Wayne Davis’ spotter plane. Bare-bones, old-school. No steering wheel (he drives with a stick), 2 tiny seats, one in front of the other. Single prop. There was no flight attendant, no drink service, and no bathroom. We were in the air for 6 hours. Wayne’s mission was not to find bluefin tuna for a stick boat to harpoon (what Wayne often does, especially in June and July) but to photograph them and anything else, fish or marine mammal, that might be of interest.
From Westerly R.I., we flew down the south shore, passing over Point Judith lighthouse, then across Rhode Island Sound, down the length of Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands, across the eastern end of Vineyard Sound, all of Nantucket Sound, and finally out to Monomoy.
We searched around Monomoy off Chatham, Mass., and found 2 white sharks in super shallow water. The whites were cruising up and down the beach, their bodies gliding over the bright sand. There were hundreds of seals, both in the water and hauled out. The sharks blew me away, even though here in New England, especially off Monomoy, the media has been beating the white shark subject to death. But I had never seen a 10-foot white from the air before–and their bodies and how they moved–with this slow but subtle purpose, blew my mind. Just seeing them swimming there made the sharks entire exsistence come to life for me.
As I was in my white shark reverie, waxing this way and that about beauty, form and function, Wayne opened the window to take a picture. When he opened the window, a 65-knot breeze ripped into the cabin and blasted my reverie.
But that wasn’t the end of it. To get a good clear photograph of the fish, Wayne put the plane into a deep bank turn, pointing one wing toward the ocean. I held on. The food in my stomach– two hard-boiled eggs and an English muffin, lightly buttered–all went hard to port. The first few times Wayne turned like this, I was somewhat terrified. The motion is nothing like a hard roll on a boat. My mouth went dry. My mind raced. What if I can’t finish the day? What if I have to ask him to drop me off at the Chatham airport, a defeated man slumped by the vending machines, waiting for the bus.
Get a hold of yourself. Breathe. It’s what this man does for a living. Thousands of hours of flying time, thousands of bank turns. Then I got used to it and began to relax. We flew offshore to go find some tuna. I ate my sandwich and finished my coffee. I urinated into an old Clorox bottle. Things were going very well for me. From the tuna grounds we flew to the eastern edge of the Nantucket Shoals and out toward the middle of the Great South Channel. From there we back-tracked and started for home.
Species list of fish and animals we saw:
Minke whale, humpback whale, sperm whale. Porpoise. Bluefin tuna. Ocean sunfish. Bluefish. Striped bass. Sand eels. Menhaden. Blue shark, white shark, basking shark.
I’ll write further about all this, plus I’ll put up some photos that Wayne took of the animals we saw. I thank Wayne for taking me up in the air.