks. But at the end of the day, I think you just have to get there and let the pieces fall into place.”
As the Florios make their way to river’s headwaters and begin their downstream journey, we’ll be keeping tabs on their progress. Check back here for the latest dispatches.
All images copyright Jason Florio.
See the Blade Magazine blog post here.
A visitor to some of the world’s most dangerous places, Robert Young Pelton is more than simply a modern-day adventurer. He places himself in harm’s way to bring relevant perspective to the armed struggles that continue to grip various regions around the world.
Also known by his initials of RYP, Pelton has become a recognized figure, discussing his experiences on major television networks, producing documentary films, and writing several books (includingLicensed To Kill, among others) to commemorate his experiences, and providing practical survival techniques and training tips to a vast audience of readers. During his travels, he has lived among the Taliban and Somali pirates and ridden alongside CIA and private contractor personnel performing security and investigative functions in the war-torn regions of the Balkans, Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
His latest venture is the founding of a knife company, DPx Gear, specializing in rugged, versatile knives specifically suited for combat, rescue and survival in hostile environments. At the most recent BLADE Show, the company won the Blade Magazine 2012 Most Innovative Imported Design® for the HEST T3. Through it all, Pelton has maintained a healthy respect for the function and necessity of the knife. His understanding of its uses as a tool and as a weapon has come from practical experience, literally in the line of fire and in dangerous situations on a regular basis.
“I don’t have a military background,” Pelton commented during a recent interview. “I actually began my career as a copywriter and then worked with Steve Jobs on the launch of the Mac computer and then with the Upper Deck baseball card company in marketing.”
When he subsequently decided to take a month off work, Pelton picked a random spot on the map and decided to strike out on his first adventure. From there, his series of expeditions grew rapidly into an industry, an industry fraught with high risk—but in his mind, high return as well. Practical experience led to the realization that a high-performance knife is an essential component of the adventurer’s package and to Pelton’s involvement with DPx. He designed the HEST (Hostile Environment Survival Tool) as a result of his experience, and the subsequent product line reflects his time in the field.
“As you start out, you have that moment when you’ve got to get your stuff together, right?” he winked. “Traveling in dangerous places and war zones means you aren’t able to carry a lot, and I was looking for something that would work not only as a survival knife that works when you’re lost and rubbing two sticks together, but also something that works for defense if somebody jumps you.”—BY MIKE HASKEW
To read the complete story on RYP and his world travels, check out the digital version of the December BLADE®. For info on how to get your digital copy, click on www.shopblade.com/blade-dec-2012-digital-issue?lid=SSfbbl101912
CAPTIONS FOR ABOVE PICTURES, FROM TOP:
1) Robert Young Pelton with U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, 2001. (photo courtesy of RYP)
2) Pelton and his DPx Gear won the Blade Magazine 2012 Most Innovative Imported Design for the HEST T3 folding knife. (Point Seven photo)
3) RYP interviews Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. (photo courtesy of RYP)
Once you start toting a knife in your EDC, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Cutting, prying, and oh-so-important meat-slicing — you’ve never had it so good. There are plenty of fantastic utility knives for that kind of work — but they don’t quite cut it when you move out of the concrete jungle and into the leafy one. The DPx Gear HEST II Survival Knife ($250) may not be as suave as your EDC cutter of choice — but it is the perfect companion for roughin’ it.
Known as a Hostile Environment Survival Tool (HEST), the limited run fixed-blade knife is an upgraded version of their DPx HEST Original. The upgrade includes a 3.15-inch Sleipnersteel blade with a more resilient cutting edge than other hard steels (60 Rockwell scale). The HEST II also includes a stronger, re-angled pry notch, wire strippers and a hex driver. Go stealthy with the PVD coated blade of the Assault version (we don’t advocate assassins, for the record) or a bit more flashy and sharp with the naked stone-washed blade and wood scales of the Woodsman. Both knives come with a hollow handle for storing survival materials. You can probably fit your suburbanized knife in there.
See the full review here: http://gearpatrol.com/2012/10/26/dpx-gear-hest-2-0-survival-knife/
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