Crew Area Complete: Another Day in the Life of a Survey Crew

Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.Some days the living is easy. The weather is good and the survey hums along. It was based on that kind of day that I wrote a blog a few years ago entitled “A day in the life of an air crew member.” Now here’s another chapter that shows a bit of contrast.

We had been waiting a couple of days for weather to break in Quebec City. While we always try to avoid painting ourselves into a survey corner, there really isn’t a good way to avoid it. The northeastern part of Stratum 56 is a narrow peninsula bounded by the St Lawrence River on the west, and the US border on the east. As we surveyed toward the north, our options to move to other survey lines become fewer and fewer. We had to finish this stratum before moving on, as our next stratum was a few hundred miles west.

So there we were, waiting for weather. The new day’s forecast looked flyable, though not fantastic. We packed our bags and launched from Quebec City, with the promise of decreasing cloud cover as we moved northward. We were able to survey about three miles of the first transect before the terrain rose to meet the cloud deck. Foiled. No worries. We’ll get it on our way back south. We moved north to try the next line. Curses, foiled again. As we moved north to try the third and final line (remember the promise of diminishing clouds?), the clouds became low enough and thick enough that I had to call air traffic control and request an instrument approach into Riviere du Loup.

After waiting and watching the rest of the morning, we were finally able to depart and complete the lines traveling back south. From there we moved on west, back toward Ontario, through solid instrument conditions, dodging embedded thunderstorms and ice along the way. While we initially planned to refuel and stop for the night at Mont Tremblant, the rapidly advancing leaf-out in the area adjusted our mind frame, and we flew another 10 segments in the late afternoon before calling it a day in North Bay.

So it went during this year’s survey. Nick and I constantly planned and replanned, ended up on Plan C or D more than once, waited until later in the day to depart due to low ceilings more often than not, and watched beautiful weather days pass us by (as is always the case) while the plane was undergoing inspections. It was an excellent survey though: the plane stayed healthy, Nick was a great observer and traveling companion, and the habitat of southeastern Ontario and western Quebec was good or excellent throughout. Another BPOP is complete for us, and it looks like a good year for waterfowl.