When our first tagged Bewick took off last week we knew we were on countdown to take off...
After months of training and years of planning Sacha was “very excited” to be finally setting off. “It’s going to be mind blowing this first stretch,” she said before she left on Monday.
She has now been flying for five days in the company of two other paramotorists, Alexander Bogdanov, a local paramotorist with detailed knowledge of the remote area they are flying over, and Dan Burton from the UK.
For the first 1000km of the flight it will be just the three of them, until they meet up with the ground crew in the coastal town of Mezen. The ground crew reached Arkhangelsk yesterday, just 389KM from Mezen. They left WWT Slimbridge last Wednesday and have made great time despite a 30-hour delay crossing the Russian border. We expect the paramotorists and the ground crew to reach their meeting point this weekend.
The first stretch was always going to be the most challenging with no backup on the ground, but so far so good. The weather has been kind to them and they are making good progress. They have been flying for around six hours a day and stopping to refuel every couple of hours at organised fuel drops along the flyway.
When she's not flying Sacha has been visiting local settlements and talking to schoolchildren about Flight of the Swans.
Sacha had spent the previous week in Naryan Mar, a remote town on the north coast of Russia which sees only around 100 non-Russian tourists a year. As you can imagine she attracted a lot of interest as she did her last few practice flights and talked to the locals about the expedition.
“People are so interested in what we’re doing here and they’re really getting behind the project. I’ve had so much help from everyone, I’ve been really touched by people,” she said.
“The kids have been amazing, giving me letters to take to the next town along the flyway, saying we’ll take care of the swans here and you can take care of them when they get to you,” she added.
Word had spread across the tundra by the time Sacha set off and the team can expect a warm welcome from locals as they make their way towards their meeting point with the ground crew.
Meanwhile in another part of Russia…
The HQ media team has spent the last week up on the tundra filming the Bewick’s as they prepare for the rigours of their migration.
They faced a five-hour boat ride to the remote Nenetsky Reserve, a popular spot for Bewick’s to prepare themselves for their migration because of the protein-rich aquatic plants that grow there.
The swans have proved wary and the crew has found it hard to get close to them. They've had to be imaginative in their filming, including crawling through icy arctic rivers. The team’s diet has been almost as interesting as the footage we hope to see when they return - apparently they have been surviving on raw fish and reindeer fat.
And what of Daisy?
Daisy Clarke, our first tagged Bewick to take off, had a long stop-off in the White Sea but has since been spotted with another adult - could it be a mate? The pair were seen a few days ago on a lake near Severodvinsk which is just 35km from the city of Arkhangelsk, where the ground crew is. They have since continued on their migration.