Sunday, October 31, 2010
Of course the sun is out and it looks like the most perfect day and I guess most people would wonder why on earth we are refusing to fly. It is expected. And it is a tedious and long explenation. Most of it people do not understand because the nature of the conditions are quite technical. There is often doubt. The irony is that the forecast is for the same winds to persist for the next two days. I expected that we would pack up. 5 minutes later David called to ask I don't. He would prefer to wait and see what the winds are going to do.
And that is the nature of this work. Trying to generate funds on the one hand while making safe flying and sensible decisions. Of course David is quite aware of that and does not expect us to fly in anything that we deem not safe. But that does not mean the pressure is any less. The fretting of what the weather is going to do mills in your mind and you are effectively on duty 24/7. It is almost as if one is flying in these conditions in anyevent! It is tough. This is the biggest wear of the job. If the weather is absolutely borderline is it worth taking up someone for a flight? What are you going to do when it is borderline. Then it looks just doable then it doesn't...
Of course I don't believe it is a good thing but we will go through the motions anyway.
You just never know - tomorrow might be perfect...
Wish you were here!
It had been a year since our last flight (or as Garreth pointed out, more than a year) but the sense of excitement was just the same. The wind was 5k from the NE so we climbed to 3000ft on the west coast. Still, we got rocked a bit more than what a measly 5k wind should be capable of doing. So with the same amount of excitement and now with the same amount of fear as last year’s flight (We got rocked at 5grand over Beau Vallon bay on that occasion!) we settled into a rather exhilarating flight down memory lane.
You would be amazed at how many people come out to Seychelles with only shorts and T-shirts. Not a jean not a jacket or any kind of top in sight. I guess it must be a tropical thing. I supposed it is not that you are going to need a jacket or fleece, for it never gets cold here. But /it pays to be prepared because you never know what might happen or come up, such as the chance to fly in a micro-light. It can get pretty darn cold at 5000ft and when you hit the likes of 7000ft or 8000ft it becomes a different ball game all together. At these altitudes in an open cock-pit plane, wind chill factors become painful and any exposed flesh takes a beating. Well, especially considering that you are supposed to be in the tropics.
People who know will always make a plan and I guess Garreth was not going to let his toes freeze again. Even if the boots seemed made for clubbing and dancing it was still the most class act to fly in my little orange plane!
Wish you were here!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Now I have to catch that beer with a sunset! (Or is that catching the sunset with a beer..?) Oh, heck! I have to go!
Wish you were here!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wish you were here!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
It seems there is some prophetic tendency in my blog. As soon as I mention the word drought and no rain, the heavens open up. It has rained for most of yesterday and last night. This morning it is still raining and the met is forecasting rain for the rest of the day with possible heavy falls for the afternoon. Clearing is expected by tomorrow midday only, or so the met office says anyway…
As if the lack of sharks is not enough, the rain has put out even the last flicker of hope we have had of finishing the season on a high. Of course, everybody is trying their best to keep busy and not think about it too much. It is the usual thing. The end of a great season is approaching and when dreams have been realized it is no wonder that no one wants to say goodbye.
From a statistical point of view this has been the second best season ever. Even if the end has been slow we had a lot of sharks. We saw 42 sharks in just one flight, twice! In total Neil and I spotted 594 sharks from the air while the boat crew had 395 in water encounters. The numbers of experiences are just too many to remember and without the daily recording of the interns almost all would be lost. Meticulous detail of each and every encounter is kept – sharks are sized, sexed, photographed, accompanying fish noted and counted, peculiar markings, behaviour, time of day, area, swimmers in the water among other things are all noted on water proof sheets of paper. Afterwards all details are entered into the computer for easier and more in depth and detailed analyses later on. Add to that the data Neil and I gather from the air and the data sets become pretty impressive to say the least.
The MCSS functions as a team. Without the team effort there will be no success and no progress or reward. Breaking previous records is not just the doings of Mother Nature but also great teamwork from the interns. Of course, I am not saying they are all angels – by no means! :) But they worked well together and this year, once again the team excelled. They will be taking with them treasured lessons and experiences.
In the meantime, we are wet but thankfully on the ground!
Wish you were here!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Of course, with the extreme lack of whale sharks (note extreme) this kind of indulgence is not just customary but mandatory. It comes at the best of times too. The fact that the whale sharks seem to have made an early departure for this year has been playing on our psyche’s and frustrations. Every day boat loads of people have to be turned away. Painstaking explanations are given to appease customers, as if the words, ‘sorry, there are no more whale sharks around…’, could be construed as if it is a commodity and the shop has run out of stock. Surely with just a bit more planning and better management…
October is the start of the rainy season (Well, a bit more rain than in the other months really) and in previous years us pilots have always had some reprieve from flying on those rainy days. (It was most frustrating since we knew the sharks were out there but the weather was not allowing us to get onto them). This October however, there is a drought. Rain fall is down 70% compared to the average for the month and the met office expects this trend to continue. We have been able to fly every single day but ironically the sharks are nowhere to be found. And while we can’t blame anyone but changing climates and global warming, there is certain expectancy for the magical abilities of pilots to find some whale sharks – though subtle, the pressure is always on us.
Of course, I find solace the traditional way. Who cares about whale sharks if you can have that!?
Wish you were here!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Here is another one of Joe’s pics. Is this the end of the season for views and encounters like this one?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Yesterday was absolutely awesome. It was one of those days when you had an element of absolutely everything thrown into one. The morning started when I picked up my passenger. Perhaps I should have guessed by then but being a typical male, my passenger’s beauty numbed all other senses. That of course does let the cat out of the bag – Kim is absolutely gorgeous – but that part is a whole different story. Suffice to say we had a great flight and I enjoyed the company of my passenger immensely.
It was a very unstable day. The build-up of cloud over the island was huge and by lunchtime it was raining over the whole of Beau Vallon Bay. This of course was where the boat was departing from and as expected David called – the concern in his voice obvious. I set him at ease; the build-up was localised and over Beau Vallon Bay only. The west coast should be clear. Of course the storm grew throughout the course of the afternoon and I spent my time flying in close proximity of the clouds and rain. The sun bathed parts in sunshine, mixing concern with tranquillity while I danced on the borders of these two contrasts for almost two hours. The lighting was absolutely spectacular and the rain, clouds, turquoise water, island greens, granitic hues, whale sharks edged over white sandy bottoms was a feast that is impossible to put in words. Eventually the rain started spreading towards the Airport and threatened to cut off my return route. It was a beautiful trip back, scenic and completely uneventful too – I had left a healthy safety margin this time. In other cases we would leave just in the nick of time because of the scarcity of sharks. But because the sharks were playing nice and stayed with the boats, it was easy for me to leave earlier, playing it safe. Here are some pics of the scenery – the build up from a distance and inside the action. All in all a grand day I would say!
Wish you were here!
Saturday, October 16, 2010
On another note, we have had another few days of calm weather. Blissful flying yet the whale sharks again is playing hard to get. I would get 4 sharks in the morning and then only one in the afternoon. Then Neil would get just one in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Thankfully they all hang around and everybody gets a few turns to swim with the whale shark. David and I are not sure what to make of this season. I somehow have a feeling that the season just might be coming to a premature end. That would not be good seeing as the MCSS has two full boats booked until the end of October. It is going to be frustrating and long flights in the last week or so. Of course, not be too pessimistic, as always we remain hopeful. At least the sun has been shining like there is no tomorrow, which brings to a serious issue.
There is a draught on the island. Yes, a tropical island that is supposed to be experiencing rain (and lots of it) at the moment is having a draught. The dam is the emptiest I have ever seen it. Their dam is not very big but as the water is used, it rains again and fills up. At the beginning of the season I noted the dam being the fullest I have ever seen it. Now it is quite the opposite. It has been dry for more than two weeks and before that not much rain – that is very unusual for Seychelles. Every day the water gets cut off for a couple of hours and sometimes, if your timing is off you have to just take a swim in the sea.
Wish you were here!;)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
The other day, Garreth and I talked about flying and age. It was no coincidence talking about these interesting companions – I have been around long enough to know a few retired pilots myself. Of course our conversation was not about pilots and age but about the act of flying people that are not so young anymore. I mentioned to Garreth that some would consider my act of flying Pat as nothing but gross negligence and we pondered this notion.
Pat we guessed must be around 80 – I never asked her age but later friends let me in on it. I noticed her frailty when I helped her into the back seat but it really struck home after the flight – after I helped her out of the seat I had to support her while she regained her balance and footing. It took a while and it was during this time that I had a myriad of thoughts on the responsibility and the risk I was taking by allowing her into the back seat of the little orange plane. I cannot even begin to describe the depths of the compassion that flooded me at that moment too and it were these thoughts that really spurred my conversation with Garreth.
We jested of course about what family might say, “Are you crazy granny! You are too old to do this kind of thing. You might die..!”
“What do you mean I might die? I am dying right now! Come on sonny, lets get up there…” and we both chuckled about that.
Of course the reality is that when it comes to the aged we get hung up about risks far too much right at about the time when the other side of the coin should be considered more. We argued that it is worth considering the risk when you are young – losing one’s life at that stage is quite tragic, (not that we think it is not tragic for an elderly person to lose their life, just perhaps less so) but consider for a moment that for the aged the benefits become even greater. Making a tick on a bucket list is far more than a mark on a piece of paper. In the same way we will never really know what it must have meant to Pat, being up there, enjoying vistas and sensations for real that she had spent her whole life dreaming off. And what about the aftereffects of such an experience? Is the spirit lifted? Is life made lighter? Is living made more sensible? Surely all these things must be worth the possible chances of dying.
It was then that I remembered the movie ‘second hand lions’ and the truth struck me that there is value even in the act of dying. If I were aged and got the chance of dying while flying in a micro-light I would jump at it in a flash. It sure beats lying in some old age home waiting for death, hands down.
“Get out of my way sonny! I want to get into that seat!”
Wish you were here!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I flew two dear ladies this week – they loved it like there was no tomorrow. (Now there is some truth in that statement I tell you!) But these were the kind of ladies that I knew would be useless if anything should go wrong. Like landing in the sea. It would be game over for them. Of course we fly out over the sea for most of the time…
But the enchantments of tropical waters, the magical colours that seduce even the most ardent and steadfast adventurer is triumphant once again. It is so impossible not to be lured into the tranquil beauty that it is a sin not to make use of the moments. Going lower for some high speed flying resembles that of a speedboat skimming along the water. Just better.
Oh magical indeed!
Wish you were here!
This is one of those pics you just have to love. Does it not fill you with a sense of awe? It should. This type of agrigations are very rare and I was lucky to be in the right place...
We have had a bit of a spurt of whale shark activity. Yesterday we encountered 8 sharks in the south. The two boats with full passengers (that’s two groups on each) had a great time. Some of the sharks just did not want to go away! I saw quite an amazing thing. After years of flying this was the first time I witnessed such a thing.
I spotted a hammerhead shark of about two meters, cruising near the surface. This guy was swimming about, seemingly at random, I guess sniffing the waters to find out what is going on. At the same time a whale shark started to surface not far from the hammerhead shark. I could see the hammerhead shark was on an intercepting course. The whale shark, about 6-7meters in length rose out of the clear depths like a living submarine – its dark outline becoming clearer every second. The hammerhead was closer to the surface before it spotted the whale shark. At this stage I could only imagine what it must feel like to look down and there, slowly rising out of the inky depths is the biggest mother shark you have ever seen. I too would not hang around to ask questions. That hammerhead burst into action with the fastest U-turn, running away like a yelping dog with its tail between its legs.
It was hilarious!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
... errr... (should be GRRRR..!!!!) It is not working. Maybe I should think about changing my blog home page....