What's it like to see the world as a soaring eagle sees it? This week, humans will find out.
A white-tailed eagle named Victor will fly over the Alps with a camera mounted between its wings. The camera will record five flights by the bird over the European mountain range and organizers hope the footage will help move the world to action to combat the effects of climate change.
“Humanity has two dreams: to swim with dolphins and fly with eagles,” French falconer and Freedom Conservation founder Jacques-Olivier Travers told the Associated Press. “This is the first time that we’ll really ride on an eagle’s back over such distances and such vistas, and see how he flies.”
“How can you convince people to protect the birds and their environment if you never show them what the birds see?” he added.
Weather permitting, the nine-year-old Victor will set off Thursday from the top of the Swiss mountain Piz Corvatsch with a 360-degree camera on his back and a GPS to track his progress. He’ll fly through Germany, Austria and Italy before ending his mountain tour in France on Oct. 7.
A colleague will release Victor from the top of each peak. During each flight, the eagle will fly 1.8 to 3.1 miles — and descend 5,000 to 9,800 feet — in search of Travers below.
“I don’t have a remote control. So if he doesn’t see me and decides not to come to me, he could go anywhere,” Travers said.
That’s why the flights are weather dependent. If Victor’s vision is obscured by clouds, “he won’t come,” Travers said. “It’s essential that he sees me.”
Carrying a camera does slow Victor down.
“It’s a bit like putting a washing machine on the roof of your car. You don’t go as fast and you use more energy,” Travers said. “It’s the same for him. He doesn’t fly as fast with that on his back and it demands a greater effort from him.”
Victor’s flight comes as Italian authorities are scrambling to respond to fears that part of a large Italian glacier near Mont Blanc is on the verge of collapsing. They’ve warned that falling ice could endanger homes and people in the Val Ferret area, a popular hiking area.
“We hope that once more, people are going to see nature from a totally different perspective and just reconnect to it and realize that wow, it’s actually something that is amazing and that we want to do something to preserve,” Freedom Conservation Managing Director Ronald Menzel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.