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Island dispatch

Original post made by Don Frances on Feb 23, 2009

THE PRESS RELEASE came in last week from our very own 129th Rescue Wing, stationed here at Moffett Field: "Guardsmen airlift critical equipment to Farallon NWR."

The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge -- better known as the Farallon Islands or Farallones -- is a tiny island cluster about 30 miles off the California coast, due west of San Francisco. It is a major breeding ground for several endangered sea birds, as well as for elephant seals and other assorted weirdo sea life, making it an important spot for biological research. For this reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the islands, contracts caretaker duties to a biological research outfit called PRBO.

So it happens the islands are run, for the winter months, by my old friend Derek Lee, a biologist for PRBO who specializes in elephant seals (Web Link).

According to the press release:

"California National Guardsmen from the 129th Rescue Wing assisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Feb. 17 and 18 by transporting critically needed facility batteries to the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.
"Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and aircrews were part of the operation to transport 48 photovoltaic batteries, each weighing 300 pounds, for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"'The Fish and Wildlife Service was having trouble getting a vehicle to make the swap,' said Maj. Rhys Hunt, 129th Rescue Squadron operations officer. The 129th coordinated with the agency and managed to fit the missions into the flight schedule.
"After the new batteries were delivered to the Farallon Islands, the used batteries were dropped off on Treasure Island near San Francisco for disposal. In total the helicopters transported more than 14,000 pounds of batteries to power the lighthouse and Fish and Wildlife Service research facility workshop."

A post with more info on the drop currently tops the "Los Farallones blog," Web Link.

So, just another day at the office for the Air National Guardsmen, and for Derek, who next month will wrap up the winter season at the Farallones before heading off to French Frigate Shoals to study monk seals (don't ask). Till then he'll continue monitoring the elephant seals as they lay about making ugly noises and engaging in spasmodic violence.

In fact, one of the main perpetrators of this violence, a bull named Don Francisco, was named after me. You can actually watch a video of Don vanquishing his last foe here: Web Link. I'm awfully proud of the little two-and-a-half-ton monster.

For more Farallones footage, an amazing array of wildlife photos (including some from French Frigate Shoals) can be found here: Web Link.

As for the 129th, when they're not assisting the Farallones "research facility workshop," they're saving people in distress from capsized ships and flooded cities (Web Link), plucking them out of the water with their HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters. More info on the 129th is available at www.129rqw.ang.af.mil and at www.youtube.com/129thRescueWing.

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