When I was a kid growing up, they were still whaling in this town. The spotter pilot flew around looking and when he found a pod of whales, he'd radio the coordinates to the chasers. The fleet of old Norwegian ships would take off like a mob of Orcas on the hunt, a 'bone in their teeth' as the water curled away from the bow.
These days the spotter pilots fly around over country, not sea, looking for smoke during the wildfire season. When they see smoke they radio it in to the office and, depending on the situation, someone will send out a fleet of trucks or water bombers. 'Air attack' the bombers are called and useful in areas of impenetrable terrain.
The neighbouring district have been burning this week. The planned burns to reduce fuel loads in case of wildfires also rejuvenate the bush with new growth and smoke-germinated seeds. I was in the tower when three burns went up in quick succession - massive clouds of smoke rising high on the horizon fifty or sixty kilometres away. I listened to the chatter of the spotters from that district and the next one, as they called in smoke descriptions and coordinates. The spotter in my district radioed me to say those last two smokes I called in were private burns and there was No Attention Required.
Something I've noticed and wondered about: The spotters from the northern regions are no longer just calling in smoke. They are also calling in whales. Dead whales. The body of a humpback. A forgotten fin whale's carcass, from the mass stranding last week. Bush smoke and dead whales. There's something that feels apocalyptic about this juxtaposition. There's something in this picture, and I don't know what it is. All I know is that I've been obsessing over it all week.