Tag Archives: United States

Time Machine

The WWII vintage Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress featured in these photographs was purchased by the Collings Foundation in 1986, and restored to its current configuration by Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft.  It has been painted to represent the “Nine-O-Nine” in honor of a 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Squadron Flying Fortress which completed 140 missions without an abort or loss of a crewman.  This aircraft, along with a restored Consolidated B-24J Liberator and North American P-51C Mustang visits approximately 110 cities around the United States each year as part of the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour.

I recently had the privilege of photographing and riding in Nine-O-Nine when she visited the Wings Over Miami Air Museum.  The low altitude 3o minute flight gives the riders some small sense of what it was like for the crews that flew these magnificent machines into combat in the skies high above Europe.  The feeling was uncanny, and one that I will never forget.  Check out the foundation’s website for the tour schedule, and if you find that these aircraft will be visiting an airport near you, it will be well worth the effort to go see and experience them first hand.

Santos-Dumont Demoiselle

Alberto Santos-Dumont was a wealthy Brazilian who, following his first ride in a hot air balloon in Paris in 1897, became thrilled with flying.  He became an inventor and excellent self-taught engineer and craftsman.  Santos-Dumont went on to design several early dirigibles, gliders, and airplanes.

In 1908 Santos-Dumont built and flew his third airplane called the Demoiselle.  It weighed and cost less than a motorcycle of the day, and has been described as the world’s first ultra-light airplane.  The Demoiselle was a monoplane constructed of canvas and bamboo with three bicycle wheels for landing gear, and powered by 28 horsepower flat twin Darracq engine.  The plane could be disassembled, carried in the back seat of a car, and reassembled when the owner wished to fly.  Nicknamed the “infuriated grasshopper,”  the Demoiselle flew well with small pilots, could reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour, and held the world’s altitude record at one time.

The aircraft in the accompanying photos is a flying replica of the Santos-Dumont Demoiselle.  The primary difference between the replica and the original is the substitution of metal tubing for the bamboo in the airframe construction.  The photos were taken during an antique aircraft fly in hosted by the Wings Over Miami Air Museum located at the Kendall-Tamiami Airport near Miami, Florida.

Cape Florida Light

Built in 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse is recognized as the oldest structure in South Florida and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

It became the only lighthouse to have been attacked by Native Americans when a band of Seminole Indians attacked and burned the tower in July of 1836.  The threat of further attacks prevented reconstruction for more than ten years and, the lighthouse remained out of service until 1847, when it was rebuilt.  A U.S. Army base was later built nearby to protect the land and sea from subsequent attacks.  Later in January 1861, Florida seceded from the Union, and one night in August of that year, the lamps and burners were removed from the lighthouse and the center prism of the lens was smashed so it could not be used to help the Union sailors controlling the surrounding waters.

After the Civil War, Cape Florida Light was repaired, but in 1878 it was extinguished, this time because the offshore Fowey Rocks Light had replaced it.  By the 1920s the coastline had eroded so much that the lighthouse, originally 100 feet from shore, now stood only 10 from the water.  Tropical storms had also destroyed the keeper’s house and cookhouse.

The lighthouse was finally purchased, along with the tip of Key Biscayne, by the State Cabinet in 1966.  Following the opening of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, named in honor of the news editor who spearheaded the campaign to save the lighthouse, it underwent its first restoration in 1967-70.  One hundred years after Cape Florida Light had been extinguished, it was re-lit on July 4, 1978.  The rest of the station was also brought back to life, as the keeper’s dwelling , outhouse, cookhouse, and cistern were all rebuilt.  However, following Hurricane Andrew the light and keeper’s house had to be restored a second time in 1992-96.

The lighthouse is open for tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Thursday through Monday.  While the 109 step climb is not for the faint hearted, the fresh breeze and beautiful views from the tower’s top are well worth it.  Inside the lighthouse property, you will also find a replica of the keeper’s cottage burned by the Seminole, which contains displays depicting early life on the island.

Monterey Harbor Seals

These harbor seals were photographed just offshore of Monterey California‘s Cannery Row.  Harbor seals are found in coastal areas of both the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.  They typically exhibit two color phases, light and dark.  During the winter months, harbor seals spend most of their time at sea feeding on fish, octopus, and squid.  They breed and molt during the summer months; and are often seen in groups hauled out on sand bars, beaches, or exposed intertidal reefs.

Año Nuevo State Park

Año Nuevo State Park is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal. So named because of their large size and long pendulous noses on the males. These large animals spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only to molt, give birth, and mate. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes.

During the breeding season, December through March, the seals can be seen via guided walks. Most of the adult seals are gone by early March, leaving behind the weaned pups who remain through April. The elephant seals return to Año Nuevo’s beaches during the spring and summer months to molt.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the park on two occassions during the breeding season.  The photo entitled “elephant seal breeding ground” depicts a group of the seals on the beach with Año Nuevo Island (also part of the park) in the background.  The photo entitled “keeping cool” is an image of a male elephant seal throwing sand on his back to keep the Sun off.

Beware The Dog

The North American F-86 Sabre is one of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time. It entered service with the USAAF in 1949, and was the fist US swept wing jet fighter.  The design took advantage of flight research data seized at the end of WWII from the German Luftwaffe that was used to develop the world’s first operational jet fighter the Messerschmitt Me 262.

The F-86 was instrumental in denying air superiority to the Chinese during the Korean War during which it gained a reputation as a Mig killer achieving a kill ratio of 10:1 against the Soviet built Mig-15.  After the Korean War ended, many Sabres entered service with dozens of foreign air arms; becoming the most produced Western jet fighter with a total of 9,860 built.

The F-86 in the accompanying pictures was photographed during the 2007 Wings Over Miami Air Museum’s annual air show.  This Sabre can be seen on display at the museum when not touring the national air show circuit.

Never Say Never Again Wreck

The Never Say Never Again Wreck is a 110 foot freighter that was seized as a drug runner by the Bahamian government; and sunk by a film crew off the Clifton Point , New Providence Island in the Bahamas.  The wreck was initally used as a set for part of the filming of the movie Never Say Never Again which was essentially a remake of the movie ThunderballSean Connery played the role of Ian Flemming‘s famous fictional secret agent James Bond in both films.  The wreck sits upright in about 50 feet of water on a sand bottom, and makes for a spectacular dive.

Snoopy vs. The Red Baron

Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” depicts a fully restored WWI Sopwith Camel biplane and a Fokker Dr1 tri-plane that toured the US in the early 1970’s as a promotion for the Millbrook Bread Company.  At the time, the company’s advertising used the “Snoopy” character from Charles Schultz‘s Peanuts” comic strip; who had a “famous rivalry” with dreaded “Red Baron.”

I had the opportunity to see these beautifully restored antique aircraft perform a mock dogfight over the Hamburg Aerodrome in my home town of Hamburg, NY during their tour of the country.  I was in the process of obtaining my private pilot license at the time, and had flown in and out of the Hamburg Aerodrome on a number of occasions.

Pier 39 Sea Lions

In the Fall of 1989, a colony of Sea Lions established itself on the docks of Pier 39 at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Pier 39 Sea Lions quickly became a popular natural tourist attraction from late Summer to late Spring every year.  The colony ranged in size from 150 to as many as 1700 animals.

I had the opportunity to photograph this amazing scene during a visit to San Francisco in 1993.  Unfortunately, the Sea Lions suddenly left Pier 39 in November 2009.  While there has been much speculation among experts as to why, no one has been able to discover a definitive reason.  The Sea Lions have been missed by everyone except the local fishermen, who are happy to have less competition for the local catch.

Spotty

 Spotty  is an African Leopard who currently lives at the Southern Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Homestead, Florida.

Several years ago, I was a volunteer at the Center for about five years. During that time I had the privilege of working with and photographing various animals including a number of big cats.

Spotty’s previous owner kept him in a small cage near a construction site. The construction workers used to poke at Spotty with sticks so they could hear him growl. After the situation was reported to the authorities, Spotty was brought to the Center. It took a long time for Spotty to start trusting humans again, and he will still react when he sees someone who reminds him of a person who mistreated him as you can clearly see in the photo under the Pot Pourri section of this site!