Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

December 1, 2003
Day 47

Incredible, Record-setting Flight!
Photo OM

YESSSS! Here's news we've all been waiting for! The cranes took off from Gordon County, Georgia at 7:51 this morning and didn't land until they'd burned through --are you ready?--a whopping 200 miles. They flew an incredible 3 hours and 4 minutes, the longest flight ever recorded for both time and distance. And there's more! With 16-knot tailwinds for help, they were able to skip THREE stops! Joe said, "At 2200 feet the airspeed indicator told us the birds where flying at their normal 38 miles per hour but the mass of air we were traveling in was also moving at south at 40 mph. Combined, we were covering ground at over 70 mph and we blew past three schedules stops--leaving the ground crew far behind. With each passing stop we would make the decision to keep going knowing we had roughly 3 hours of fuel onboard. For most of the way all of the birds followed one aircraft leaving the other two pilots with little to do except watch the passing countryside."

Heather reports, "All sixteen cranes made the entire flight, and even took time after landing briefly to "thermal" with some Turkey Vultures as they circled over the field. Once the pen crew arrived, cranes were led into their enclosure at 1:30 p.m. It was a LONG day! Some ground team members were still on the road at 6:24 p.m." (You remember that the cranes have about 1225 miles to cover by air, but road travelers log over 1600 miles.) Heather predicts that they'll cross the Florida line tomorrow morning!

Our birds and cranes are now in Terrell County, Georgia, with 954.1 miles of their journey behind them. WAY TO GO, you amazing, wondrous Whooping Cranes! WAY TO GO, you awesome pilots and ground crew! We are jumping with joy!


Map the Migration
Make your own map using the latest migration data

Try This! Journaling Questions/Activity

  • How fast is a 16-knot tailwind? (Knots X 1.15 = miles)
  • Last year's young cranes flew 7 days in a row at the end of their migration. What was the average distance they covered on those daily flight legs? (See Heather's chart for dates/distances.) If this year's cranes fly that distance daily, by what date could they finish their 1225-mile migration?
  • With today's awesome progress, it's time to get ready to celebrate the cranes' arrival by folding your own origami cranes and suspending them from the ceiling with string. You'll find all the folding directions here.


Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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