All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of our Kodiak

Join me for a day in the life of our Kodiak-- Papa Kilo Mike Echo Bravo (PK-MEB).  On Friday I had a busy day, flying a ton of people and stuff.   I flew an Indonesian pastor/missionary and his family to there remote place of ministry, a bunch of people back and forth from various villages, and got called to pick up a lady having complications in childbirth with twins.  It's hard to nail down what an "average" day is in the Kodiak, because aside from hauling lots of people and things, the only thing that can really be expected is the unexpected.

Nevertheless I decided to take my camera along the next day, Saturday, to give you a "ride-a-long" perspective of what I love doing--serving the people of East Kalimantan on the wings of MAF.  All of the pictures in this post, unless otherwise stated, were taken on Saturday, June 25th, during the nomral course of the flight day.

I started out with a schedule, as usual, but before my first take-off from home base, Tarakan, it had already changed.  Not unusual.  A call came in for a medevac flight from Malinau.  Since my passengers were already loaded up to go to Malinau, that part was easy.  Twenty five minutes later we landed in Malinau and re-configured the airplane to make room for the seriously injured patient, who'd fallen from the top of a high building.

Within an hour and ten minutes of receiving the call, we were putting this man into a waiting ambulance at the MAF hangar in Tarakan.  Then we further re-configured the plane to allow three full drums of Jet fuel to be back-loaded to Malinau for later use.   Malinau serves as an interior hub for passengers, loading and fuel.  Often, I can take four, 55 galon drums of fuel in one load, however, because MEB was already heavily fueled earlier in the morning in anticipation of the original schedule, I could only take three drums--still an 1,155 lb load.

After returning to Malinau and unloading the drums, we re-installed the six passenger seats (there are 10 seats available--pilot, co-pilot and eight passenger seats--but we don't typically use the aft two seats, at least not until we're able to get a cargo pod in the future).  We then loaded up eight passengers  (plus me makes nine total) and there stuff for the one hour flight to Mahak Baru.

In Mahak, we once again pulled all the seats out to allow for an all cargo load to be taken over to Long Sule.  With enough fuel to complete my flight to Sule, back to Mahak, back to Malinau plus reserve, I was still able to take 1,675 lbs of food and supplies in one load, more than twice what a Cessna 206 could take out of the same airstrip.  In the picture below, my good friends are loading 50kg (110 lb) bags of sugar into the airplane first, before the lighter cargo which will be stacked behind.

While Mahak Baru is accessible by land (several days of arduous boat and dangerous 4x4 travel), Long Sule is not accessible by anything other than foot or air.  So they rely heavily on the help of MAF for supplies of every kind.  The Kodiak makes quick work of the flight from Mahak Baru to Long Sule--less than 10 minutes by air--what would take about four days by foot.  And here we are unloading the goods in Long Sule.

Again, without the help of the village "agents", many of whom serve as the local village pastors as well, we would be really hurting--literally.  It's a lot of work to load and unload that much cargo, so I'm very appreciative of all the help.

Of course, that's not the end of the story.  The airstrip in Long Sule is a 425 meter strip (4% slope) that sits atop a little ridge just above the village which is nestled in the river valley below.  So usually a bunch of people show up with their nifty woven "utility" backpacks that they're famous for in the Apo Kayan region, and they shove an unbelievable amount of barang (stuff) into those packs and heft it down the steep slope to their village, all the while wearing very happy, big smiles!

So after Sule, I went back to Mahak Baru again, where we re-installed the seats again and loaded up another eight passengers (yeah, there's only seven passenger seats in our configuration, but that means someone was holding a lap passenger--small kids can sit on an adult lap with the use of a "kiddy belt") for the flight back to Malinau.

In Malinau we pumped one of those drums of Jet Fuel that I brought in earlier into my wing tanks, and also rearranged several seats to allow for a mixed load of passengers and barang (stuff) to the village of Binuang.  This time I had four adult men (plus me) and 625 lbs of supplies.  Right now, especially with loads like this, we're limited not by what the Kodiak could haul, but rather by the CG (center of gravity) limits.  When we are able to get an External Cargo Compartment (ECC) or "pod" as we like to call it, we'll be able to take several hundred more kilos on a mixed load like this, because much of the cargo can be placed beneath the airplane, further forward.

Anyway, after loading the plane we made the 20 minute flight to Binuang, another village that's inaccessible by anything other than foot or air.

Each village is different, but it always amuses me in Binuang and PaUpan and a few other villages, where the children come out in droves to carry the "barang" from the airplane back to the houses.  They seem to love it--laughing and smiling and giggling, all while wrestling heavy and awkward, stubborn boxes that often demand two kids work together to manage the weight.  

By this time it was about 4:00pm.  As you can see, the shadows are long and the sun is getting low, but the sky is unusually clear and beautiful for this time of day.  Typically, there would be large showers and thunderstorms dotting the sky, sometimes joining together to make lines of ugly, impenetrable weather.  But Saturday was not like that.  Recently, it seems the winds have been from the west, indicative of upcoming "dry" season, where the clouds drop most of their rains on the Malaysian side of the mountains.  Smoky season usually starts in July or August depending on the weather.

Here's one of those heavy boxes--a two-kid job!  It weighs about 25 lbs!

Well, usually, I'd be heading home after that last run, but today is a bit unique.  On Wednesday, Joy and the kids, along with several other MAFers went into PaUpan to do five days of VBS with the village kids.  Since I'm the only guy on the schedule to fly on Saturdays right now, and since they needed to be picked up on Sunday, and since I would be nearby Saturday afternoon, I offered to spend the night with the plane there Saturday evening.  PaUpan is a day and a half walk from Binuang, but less than five minutes by air.  When I landed, I was greeted by a whole bunch of excited little kids--including my own, that I hadn't seen since Wednesday morning, and of course, my beautiful wife!

Here's a picture of the MAF VBS team (this picture was taken the next day, Sunday).  Five adults and nine kids (one baby is not pictured--probably being carried around by one of the older village women at the time).  

So, after a long, full day of flying and serving the people of East Kalimantan, I secured Mike Echo Bravo in the little grassy parking area at the side of the strip, under what would soon become a clear and starry night.

The next afternoon, after they did the final VBS in the morning, and a full church service (Timo, our maintenance specialist preached the sermon), we all piled into the Kodiak for the 45 minute flight back to Tarakan.  You can't actually see them all, but there's 15 people in the plane, plus over 300 lbs of stuff.  The smiles say it all--tired, but energized and excited after five days of ministry interior!

Stay tuned for a post specifically about the VBS team's time in PaUpan.  I'll try to do that next.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

Very early Thursday morning I had the privilege of seeing a full lunar eclipse.  I shot the first photo, below with a 200mm f/2.8 lens, and left it totally unedited to give you a good idea of what it really truly looked like.  No cropping, enhancing, enriching, sharpening etc. etc.  This is exactly what it looked like through the camera.  (I did convert the image from RAW to JPEG and reduce the image size and compress it some--as I do with all the photos on this blog--to speed the upload and viewing of them in this format.  But to fully appreciate these night time pictures you really need to see the original image on a high-def screen. Some of the stars and details are lost on these compressed images.)

I got up just a little after 3am and headed up to Gunung Selatan, (South Mountain), which is little more than a sand hill a few hundred feet high that overlooks the downtown part of Tarakan.  There I sat for the next two and a half hours.  In this 15 second exposure at 10mm, (16mm full-frame equivalent), you can see the lights of downtown Tarakan lighting up the low clouds, and the red moon hovering above the reddish glow from the airport area.

Here's a bit of a closer look at it.  The way I understand it, the earth is between the sun and the moon, and the moon enters the shadow of the earth.  When it's fully in the middle of earth's shadow, the light from the sun has to bend around the earth through the atmosphere to get to the moon.  That process weeds out most of the wavelengths, with the exception of the red light, thus the reddish color.  It's kind of a pain to photograph (at least with the equipment I have) because it's only reflecting a fraction of the light that a "normal" moon would be showing.  As such, it's difficult to get the exposure correct and still get satisfactory sharpness.  You can't use a slow shutter speed, b/c the moon is actually moving a lot more quickly than you think and it will blur the edges if the exposure is even one or two seconds long.  So without a super duper expensive telephoto lens that lets more light in, you're forced to increase the ISO settings pretty high, which results in some grain visible in the moon.  But you still get the idea.

It stayed in the full eclipse state for about an hour and a half--the longest one in 11 years!  The below picture was taken just as it was starting to come out the other side of the shadow.  You can see that the top edge of the moon now has a brighter edge (from direct reflection of sunlight), while the lower edge is still in the shadow (and now appears darker because the exposure is set to be in the middle of the two extremes.  But even that little bit of reflected sunlight allowed me to use a lower ISO setting and longer lens to get more detail in the moon.  However, as it's now coming out of the shadow, much of the reddish color is fading in this shot.

Now for a comparison.  This is a picture I took two days later at almost the same time of morning, but with a normal (no lunar eclipse) moon.  It's actually very bright under normal circumstances and needs to be shot using a manual exposure setup that will compensate for this.  In this picture you can really see some of the moons details--craters, lines etc.  What's interesting to me is that the moon appears to be black and white, although it's a color picture.  The moon is really fairly colorless, but only reflects the yellowish or reddish color when the light is bent through the atmosphere on it's way to the moon.

Back to the lunar eclipse now; this is about a quarter of the way through the exit of the moon from earth's shadow.  I exposed it to show the part of the moon that was out of the shadow, reflecting the sunlight.  By doing so, the rest of the moon appears to be gone.  Had I exposed it to show the part that was still in the shadow, the top quarter would have just looked like a bright, undefinable light.  I know I know, you're probably bored out of your mind with this, but I think it's pretty cool!

Finally, here's a picture of the stars from the top of my hill perch, during the middle of the lunar eclipse.  Because it was an unusually clear night (especially for the tropics, where there's usually haze in the sky) and because the moon was darkened, the stars were out in full force!  It was a gorgeous spectacle!

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" --Psalm 8: 3-4

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Killer Nose Disease and a Wedding

WARNING:  This first little story is more than a little gross and disgusting.  It's quite graphic, but funny.  If you don't do gross and disgusting then feel free to skip down to the first wedding picture.  It gets better from there on down. 

This is Tanner's nose.  Last week Joy saw bloody stuff oozing out his right nostril.  And pus.  She put some medicine in there.  Next day it was worse.  And smelling bad too. We thought it was a staph infection so went and got some obat (medicine) at one of the local pharmacies (you don't need a prescription here for a lot of medicine if you know what it's called).  So for the next few days Joy faithfully applied topical medicine inside Tanner's infected nose, and made him swallow medicine.  It got worse, not better.

After I got home on Thursday I took a look inside that proboscis of his.  It looked awful!  Deep inside was a strange, spongy-looking, red fleshy growth of some kind, almost entirely closing off his nostril.  And it was obviously infected.  It was also causing him quite a bit of pain.  I had never seen anything like it, and after several days of antibiotics it didn't seem to be improving.  We decided to take him to the doctor.

The next day Joy took Tanner to the local Emergency Room.  The doctor there took a good look inside and was totally perplexed.  He told Joy that he'd never seen anything like it.  He had no idea what to do and told her she had to take him to the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist ASAP!  We didn't even know there was an ENT doctor in Tarakan.  So the next few hours were spent worrying and praying...what on earth could this horrific, bloody, pus-oozing, spongy-looking, tumor thing be, that's so impervious to direct antibiotics???   The worst possible scenarios played out in our minds.

That night while Joy was waiting in the long line to see the ENT, my cell phone rang.  It was Joy.  I expected news...was it good or bad?  "Tanner just told me that last week he bit off a piece of the red, foam, spongy-moose bath toy, and stuffed it up his nose.  He just remembered."  Ummmmmm, he did what????  Not that I would expect anything less from a little mischievous boy.  (You may remember his twin brother, Tyler's, episode with the coin last year?)  Well, a few minutes later and a simple pull from a pair of tweezers and all was well again.  So if you ever have a bad case of proboscis peniculus morbus (from the Latin meaning proboscis sponge disease--yeah, we named it ourselves)  try the ol' tweezers before you head off to the doc!

********************END OF GROSS STORY************************

In other news, Joy and one of her MAF friends, were asked to be in a wedding this week.  Their very good friend, Fatimah, asked them to accompany her in her best friend's wedding.  Fatimah is standing beside Joy on the left. 

A few weeks before the wedding Joy and friend were taken to a penjahit (person who sews) who measured them and then made these beautiful traditional outfits.

Outside the reception hall, there was plenty of activity and good food.

Nearby a guy was selling cheap, lighted toys.  They were blinking and whirring and swirling and generally sucking in children and their parents like black lights suck in bugs at night.  I'm not sure but I think the guy must have made a killing that night!

A few more random shots at the reception.


Isn't she gorgeous!?

What do you think their favorite colors are?

These ladies were singing and doing the Emcee thing, and doing quite a fine job if I do say so myself.

Well, there you have it.   A lot more happened this week, but alas, my time for posting is gone, so that's all you get for now.  Thanks for dropping by.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mangrove Swamp

Recently I've been flying on Saturdays, so I have a Sunday-Monday weekend.  On Monday morning I went down to the mangrove swamp for a few hours with the the camera.  Here's a sampling of what I saw.

A toothy macaque monkey.  

The elusive proboscis monkey.

Joy's and the kids' favorite local bird--a king fisher?  I worked hard for two hours trying to get a shot of one of these.  They're very wary and don't let you get close.

A small skink.


I love these little crabs.  They come in bright and varied colors--blue, yellow, red, pink, orange.  But they're very tiny and I've only ever seen them in one small spot.  This blue one is the largest I've ever seen.  It was a little smaller than a US quarter (as in $.25 piece).  

This red one was about the size of a very small Lima bean.  And it was about eight feet below me in the mud--hence, it's not the clearest picture in the world, but you get the idea.

Hope you enjoyed the tour through the mangrove swamp.  Stop by often to see a smattering of ministry, wildlife and "Forney life" pictures from Indonesia.