Sea Otter Surfer

While watching the waves come rushing in to the Santa Cruz shore, I saw something floating on the surface just a little way out.  It appeared to be seaweed but that wasn’t all that was there.  A look through the longer lens confirmed that a sea otter was sitting out there enjoying the ride.  The clump of weed was drifting closer in so, when the waves started to break over the top, the otter would dive underneath and pop back up once the turmoil had passed.  The current was taking him along the shoreline over time so we lost track of where he ended up but he seemed to be enjoying the ride quite a lot!


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The EC130 is a Nice Ride

While on vacation on Big Island, I took a helicopter flight across the island.  Other posts will include some of the shots from that flight.  However, this is just to give credit to the helicopter itself.  I flew with Sunshine Helicopters in one of their EC130s.  I imagine the name has changed now that Eurocopter has gone through a couple of brand transitions under the Airbus umbrella.

This was my first ride in a 130.  It is a popular airframe on the islands.  Eurocopter took the Astar (Squirrel/Ecureuil) as a base and, given that tour operators were squeezing 6 passengers in, they came up with a fuselage that provided comfortable space and lots of window space so that the performance of the airframe could be matched with the level of comfort required.  They succeeded in my experience.  I should point out I was up front.  There are two passenger seats up front alongside the pilot and four in the back.  I felt like I had a ton of space to relax and the view was pretty impressive.  Whether the middle of the back is as good, I don’t know but everyone seemed to have a really good time.  It seems like an airframe designed with something specific in mind and it seems to fulfill the role really well.

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Davis Arboretum

We took a day trip up to Davis to check out the arboretum.  Running alongside the old Putah Creek, it has a range of different plants and trees along its length.  With the university buildings stretching alongside the creek, the paths provide access to the students and staff of the university as they get where they need to be.  Being, at least most of the time, away from the roads makes for a quiet and pleasant place to stroll.  At the time we visited, it was a turning point for some of the plants.  Fall had already done it work on some trees while others were still showing signs of color.

We weren’t the only ones appreciating the view.  We passed a number of painters (whether they were part of a class or just like minded individuals I don’t know) who were capturing the scenes around them.  I didn’t get to see whether any of them were particularly good but I hope they had a good time anyway.  There was plenty of wildlife along the creek.  Ducks were abundant, the occasional turtle showed itself, squirrels were everywhere gathering food for winter and some of the visitors had their dogs with them so no shortage of life.

Work was underway to reconfigure the flow of water through the creek.  This is intended to freshen up the water, deal with some of the weed growth on the surface and promote some other wildlife activity.  In some areas it was already showing results but the work was due to run into 2017 so it will be a while before the full effect is seen.

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Some Janet Airline Activity

AE7I8034.jpgAny time at McCarran is likely to include some Janets.  The use of the 737s to transport staff to the various locations in Nevada at which spooky things happen is well established and you can see the schedule online if you want.  They have moved on from 737-200s to 737-600s but the service is much the same.  They may be 737s but the spooky nature of the operations makes them more interesting than the average airline.

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Turtles at Rest

The reef by our hotel was home to some green turtles.  They seemed to have developed a good schedule.  Morning was feeding time.  They would go out on the reef and spend their time nibbling away at the plant life growing on the rocks and coral.  By early afternoon they would have pulled themselves up onto the beach in an area the hotel had fenced off to keep people away.  There they would sleep all afternoon and into the night.  Come by during the afternoon and you could see them.  In the evening, lights on the beach would be switched on and you could still make them out a little way above the waterline.

No pictures from me of them in action.  I saw plenty of them while snorkeling on the reef and sometimes they would come and check me out.  You are meant to avoid disturbing them but when they come after you, it is hardly your fault.  However, I did kill my GoPro while out snorkeling so the photo opportunities were lost and will have to remain as memories.  Shots of them on the beach were a lot easier though so that is what we have here.

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Another Go at 777-300ER Rotations

Getting repetitive here.  My never ending quest to capture and demonstrate the unusual gear articulation of the Boeing 777-300ER gets another outing.  Similar animation of some stills as before.  This time the light was good and the distortion was limited so here we go again.  I won’t bother with the technique aspects this time.  Instead, here is the animation with the rotation about the rear axle pretty easy to see.

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Cinder Cones

The active volcanoes are cool to see but the landscape on the Big Island is dotted with plenty examples of where the earth has had a previous effort at disgorging its contents.  The mountains of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea look exactly like you would expect a volcano to look with a nice big flat conical structure.  However, the eruptions have not all come from the top of the mountain.  There have been regular eruptions from weak points along the surface of the mountains and these eruptions have left their mark in more ways than just the lava flows scarring the slopes below them.

When the lava breaks out, it hardens as it reaches the surface.  The deposits around the opening grow and you create a mini version of the mountain.  These are called cinder cones.  They are scattered all around the landscape and each was the site of a previous eruption.  The center is hollow where the lava flowed out and sometimes the weakest side may have collapsed to leave the cone a little more exposed.  The color of the rock can be pretty dramatic too.  They look so benign now but at their most active peak, these places would have been spewing forth huge quantities of red hot molten rock.  They would not have been a good place to be.

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Old Spirit Colors and the Brief Livery

AU0E1115.jpgChanging the colors of an airline is usually something that happens infrequently.  It always gets a lot of comment when it happens but brand continuity is often a big deal.  This is where Spirit is different.  They flew for a long time in their gray scheme that had a digital block pattern going on.  They changed to have something that was far brighter with a white fuselage and a blue fin with some color accents.  When I saw a yellow jet at Oakland, I thought it must be some special livery.  It turns out that it wasn’t and that this was their new “new” scheme.  I’m not sure what the problem was with the previous one but obviously it didn’t last.  I wonder whether they even had time to repaint the fleet?

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Forget the Surfers – Look at the Waves

Watching the surfers trying to catch the big waves was cool but, even when they didn’t make it, I wasn’t disappointed.  The waves themselves were fantastic to watch.  The color of the water as the waves built up as they came into the shallows and then became unstable and broke was fantastic.  The spray from the breaking wave would fly back up the face of the wave and over the crest.  Sometimes you would briefly see into the tube and the wave rolled towards us.  Fantastic stuff and so powerful!

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Helijet S-76s

AE7I0209.jpgOur trip to Vancouver was not one for me to spend time photographing aviation.  However, I did manage to sneak some shots in while I was there.  Watching the floatplane operations was a lot of fun but it meant I didn’t get to go to the heliport further along the shoreline.  This was fine by me but I did still see some of the Helijet S-76s as they departed and arrived since they came across the harbor albeit at a distance.  I grabbed a few images for now.  I guess I have multiple reasons for making a return trip to Vancouver before too long.  I know Nancy won’t object to returning!  Better not mention the helicopters just yet though.


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