Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Abyss

At 100 feet below the surface of Puget Sound you begin to see new life forms, like the 'sea whip' in the sketch above (exactly what it is, I'm not yet sure: it's likely related to the 'sea pen', but isn't that, exactly.)

What lies at 200, 300, 400 feet? Do we really believe we know much about the oceans--which cover 75% of the planet--and the beautiful, strange and eerie things that live in them?

In the sketch Todd and I float freely above an undersea canyon, looking down a cliff edge that dropped 500 feet.

On another dive this weekend we went to 132 feet. No narcosis, no problems, clean dive. We keep going.

Todd will move to Vermont later this summer; then I'll begin diving with Angela, and, sometimes, alone. Being alone down there, facing a dozen primordial dreads, will be special...Below, a photo of my "pony tank" -- a redundant supply of breathing gas with a redundant regulator (breathing device)-- slung across my chest. I don't dive below 100 feet without it. It supplies a completely separate backup to may main scuba breathing gas supply (scuba tank, on my back) and my main scuba regulator. Photo by Angela Perri.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The Arctic cliffs I've identified for this Winter's flying are 900 feet high. Seconds after launch I'll soar out over them and the slope will drop steeply down to fields of cracked sea ice. It should look something like the sketch above, where you see me as a dot suspended below my wing, directing it to turn now and head in for landing...or to spiral-dive for the ice before leveling off for a swoop landing.

It's Arctic Winter, but flying at night won't be dark. There are so many lights in the sky, and they reflect up off the landfast snows and ice.

There are the tilting and fading aurora; there is the incomprehensible glow of the Milky Way; there are small, bright whips and larger lashings of glittering snow being blown up from surface of the frozen sea, drawn up and up the cliff face by wind. There are the cold, friendly stars, of course, and the colored, hurrying planets; and there's the reflection of the white disc of the Moon, which makes fields of snow come up bright, shining. The only darkness, really, is between the lights.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Arctic Circles

The other night, after hours spent poring over maps of the Arctic coasts of Alaska, I found it: the perfect place for paragliding aviation of the kind I want to do there: low and slow flights, alone and in the darkness of Arctic Winter. As I surveyed my charts, inscribing circles around peaks showing how far I could fly depending on launch elevation, wind speed and wind direction, a perfect conjunction appeared. I dropped my compass. This was it! I leaned over the map. Were my numbers right, my circles the right size? Yes. This was it! This was the place! Laughing out loud, I looked closer at my discovery.

The site has four peaks in a rough square about two miles on a side; a flight down from any of these peaks--depending on winds, my wing's glide ratio, my speed and a dozen other factors--should land me at a base camp in short order; my flights look to be about 2-5 minutes in duration. I can fly from halfway up a slope and skim tundra all the way down. I can hike up the backside of a peak and launch off it's West side, where just seconds from launch the cliff will drop nearly a thousand feet to the frozen sea below. I will place caches of emergency rations, stove fuel, and spare charts in various strategic locations so I am never more than a mile from supplies that can keep me alive.

The base camp site is above and a primitive attempt at sketching out a flight planning sheet is shown below, as is a table estimating flight time in minutes for launches at various altitudes with flights at certain glide slopes and speeds.

But I have to keep in mind that wind, my weight, and my efficiency at flying the wing all warp my tables and theoretical projections. The tables and numbers are only the crudest guides. I think of them as gesturing, vaguely, at reality. I need to know them, but I musn't think they're reality.