Eclipse 98

1998 Feb 26

On eclipse day, my wife, Anu, and I were with a group of 65 RASC Toronto members entrenched about 200 meters south of the northern tip of Curacao. It was raining at 9:30 when we boarded our bus in Wilmstad; dry and 50% broken at 11:00 when we arrived at North Point; 80% clear by 1st Contact and 100% perfect during Totality. Just like the forecast said it would be. Who us? Worry? Nahh!! And the dreaded 20-30 knot tradewinds we had heard so much about (and experienced during our scouting trip the day before) were not nearly as bad as usual. In fact, they actually diminished steadily as Totality approached until, by 2nd C, no one noticed it at all.

A cruise ship pulled into view just beyond the dunes, reminding me of the shot in Lawrence of Arabia when our hero approached the Suez Canal as a ship was locking through. Nothing but sand and superstructure. Most incongruous.

Like you, I vowed to watch more and photograph less than I did in 1991. Except for the requisite partial phase shots, I stayed away from the telescope-mounted camera until 2nd contact + 90 seconds. OK, I took a diamond ring shot at prime focus (6", f5 Newtonian on a G-11 mount) and a quick series of 135mm "wide angle" shots of Sun-Moon, Mercury and Jupiter just after 2nd C. Then I lay back with the 7X50's and let the spectacle wash over me and into my soul. Indescribable! But you know...

Someone yelled "shadow bands!" just before totality and I glanced over to a white sheet that had been staked out on the ground specifically for that phenomenon. And there they were, flickering along like wave-shadows on the bottom of a swimming pool. Yippee! I was no longer a shadow band virgin!

Suddenly, it was upon us. "Filters Off!!", and there was the first Diamond Ring. Then, full totality, delicate streamers and brushes, nice little prominences -- and the planets! Wonderful! Although I didn't have much of a sense of darkness, I was surprised that, by mid-eclipse, I needed my flashlight to read the timer I had taped to my tripod. So it was darker than our gradually adapting eyes let on.

Astoundingly, a resort hotel a few kilcks down the coast set off fireworks just after 2nd C! Can you believe it?? Fortunately, they were far enough away that they did not compromise the view at North Point. But if we had been at that resort, some misguided social director would no longer be among the living.

At mid-eclipse, I sat at the eyepiece, discovered that my cable release wouldn't release, tossed it aside and began shooting by directly squeezing the shutter button. I fired off pairs of shots beginning with 1 sec. exposures and advancing 2-by2, Noah-like, through 1/250th sec. when the second Diamond Ring appeared. Then quickly to 1/1000 sec. and got off 3 shots of the ever-brightening Ring before I simultaneously ran out of film and heard "Filters On"! Perfect.

Because of the cable release difficulties, I had no idea whether I had anything on film worth keeping, AND I DIDN'T CARE!! Although shooting, I still enjoyed a telescopic view of the second half of Nature's Greatest Show in the camera viewfinder, and, coupled with the earlier naked-eye and binocular viewing, was perfectly thrilled to witness this truly great spectacle.

The next evening, my wife and I stepped out of a very nice seafood restaurant and spotted the same thin crescent Moon you did. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was exactly 29 hours after 2nd Contact -- to the second. Grabbing her point-and-shoot camera, pushing buttons until the little Moon icon (how appropriate) appeared, I found a post to rest the camera on and took a shot. The last shot on the roll. It was a literal shot in the dark; I had no idea if the Moon would register.

We arrived home late last night having endured and overcome incredible incompetence on the part of ALM, Antillean Airlines (confirmed and reconfirmed and even pre-assigned seats disappeared for half our group at check-in yesterday morning). We managed to get to Miami 4 hours after our Air Canada flight had left, but A/C went way beyond the call of duty and found seats for us all on their last flight out. Got home at midnight. Should have been 16:00. Took my slide and print films in at 09:00 today. Got them back at 11:00. Every single image came out fine! Even the 29-hour-old Moon over Wilmstad. I'll show them at the Toronto RASC meeting tomorrow night, then see if any are worth submitting for publication. As you say, the world is flooded with images already, so mine might not be anything unusual. But I do like the 135mm shot of the eclipse + planets. And the polar brushes and streamers on the 1/60 sec. shots are pretty..., well, pretty.

Next stop: Aldebaran tomorrow night. Maybe. If it clears up, which is unlikely.

Carpe naturum!!

Guy Nason 1998 Mar 5