Eclipse success at sea
For 36 seconds, the Moon covered the Sun in the South Pacific.
April 11, 2005
Astronomy magazine and Astronomical Tours hosted a group of 50 travelers for Friday's total solar eclipse. Three hundred shipmates from other tours joined us aboard the M/S Paul Gauguin, captained by Gilles Boussard.
Meteorite specialist Mike Reynolds and I led the group. We were both gratified by how well our pre-eclipse talks had been received.
Eclipse day began cloudy, but the ship was still 15 nautical miles (28 kilometers) from our pre-determined destination. At approximately 10:30 local time (18h30m UT), the Moon took a small bite out of the top of the Sun as the eclipse began. For the next 87 minutes, clouds came and went, the air grew cooler, and darkness began to fall. Four minutes before totality, clouds hid the Sun, but the ship never veered from its course.
At the last moment, the Sun emerged from the clouds and the diamond ring appeared just before totality began. Through binoculars, red prominences and the silvery corona left viewers awestruck. Venus appeared as a brilliant starlike object 2 degrees east (right) of the Sun. We saw no other planets or stars.
"Give Captain Boussard lots of credit," said Reynolds, "He was totally flexible and a joy to work with. I've seen three eclipses aboard ship, and this was in many ways the most dramatic."
Everyone aboard cheered loudly in unison when the ship's horn blared at totality's end. Among happiness, amazement, and relief, one thought predominated: Let's get ready for the next total eclipse March 29, 2006!