One of my posts last month ended with video footage from May 2012 when archaeologist Brian Wilson let me accompany him on field trips to Old Goa, collecting surface data (potsherds, roof tile fragments etc), clues left behind by antiquity.

Well, a few weeks ago I accompanied him again, to the old city, but on a mission with a slightly different mission: to send a helium balloon-powered kite up into the sky, with a camera attached, to get birds’-eye pictures of the place. Move over Indiana Jones, here comes James Bond! Who said archaeology wasn’t cool?

The objective was to take photographs of the walled perimeter of the old city, of what still remained of it and hopefully there would be tell-tale vegetation changes that would reveal where the some portions of the wall might have stood, even though now gone.  

Here’s a glimpse of the flying camera before lift-off:


In case you were wondering how much this baby costs, I have no idea, but Brian had printed his contact details and “Reward if found” on it in bold black ink, which makes me think it’s probably worth a few bucks.

The contraption lives at the ASI (Archaeology Survey of India) office in Old Goa between missions, and needed to be ferried by truck to its lift-off locations.

The first step involved removing its tarpaulin blankets, and then checking if the helium in the balloon needed topping up.

Then the balloon-kite was loaded onto the back of the pick-up truck by Brian’s helpers (Amaresh and Manjunath), and our journey began. First stop: just off the NH4 bypass, next to the Navelcar estate (not far from the water tank). The fortification wall of the old city (Cidade de Goa) runs through here, and the Navelcar development is smack bang in the middle of it. Construction projects like these should never have been allowed within the heritage precincts but that’s another story.


Two cameras need to be sent up at each location: 1. an infra-red (a modified Canon point-and shoot) and 2. another point-and-shoot for colour pictures. The camera is fastened to its harness on the kite by a solitary screw (the same socket used to fasten the camera to a tripod). 


Once a good location has been found, (clear of tall trees and buildings, and power lines that could cause the kite string to get snagged) and a good wind seems to be blowing,it’s lift-off time. But not before Brian has donned his protective hand-gear (gardening gloves actually) and hooked the line of the kite to his belt before unspooling it.    




We managed to fit in just one location that afternoon: the spot along the Rajbhid (Royal path of the Kadambas) not far from the gateway arch that served as one of the entry and exit points into and out of the walled Old City.


Sadly the wind this time was not in our favour, and the balloon-kite drifted away from the wall. It was not possible to get any closer due to the high-voltage electricity lines almost parallel to the wall.


Here is a picture of the kite being “put to bed” after we returned. She flew a few more times before Brian’s stint in Goa ended, and I think she was shipped back to the US along with the Wilsons.

Fly Another Day!

Bond would have approved.