19 Oct 04 7:47 PM
Reply To: 32601
Hi Jay, I think I’m bringing as many questions as answers here, but this one intrigued me, and I’m really curious about how to figure it all out. First I wondered just how big would an eagle have to be to carry a grown person? I think a hang glider has a wingspan of about 35-40 feet, but the wing area would be larger than for a bird and of course, it only glides. Is there any info on the size of Tolkien’s eagles?
Anyway, to start with, here’s what I found out about real-life eagles:
Golden or Bald Eagle – an approximately 8-10 pound bird with about a 7 foot wingspan that preys on fish, birds and small mammals (in the 3-5 pound range). They are also known to prey on larger animals, such as deer, but I wouldn’t expect them to fly off with one. I wonder if they could lift 10 pounds (their own weight) if they had to?
Normal flight speed in the 30-40 mph range, dive speeds up to 100mph, wind assisted flight speed – variable (add tailwind speed to normal speed).
What do you guess an adult Elf would weigh? Even if Elves (and Istari?) are lighter than the average Man, I figure you are still talking at least 100 pounds. Or do you think they weigh less?
Here’s a quote from website I found:
“Larger birds have a harder time getting into the air. They need a strong wind or they land on cliffs. The South American condor, with a wing span of 9 feet, cannot flap its wings while on the ground. They must use some sort of outside help to takeoff. They need a very strong head wind or a cliff. From the cliff they can leap off to begin their next flight.”
Interesting tidbits: the heaviest flying bird weighs about 40 lbs, the largest ever wingspan – about 25 feet (extinct)
webpage about the speed of birds in flight:
Conclusion: (for what it’s worth!)
Basically, Tolkien’s eagles sound like – well, umm, fantasy. *grin* So, maybe go with a 60-70 foot wingspan, about a 50-60 lb bird (extra-strong for its size). Cruises at - umm, maybe 50-60 mph (no windshield for the passengers). Need to take off from a height (wings too long to take off from the ground – did they do that in the Hobbit?) Needs thermals for soaring – flies best near and over mountains. It would be cold at altitude, too. The bird could be smaller (maybe 40-50 ft. wingspan) if it was extra-super-duper-strong… it would be carrying twice its own weight or more.
' "How far can you bear me?" I said to Gwaihir.
' "Many leagues," said he, "but not to the ends of the earth. I was sent to bear tidings not burdens."
FotR, Book II, Ch II, The Council of Elrond, LotR
As far as distance to carry someone, they would be using thermal updrafts to soar, so my guess is that they might be able to make the trip from Rivendell to the Woodland Realm in one trip - I’d give them a good tailwind, though, not for speed but to ease the load. If they achieved a good altitude (but not too high for the passengers) over the Misty Mountains, then they could essentially glide across Mirkwood. Now the return journey might be more problematical, I’d have them stop (or relay as you suggested), maybe even twice along the way. Once half-way through the forest, once at Carrock, then take to the thermals to cross the mountains. I don’t know, but it might work… lol!
Oh, well, not sure how much this actually helps, but it was fun, anyway.