Someone who has taken part in all the research flights our helicopter Tweety has carried out is, of course, the pilot. Shaun (or Dingo as he’s known about the ship) has flown every mission in both Indonesia and during the previous leg in Papua New Guinea.
As a result, he’s seen a considerable amount of New Guinea and is able to draw comparisons between the two sides of the border.
Listen to the interview below to hear about Shaun’s experiences flying over New Guinea. There’s a transcript below.
Who have you been taking out on the flights and what have they been going to see?
Partly it’s been Bustar, the forest campaigner. He’s been coming out along with journalists to basically assure himself of what they’ve been told about certain areas, whether logging is being carried out or whether it is actually pristine forest, and basically documenting that. And also I’ve been taking out the cameraman and the videographer for documentation purposes.
You also flew over the forests of Papua New Guinea when the Esperanza was there a few weeks ago. Are there any differences you’ve noticed between the two sides of the island?
The main differences I’ve noticed between Papua New Guinea and Papua is the huge difference in the population. In Papua New Guinea, there are a lot more indigenous villages scattered throughout the forest and along the river ways. Whereas here in Papua, they seem to be more moved into settlement areas and into more modern housing – tin roofs, straight lines in streets. It was quite unusual, really.
What has been the most memorable aspect of your flights so far?
Most memorable thing has to be scenery – it’s incredible. Of course, Papua New Guinea has mountains and everything, and in Papua you have the same mountains and the same forest, but there’s a lot less logging activity on this Papuan side. But also the coastline on the Papuan side has been very beautiful – pristine beaches, coral reefs, and islands.
How different is it to land the helicopter on the ship compared to dry land?
There’s a big difference. Wind always plays a huge importance, but generally it’s a solo act on the ground – you know where your wind is coming from and you land accordingly. But with a ship, it’s also a moving object and it has to be positioned properly for the helicopter. And then hopefully the ground doesn’t move around too much underneath you with the swell.
So far on this trip it’s been quite easy because it’s flat seas here but I have landed on the ship when it’s been pitching and rolling quite badly. And the most daunting thing isn’t putting the helicopter on the deck, it’s when you’re down and then still be moving madly around, it’s just totally unnatural. Sometimes even now I’ll land and the helicopter will sway from side to side and it makes you think, “Woah, what’s going on?” It certainly is a different situation.
posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza