By chance, we were in Sydney in March when an Antonov-124 Ruslan passed through on its way from the Avalon International Airshow. We took a train from the CBD to Tempe in the morning, though the Antonov was late to depart. We camped out on a few traffic bollards to wait. I spent the time photographing other incoming aircraft while Jack kept vigil.
After a few (6) hours, the unwieldy outline of the Antonov made it to short finals in the distance. With a camera in each hand, I took my eyes away from the viewfinder to watch unimpeded as the hulking mass of aircraft passed impossibly slowly over our heads. Fortunately, the shots lined up.
This particular Antonov-124, registered RA-82046, operates under Russian cargo company Volga-Dnepr Airlines. It's around 25 years old. It departed Sydney International the next day, bound for Hawaii.
Bought this at a book fair - $3! Private Aircraft Business and General - a pocket encyclopedia of word aircraft in colour since 1946. 80 full-color illustrations of private aircraft in planform. I wonder who Kev was?
Stretched over 10,000 square meters, the Irozaki Jungle Park was a botanical theme park near the Izu Peninsula in Japan. Opened in 1969, visitor numbers peaked at around 750,000 in 1973. As the complex of greenhouses aged, attendance tapered off. By the time the site closed, over 10 million visitors had passed through the park's gates. An an old guide says that the park was open daily from 8:30 am to 4:50 pm. Admission was 900 ¥.
Today, Jungle Park stands abandoned but eerily intact. Staplers, brochures, tape dispensers and magazines rest where they were set down at EOD, September 30, 2003. Behind sealed booths, sharpened pencils are bunched together neatly in tins. Thick rings of keys rust on carefully numbered hooks. A clock rests on 5:05. What little damage we did encounter was likely due to age rather than intervention otherwise.
We slipped over a rope, under a gate, and along a rough path that likely guided visitors during the park's heyday. According to an online tourist guide, the park once contained over 3000 species of tropical plants. Unchecked, the hardier of the specimens swallowed up their lesser counterparts and quickly spread over the site.
In the first of the colossal greenhouses, a large meerkat enclosure rests at the foot of a steep incline - its small family of furry residents having been relocated some time ago. Dubious wooden caricatures wave visitors through the chain of hot-houses. Dead topiary skeletons of elephants gesture at the failing roofing. Collapsed on the dregs of formaldehyde, a ray and an eel mark the service desk of an educational booth. Slumped animal cages that housed monkeys and birds are now packed with exhausted plant pots, out-dated signage and collapsed shelving.
The whole complex was surreal, and quiet. And hot. We visited the site in July, Summer in Japan. But inside the greenhouses we could barley hear the sound of midday cicadas. Though the dried scaffolding of dead cactus plants made an unsettling rattle if you kicked one accidentally.
According to the sign, the meerkats of Jungle Park were named Yoko, John, Guru and Koji.
On an undated press release titled "Greetings from Town Mayor", Katsuto Okabe, Mayor of Minamiizu seems to indicate a push for redevelopment of the Jungle Park site. I feel lucky we got to check the place out, while it still stands.
My article on the tough, built-to-last aircraft that brave the diverse environments of Australia and NZ is featured in this month's Aviator Magazine. The hash conditions of both countries require some pretty rugged aircraft. Have a look here.
This little mousey was photographed hiding by the suspension coils of Om Banna's 350 cc Royal Enfeild Bullet motorcycle.
The story goes that Om Banna was on his way out of Bangdi in Rajasthan, when he lost control of his motorcycle and was killed. Local police took the motorcycle to a nearby police station - only to have it vanish by the next morning. It was recovered later at its original crash site and taken back to the police station, only to have it vanish again. This continued for some time, with the bike faithfully returning to the crash site of Om Banna.
The bike's unwavering dedication to its rider endeared itself in the hearts of the locals and they built a glass housing for the Bullet Bike at the crash site. Now known as "Bullet Baba's Shrine", the site's sacred founder, Om Banna is said to ease the stress of travelers who pay their respects on the way past.
As for the mouse, it went quietly undiscovered until I sorted through images some time later. It was a welcome surprise, and the photo has since become a favorite of mine.
My photograph of Paul Bennet and Wolf Pitts Pro made it to the cover of Aviator Magazine this month. Inside, my full report on the Wings Over Illawarra airshow and a 12 page gallery of the event.
I also review the Piper Cherokee for Used Craft and take a look at the history of aviator watches in "Who Watches the Watchmen"?