I present you with the cover of the Said the Whale album, Hawaiii. Why it’s spelt with an extra ‘i’ is a mystery to me.
I find the photo absolutely striking. It shows a Harvard trainer at an altitude of about ten feet, with a bunch of military personnel scattering at its approach. The minimum rated flight level of the Harvard is 200 feet, so this is indeed a recklessly dangerous flight altitude.
What surprised me is that despite the surreal image, this isn’t a digital creation. It’s an actual photograph. I have no doubt that it’s been ‘adjusted,’ but it’s still a photo.
I learned of the image and the story from this week’s Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio.
Tyler Bancroft, one of the band members of Said the Whale, found the photo on-line and immediately knew he wanted it to be the band’s next album cover. Of course you don’t just take photos and use them as you please, especially when there’s money being made, so he tracked down the photographer.
Quentin Mouton posted the photo on-line, but he wasn’t the photographer. He’s the pilot of the aircraft in the photo. It was taken on October 2, 1964 on the coast of South Africa. For the rest of the story, allow me to quote Stuart McLean:
The night before the photo was taken, Quentin was in a bar, drinking with some friends and a bunch of other soldiers, and one of those soldiers, those ducking boys on the beach, came over to his table and laid down a challenge. “You think you can fly low?” he said, “You could never fly low enough to make me lie down.”
That was all Quentin needed. He knew where those soldiers were going to be marching the next day, and he went out looking for them…in his plane. When he found them, he did what the guy had been egging him to do…he flew low…really low. The photo was taken just as Quentin was about to pull his plane up to avoid hitting those boys on the beach. One of the soldiers, and a friend of Quentin’s, took the picture.
And what about the guy who said Quentin couldn’t make him lie down? He told Quentin afterward that as the plane was approaching, he was saying to himself, “I won’t lie down, I won’t lie down, I won’t lie down.” But as it passed, he found himself flat on the ground.
Quentin Mouton still flies today, although a little but higher than 200 feet. He’s the chief pilot for Mango airlines in South Africa.