Gallery Problems Exercise

Flight of the Albatross

Work Time

Flight of the Albatross

The albatross is a very large bird (with a wingspan of more than 12 feet). These feathered giants live near oceans, and New Zealand has a large number of them. An albatross can soar like no other bird. Recent research has shown interesting details about the behavior of the albatross in New Zealand. Some birds soar nearly continuously but just around their island. Another group migrates from New Zealand all the way to the Indian Ocean. The rest fly around the world, without landing, and return to their home base in as little as six weeks. There are also some albatross that continue, without landing, to soar for another trip around the globe.

Albatrosses fly so much that both getting into the air and landing are very difficult. They need some kind of a runway to take off, and landings are sometimes more like crashes.

Look at this coordinate system of the Earth.

You see the meridians (from the North Pole to the South Pole) and the parallels (parallel to the equator). New Zealand lies on the 45th parallel south.

  1. If you fly around the world going due east all the time, the maximum distance of the trip is about 25,000 miles. Explain why.
  2. What is the shortest distance around the world if you fly along a parallel?
  3. Suppose an albatross flies within a band between the 30th south parallel and the 60th south parallel.

    a. Estimate the distance around the Earth within this band. Think of ways to make an argument that your guess is correct.

    b. The path of an albatross is not straight; the albatross does not make “direct flight.” Suppose the distance traveled by the albatross is four times the straight-line distance you estimated in problem 3(a), and the albatross completes the trip in six weeks. Estimate the albatross’s speed in miles per hour.