Andean Cordillera Expedition 2005
"On the wings of Condor"
With its 3 meter wingspan, the Condor is the biggest bird in the world. Soaring over its natural habitat in the Andean Cordillera, it has a unique technique of gliding flight. Yet the Condor is an endangered species, and is protected throughout South America by international treaty. There are several projects throughout the world which aim to safeguard the bird, and to try to reintroduce it to its natural habitat.
Our project started with a condor egg, generated by a pair of condors in captivity.
This egg was incubated in the biology laboratory of biology at the breeding Centre of Vienna.
And so the chick will undergo the process of visual imprinting from the moment it hatches, right under Angelo's hang-glider.
Angelo's hang-glider - designed and built especially for this project - will have the same flight characteristics as the condor itself. Even the wings are the same colour as a condor's: black. The same team of biologists who followed Angelo's previous events will also be following this incredible naturalistic and sporting.
Angelo's phenomenal past experiences of imprinting other species of birds, born in captivity and destined to be reintroduced to the wild, will be put to good use in this case. That experience, consolidated during the course of his previous events, has allowed him to define the precise strategies which are appropriate to the situation of a bred fledgling which will have to fend for itself. In his previous events, he has:
- 2001 crossed the Sahara with a Steppe Eagle
- 2002 crossed Siberia with a flock Siberian Cranes
- 2004 flown over Everest with a Nipalensis Eagle
Just as in the past, Angelo's hang glider will be the principal point of refernce for the hatched chick. The black glider will to all intents and purposes be its parent. As the chick grows, Angelo will teach it to fly, and to survive. From him the bird will learn the secrets of ascending air currents and of finding food in the wild. He will teach it survival.
And when the young bird has finally become self sufficient, Angelo will release it into its original natural habitat: the Acongua National Park in the Andean Cordillera.
The Aconcagua National Park boasts the highest peak of the Cordillera: known to the Incas as Ancocahuac, its 6.690 mt make it not only the highest peak in South America but also the the highest mountain outside of Asia. As such it is one of the 'Seven Summits' - the seven highest mountains in each of the seven continents. Rising majestically over the Relinchos and Horcones valleys, it takes its name from the Quechua words anco (white) and cahuac (sentinel). With its snow covered peak, truly the mountain stands guard over the Atlantic to the west and the Pacific to the east.
"Flying with Condors" will have three main threads:
A Naturalistic and Scientific thread, with the hatching, raising, training and reintroduction of the condor into the wild in Aconcagua National Park
A Technology and Innovation thread: the use of modern fibres for the wing design will push the forefront of aerodynamics further
A Sport and Adventurer thread during the migration flight with a world first : the crossing of South America from Santiago to Buenos Aires flying over Aconcagua Peak just like Condor, in free flight
These three threads lend themselves to a documentary, which will narrate the event. Enriched with extraordinary unpublished shots, from the condor's point of view during his trans-andean migration.
This project, which starts out from the egg in the incubator, will have several important scientific and technologic moments:
on the nature side:
- scientific method
- imprinting in incubator (with the sound of Angelo's voice - like parent)
- hatching under the black glider (black is natural colour of parent)
- feeding immediately after Angelo's flights (landing near the nest and feeding the chick)
- first flight together (fledging)
- flight experience (catching thermal and ascending currents)
- finding food in the wild (teaching strategy)
on technology side:
designing and building a specific hang glider with the same flight characteristics as a condor. This one will be projected in Elasis Laboratory (Naples) and built in Icaro 2000 workshop (Varese)
testing hang glider and harness it in the Fiat wind tunnel in Turin.
on challenge to fly over Aconcagua:
physical preparation in Etna region
physical test in hypobaric chamber in the Centre for Aerospatial Medicine