the Cumberland Plateau
Day 41: November 25, 2003
Heather Ray, Operation
was not your typical day. In fact it can be called anything BUT "typical."
This is one of those updates where I really don't know where to begin
so I'll give you some of the ingredients and the outcome, and let you
fill in the middle. It certainly won't be too far off the mark from what
really happened anyway.
All sixteen cranes launched at 7:23 a.m. EST behind Brooke; At 8:10 a.m.
Mark Nipper and Heather Ray are speeding side by side down either side
of the grass runway toward the pen to convince the birds NOT to land;
Richard van Heuvelen makes it over "the beast" [Walden Ridge,
2700 feet] at 8:15 a.m. with two cranes and heads on course to the Hiwassee
wildlife refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee; Joe and Brooke continue to
corral fourteen cranes and attempt to climb; Mark and Heather retreat
upon hearing that four tired cranes have been given permission to land.
Brooke reports having six birds; Joe has four; Paula and Joe can't find
Brooke; Joe heads on course; Joe's birds head in opposite direction; Brooke
is located with his six cranes; Joe decides to fly chase for Brooke and
help him get his six cranes over Hinch Mountain. Paula advises Joe's cranes
did an about face and were attempting to catch up to him; Joe slows up.
Birds catch up.
Richard arrives at Hiwassee with two cranes and drops birds to Dan Sprague
and Jane Chandler (welcome Jane!) who are at the pen site waiting in costume
to call the birds down. Brooke arrives shortly after with one bird; Joe
soon after him with five... Three cranes continue southeast; Heather calls
ICF's Lara Fondow, Anne Lacey and Windway pilot Mike Voechting, who thankfully
were in Nashville, TN—and provides sixteen sets of transmitter frequencies.
Paula & Don Lounsbury continue with three runaways, keeping visual
contact with them, and radio contact with us until they near the nuclear
power station near Watts Bar Dam.
F16 fighter jets arrive on scene. Paula and Don assume they are nearby
because of the power generating station, and switch frequencies to attempt
to explain their presence; Three runaways do an F16-freakout, recover
and keep flying; Brooke provides headcount of cranes in pen at Hiwassee;
Sara gives Heather band numbers of birds back in pen at Cumberland County;
Heather provides missing crane (202, 206, 211 & 216) frequencies to
Lara and Mike; Don and Paula head back to Cumberland County to refuel.
Dan and Jane set out to track by ground; Sara secures cranes in Cumberland
pen and sets out with Mark Nipper and Charlie Shafer to give additional
ground assistance. Mike and Lara report picking up signals on three of
the birds, just south of the power plant. Dan and Jane find an open field.
They throw on their white costumes, grab the vocalizer, and call birds
down. These birds have flown for more than 5 hours!
One crane, #216 still M.I.A. (missing in action) and believed to be in
the vicinity of Hinch Mountain. Mike, Anne and Lara are heading north
to track by air.
Results: Four will be trucked from Cumberland County. Eight arrived at
Hiwassee refuge. Three will be trucked from 33 miles southeast of Hiwassee,
and one crane will be trucked from wherever it is located. UPDATE: #216
located southwest of Crossville, TN. near large reservoir —should
This! Journaling Question
the account of the
2002 crossing of the Cumberland Plateau and compare it with this
year's account. Imagine you are one of the ultralight pilots. List questions
you'd like to ask Joe, Brooke and Richard. Then list any suggestions
for how you might try this leg of the flight next year.
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).