On Friday afternoon, I dropped Colin and his two fellow researchers at the helipad for their weeklong trip to Redonda. They had crammed the rental car full of supplies, including a week’s worth of food and water, tents, sleeping pads, a giant golf cart battery to power various pieces of science equipment,
fishing lizard-catching poles, and 60 lizard bags (handmade by me and Colin! I should have gotten a photo of those before they got smeared with lizard poop…). Notably, they did not take many clothes because when you’re stranded on an uninhabited, barely-vegetated rock in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, your wardrobe is the least of your worries. (You’d better believe we’re driving home with the windows down after I pick them up.)
Anyway, I helped unload the car and watched as they loaded everything, including themselves, onto the scale to make sure they were under the helicopter weight allowance. I squeezed Colin’s hand, double-checked that he’d given me the car keys, and prepared to see him off. At that point, though, the flight manager looked at me and asked, “Would you like to go along for the ride to drop them off?”
Would I!! I’d never flown in a helicopter, nor had I seen this rugged, no-longer rat-infested island that my husband would call home for a week. I guess I didn’t really believe that she was offering me a ride because I hesitated, but as soon as I realized she was serious I jumped up on the scale faster than a lizard running from a seabird. Either the guys had packed lighter than anticipated or they had sweated off a little weight in the Caribbean sun, but in any case, there was room for me to go. The flight manager laughed as I hopped on the scale, saying it was no problem to squeeze me in since I was only about the size of one of their pieces of luggage. Perks of being pocket-sized!
The flight was incredible. We were so, so lucky to have one of the clearest days yet, so we could see bits of Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, and several other islands (St. Kitts & Nevis? Anguilla?) off in the distance. And, of course, Redonda:
On the ride back, once I was no longer smushed between water jugs and duffle bags, I sat up front with the pilot. It was fascinating to hear the flight channel communications – at one point, a Jet Blue flight crossed in front of us, so there was a lot of chatter to make sure everyone was on an appropriate flight path – and to be able to see the ocean through the glass underneath my feet. I didn’t even know flying in a helicopter was on my bucket list, but now that I’ve done it—it definitely was. That ride just made my week.