IFAW Seal Hunt Watch 2008 - Safety Preparations
Before the IFAW team headed out to see this year’s harp seal herd in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we had a safety briefing to help orient ourselves with the helicopters that would be taking us out to see the seals.
Our pilot explained some of the very important safety precautions all of us must take when we enter and exit the machine. The flight team learned how to approach the helicopter, by staying low and always walking in front of the helicopter so the pilot can see us at all times.
Under no circumstances are we to approach the helicopter from behind. Our team leader, Cheryl Jacobson reminded us, “it’s like a horse…never walk up behind one or you’ll get kicked.” Good point – especially since a kick from a tail rotor of a helicopter would most certainly be a fatal one.
We also discussed where the safety equipment – (satellite phones, life rafts, etc.) was located and how we can access it. For most of our briefing, we watched the pilot point out important parts of the helicopter and listened to what we needed to do.
However, for one part we actually had to practice getting in and out of the helicopter as it was hovering a few feet above land. The pilot wasn’t sure if the ice in the gulf was going to be thick enough to support the weight of the machine so we had to approach the helicopter while it was hovering, open the door carefully, distribute our weight evenly and slowly as we climbed in, scoot across the back seat and exit out the other side.
Once we made it out of our hanger and into the gulf, there was plenty of ice and we were able to land safely on it. Luckily we got to see some happy beater seals too. This was my first year seeing baby seals on the ice, and watching them play just made the thought of the commercial seal hunt even more of a disgrace.