Ever since I first saw the airboat, all I thought about was riding on one.  Every time I went into the compound to get a car or some gear, I’d walk by the airboat and imagine how awesome it would be to take one of these out and go drifting on the delta channels. The only time I ever saw one was in pictures of people using them in the Everglades.  (Sidenote: While our airboat was getting filled up on fuel here in Cordova, a man who was from the South – airboats are a common feature in the Everglades and the Louisiana Bayous – went up to my coworkers and exclaimed his astonishment at seeing such a powerful airboat.  “What’s the horsepower you got on that? 250?” Most of the airboats around town go up to 180hp, but my supervisor told us that ours goes up to 450hp.  That’s one pretty awesome boat.  When we heard that, my coworker joked around saying, “Feast your eyes on that, country boy.”) Finally, I got my chance to ride in one.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Gabrielson

Photo courtesy of Melissa Gabrielson, USFS

Nest Island Monitoring will be happening soon this June, and that means readying “Dusky Camp” for our field work.  I couldn’t wait.  It had been a while since I’ve been out in the field.  After the Shorebird Festival and the shorebird surveys, there was a lull and then a full week of orientation and training, which was super fun nonetheless.  Anyway, I was pumped to get the chance to help set up Dusky Camp, especially since it meant getting to ride the airboat.  Here are a few fun facts about the airboat: the first airboat was used in 1905 and was called the Ugly Duckling.  Airboats are propelled by a gigantic fan at the end, and they can’t go in reverse.  There also aren’t any brakes on the boat.  What makes the airboat ideal for travel on the Copper River Delta is its ability to easily drive on shallow water.  When I say shallow, I mean really, really shallow.  I can’t fully describe the jolt of shock I felt when I noticed at times we were riding right over mud in about 6 inches of water.  I thought for sure we’d get stuck.

Sorry there are no photos.  Battery life on my camera seems to be dying faster than usual, so I just left it at home, but trust me, riding on the airboat was everything I had imagined it to be and more.  The day we set off was gorgeous.  There was hardly any wind and the sun was out and strong.  This made for a breathtaking ride.  The water reflection was a mirror image of the sky.  It was almost as if we were flying.

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