The Dugong Shepherds 8th Aerial Survey – 2015
This mission is dedicated to Dr Kanjana Adulayanukosol “Mother of the Dugongs”
The Dugong Shepherds were once again invited by the Thai Department of Marine Coastal Resources (PMBC) to Krabi and Trang, Southern Thailand Coastal Provinces, marking our 8th year of supporting this very worthwhile mission, sadly overshadowed by the passing of Dr Kanjana Adulayanukosol who was the first Thai marine scientist to dedicate intensive aerial research to Dugongs in Thailand.
Dr Kanjana taught the Flying Scouts the transect flying technique, and we are determined to continue her wonderful legacy.
As usual planning meetings were held during 2014 to select the most ideal survey conditions and mid January and February 2015 were chosen.
This year, Easterly prevailing winds made the operating conditions very difficult and turbulent at Krabi.
Most of the landings were at the cross wind limit of Miss Dippy, our stalwart survey aircraft. Both our pilots, Mike and Ed were put to the test with every landing, and maintaining accurate transects was extremely challenging.
Our two intrepid pilots, Mike & Ed brief every mission. Although there is a fun aspect to the mission, each flight is meticulously planned out.
The main survey area was lengthened to cover more of the deep water sections than previous years, extending the flying time significantly.
And this is the business end of the survey flights. Hours of endless tracking…. Hats of to the observers.
This years count was up around 20% on 2014, with 94 animals the biggest count on a single mission. Lots of mother and calf pairs which is a great indicator of the general state of the population and their conditions.
This year we were also kindly joined by a Gyrocopter courtesy of Phuket based ByTheAir, who allowed experienced pilot Pat James (seated on the right) to act as the camera ship. This aircraft makes an excellent platform for videos and still photography.
Once again we pay tribute to the dedicated marine biologists who spend all year looking after these special animals.
The three pilots from left to right – Mike Wilson, Flying “Ed” and Pat James.
Some more light hearted moments!