Something else you didn’t know about Nelson

Could discovery confirmed with local involvement lead to greater human potential?

Imagine being 60% fitter / stronger than a Tour De France rider like Lance Armstrong? Peloton riders like those on the annual French pilgrimage are recognized as some of the fittest athletes on the face of the planet.

Well the Nelson region, or estuarial areas very close by and all the way out to Farewell Spit, host the southern end wintering grounds of the journey for this world record breaking Avian Airways flight.

This is what National Geographic reported …..

A female bar-tailed godwit shorebird was recently discovered to have flown 7,145 miles (11,500 kilometers) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand-without taking a break for food or drink. It’s the longest nonstop bird migration ever measured, according to biologists who tracked the flight using satellite tags.

The bird, a wader called a bar-tailed godwit, completed the journey in nine days.

And the Boston Globe updated the report (distance now to 7257miles) late last year……

As a feat of sustained exercise unrelieved by sleeping, eating, or drinking, the godwit’s migration appears to be without precedent in the annals of vertebrate physiology.

“The human species doesn’t work at these levels. So you just have to sit back in awe of it all,” said Robert E. Gill Jr., a biologist with the US Geological Survey, who headed the study.

The birds were expending energy at eight to 10 times the rate they do at rest. The previous record for a boost in energy output is seven times the “basal metabolic rate.” Peak output in human beings, achieved by Tour de France bicyclists, is a sixfold increase.

In Britain, The Guardian had quoted Theunis Piersma, a biologist at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.

“There is something special going on here. For a vertebrate this kind of endurance is just extraordinary.”

Piersma said the birds would have flapped their wings non-stop for the entire journey, and that the resulting energy requirement was the greatest in the animal kingdom. The birds would have gobbled up energy at some eight times their resting basic metabolic rate (BMR) during their week-long exertion, he said. Professional cyclists can only manage about five times BMR for a few hours. “Lance Armstrong would be no competition for these birds,” he said.

“What this suggests to me is that we haven’t yet mined the depths; we really don’t know what the extremes are,” said Kimberly Hammond, a physiological ecologist at the University of California at Riverside who was not involved in the research.

So next time you’re in Nelson or on the coast close by and see a bird you don’t usually spot this is what it could be. Although this is older news, in terms of advancing our knowledge, you just have to admit this little bird is amazing, and if it could lead us to attaining higher physical achievements, wouldn’t that have to be great for everyone of us?

Putting a Kiwi perspective on it….Rob Schuckard, who helped document E7’s (the bird pictured above) flight and is a team leader at the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, said it’s “like running for a week,” with the human equivalent being a super-athlete who could somehow sprint without resting at 43.5 mph throughout a week-long haul.