We had this recent shake up in Singapore last week, resulting from the massive under sea earthquake near Indonesia, the first of which measured 8.4 on the Richter scale. Since the local news was slow in breaking the news and since I was convinced that the rocking back and forth experience was due to a tremor and not my whiskey that i had just started on, I began searching for data on the United States Geological Survey for verification. They had the earthquake located and detailed on their website instantly it seemed. I had not visited the USGS website in a while and this time, it was something else that caught my eye other than the earthquake and it was titled "Bird completes epic flight across the pacific".
I was under the impression that USGS website contained only geological survey material. Turns out I was wrong and they have several projects going on including a joint study on the migratory pattern of certain birds. They have teamed up with researchers using various private and Government grants, to install tiny radio transmitters (via satellite) that would give the position of the birds in flight. This story was about a particular species, a land bird actually, called the Bar-Tailed Godwit. While they have radio tagged many Godwits, it was one called as E7 that got the scientific community in a tizzy. This female completed what can only be termed as an amazing flight non stop across the water (The Pacific) from Alaska to New Zealand. They determined that she was flying non stop because of the constant forward speed recorded by the radio satellite tag.
I cannot write better than what they have done on the USGS website and I encourage all bird lovers to take a look for themselves. Here is one paragraph of the journey that I felt overwhelmed about and I quote: "The last leg of E7's journey is the most extraordinary, entailing a non-stop flight of more than eight days and a distance of 7,200 miles, the equivalent of making a round trip flight between New York and San Francisco, and then flying back again to San Francisco without ever touching down."
I know aviators including myself who would marvel at this achievement because it is a bit beyond human capability at this time unless you strap on a huge gas tank and make a lot of noise and we'd still need advanced avionics to tell us where we are headed. What got the attention of the researchers is that E7 flew a route back from Alaska that is not commonly used and is perhaps the only bird recorded to have done this route. When going through the information on the USGS website, I'd encourage the reader to look at and pay attention to the maps provided highlighting the route that E7 took and you'll realize too that this is one amazing bird on a really amazing flight. Hail the Godwit!
USGS website: http://www.usgs.gov/
Link to the story: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1774