Name ID 1128
Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19f
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul
Long before the sun rises, Tracy Robb and I have left camp to prepare her balloon. The clients arrive and we are airborne drifting across the Serengeti. From up here, the Serengeti comes alive. It is covered with animals. On the ground, the wind is from the south, and as we increase in altitude the wind comes from the east. The higher we go the more we turn to the left. This is how she steers. In the northern hemisphere it is the opposite; you will turn to the right with height. Tracy is from South Africa, and ballooning is her passion. I find my eyes are fixed to the ground as we drift along. The wildlife below is looking up at us, not knowing whether to watch or run as we pass.
Back on the ground, I am starting to notice that there are more female researchers than male researchers here. I feel a little bit like a Thompson's gazelle surrounded by cheetahs, and I am not sure that I am very comfortable about it. This surprises me, because I would have imagined that I wouldn't mind the attention, but this is different. I think males naturally like to hunt their prey or their mates, but they aren't so keen to have it the other way around. I find myself trying to avoid places and situations where I might be hunted. This is certainly a new experience for me, and I soon find security with John wildebeest.
John tells me that before the Drought of 1993, there were 1.6 million wildebeest. Now, there are .9 million. There are a quarter million zebra and a half million Thompson's gazelle. John conducts his research by putting grass on a one meter square platform sled and dragging it up to a group of gazelle. He doesn't stop his vehicle, so as not to frighten the gazelle, but he releases the sled. The idea is that the gazelle will then come up and feed off the sled. He can then compare the weight of the grass before and after they have fed. So far this hasn't worked, because the gazelle haven't fed of the platform, but John remains optimistic.
Late in the afternoon, I sit east of Seronera and watch the sun set over the horizon. After the sun goes down, the sky turns a brilliant red as the sun shines up on the base of the clouds. Normally, the sun sets quite quickly along the equator, but this red glow continues for a full 15 minutes as the surrounding darkness envelopes me. This is taking far too long. I study this until I become convinced that I have made a great discovery. The sun must surely be reflecting off of Lake Victoria like a mirror and bouncing back up into the sky. I cannot imagine any other explanation for what I am seeing, but unfortunately no one thinks this is possible.