Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A new COP on the block!

After the rather untimely modification of our new microlight last weekend a number of people had several sleepless nights trying to organise a rapid solution to suddenly being without an aircraft for the last three weeks of the season.

Local chartering of either fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters, even with their generous offers of discounted rates, was simply unaffordable, but our pilot for the first part of the season, David Daniel, knew of a microlight available in South Africa and arrangements were made to bring the aircraft up to complete the season for us.

After just two days David had the replacement aircraft dismantled, boxed-up and had driven it overnight to Jo’burg airport for air-freight to Seychelles. Here the Air Seychelles / Aero-Link team made the impossible happen by getting both the microlight and 7 metre long wing on to the next plane out to Seychelles, arriving late Wednesday night!

The new aircraft is released to customs and the 'lads' take it to the hanger...

Customs at Seychelles airport were very accommodating and early on Thursday morning the new aircraft was being unpacked and re-assembled at the hanger of the Islands Development Company who graciously allow us to use their facility.

And so it was that 'many hands make light work' or in this case make a microlight as the team pitched in to re-build the aircraft that David Daniel had so carefully disassembled a few days earlier.

By late afternoon the work was finished and the COP had arrived! Resplendent with a yellow and blue wing the aircraft was ready to take to the air the following morning and hopefully find sharks for the team and our visiting groups, who had been waiting patiently since Sunday for some positive news!

A happy, if somewhat grubby and tired team pose proudly around the completed plane.

And so Friday morning dawned and the COP was definitely on the block when pilot Johan managed to get the team onto an absolutely perfect shark (which had been recorded in 2007) that stayed with them for over two hours!

The first whale shark apprehended by COP, a repeat visitor from 2007

In the afternoon Johan again showed that the COP had the pace to get the job done and delivered six encounters with four different sharks. And an interesting bunch they proved to be, thanks to the I3S programme and the diligence of the intern team! One had been tagged in 2005 and then photographed without its tag in 2006 and 2007; another was a 2008 shark, first seen on October 6th (in fact this was the shark from which Katie had collected the copepods) and had been seen many times since; while the other two had been recorded in both 2005 and 2007….

So it was back to business for the team, thanks to the hard work and determination of a lot of people! A warm welcome to the COP!!

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