Captain Hamish Harding, Chairman of Action Aviation, is one of five people on board the submarine vessel that lost contact with its guide ship while exploring wreckage of The Titanic on Sunday. Captain Harding’s company that negotiated the deal with the privately owned, tiger-faced airliner that ferried the big cats to India on September 17, 2022, said an official here
He personally accompanied the cheetahs to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park and was photographed with the international cheetah team and Prime Minister Modi at the welcoming ceremony.
On the flight to India, Captain Harding was carrying the flag for The Explorers Club to note the historical significance of the transcontinental cheetah relocation mission. Captain Harding is a member of The Explorers Club, an American-based international multidisciplinary professional society with the goal of promoting scientific exploration. The club was founded in New York City in 1904, and serves as a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide.
Vincent van der Merwe, Cheetah Meta-population Project of South Africa; Captain Hamish Harding, Action Aviation; Barthelemy Balli, CCF Conservation Release Program Manager, Namibia; India Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Dr. Lauren Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF); High Commissioner of India to Namibia, Prashant Agrawal; Dr. Adrian Tordiffe, wildlife veterinarian, South Africa.
It is likely this shared gusto for adventure that led Captain Harding to undertake the dangerous expedition to view the undersea remains of the world’s most infamous shipwreck. Now, 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, and anywhere from the surface to a depth of 12,000 feet, Captain Harding and four others are lost. International teams of rescuers are racing the clock to find them before their 96-hour supply of oxygen runs out, agencies report.
The submarine vessel has been described as the size of a cargo van. Spotting it in the Atlantic Ocean without the benefit of a direct communications link is proving to be a mighty task. The search teams have a most difficult challenge. Freezing temperatures below the surface, bad weather, and getting necessary equipment to the Titanic site are obstacles complicating the rescue of Captain Harding and his companions at sea.
Project Cheetah was approved by the Supreme Court of India in January of 2020 as a pilot programme to reintroduce the species to India. The concept was first put forth in 2009 by Indian conservationists. On 20 July, the Republic of Namibia and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) around the conservation of cheetah. The MoU includes Namibia’s participation in Project Cheetah, with the government agreeing to donate the first eight individuals.
The B747-412 aircraft that brought the cheetahs to India is a passenger jet owned by Aquiline Int’l Corp. Ltd. based in the United Arab Emirates. Its charter was arranged by Captain Harding’s Action Aviation, a company specializing in finding difficult to source aircraft around the world. Action Aviation offers a wide range of services, including aircraft brokerage, management and financing.
The flight from Windhoek, Namibia, to Gwalior, India, marked the first time that southern African cheetahs were translocated to another continent to found a new wild population. By coincidence, the nose section of this Boeing 747 had been recently painted with the face of a wild feline prior to this historic flight.
Captain Harding hand-carried Explorers Club Flag number 118 on the mission. The flag is now archived at club headquarters in New York City along with documentation detailing the cheetah expedition.