Eclipse 98

1998 Feb 26

My 1998 Caribbean eclipse expedition was [a] good eclipse expedition but not a great one. Celebrity Cruise line's MV (marine vehicle) Galaxy is a nice ship (77,000 tons-30,000 tons heavier than The Titanic and only 30 feet shorter) but her Greek officers and Captain were aloof, difficult and actually made things worse during totality. A few main things loused things up for me:

1. I got sick on a duck entree after a formal dinner. I spent most of Mon night-Tues morning in the bathroom. It took my stomach two days before I could eat normally.

2. When sick I left a $100 dress watch in the bathroom, I of course "being out of it". The steward who cleaned up the bathroom (I cleaned up most of it as there was nothing better to do) took the watch. After gettting some advice from our tour leader I was told to ask him (even though I knew where it was) if he remembered where he put the watch after cleaning the bathroom, because "I can't find it"... The watch showed up three days later, thankfully.

3. Once at centerline, the Captain (also called the Master), halfway during the end of partials, decided to rotate the ship (at full stop) in about a 70 degree arc, back and forth, back and forth. No one knew the Captain (a Greek) would do this, as he was aloof, distant and not helpful before the eclipse. This movement (I estimated a period of about 20 minutes) added considerable additional motion to the sun and rendered my equatorial mount (on my borrowed Televue Genesis 4" telescope) next to useless. The mount worked fine when we were headed to centerline, in a single direction, during early partial phases of the eclipse. Because of the new ship induced movement, I had to spend much of my time centering the totally eclipsed sun and not taking exposures. It slowed me down, even with the motor drive on the Nikon FM2. Not only that, BUT the pressure was on me to take photos because, at the last moment (15 minutes before the start of partials), I was hired by the ship's photography dept. to take closeups of the sun. In addition I had my heart set on getting decent lecture photos, not only for me personally, but because astro and eclipse photography is my expertise and one of the main reasons for me being on board as a lecturer. Finally, I had gone through too much effort to bring the telescope (including building a box to ship the mount-no pun intended) to give up, ditch it at the last moment and just look.

The ship's photo dept. had me in a superb viewing location, at a restricted area on the top of the ship, with two staff photographers to assist me, and I had additional help from a tour member/friend-as it turned out an A-10 fighter pilot and Major in the US Air Force. Even so, I needed all of that help. We moved the telescope twice during partials, finally moving FIVE MINUTES before totality because the additional movement from the Captain caused the sun to move behind a "funnel" obstruction. Because focus, anti-vibration pads and everything else was locked or taped down on the scope, moving the scope was not that bad at all. Finding the razor thin crescent sun again proved much more difficult but I managed to find and center it after several anxious seconds. After the first diamond ring, I managed 28 exposures, some centered and some off center, then heard faintly a shout of "1 minute left" from tour leader Joe Rao (without a mike, 300 feet away on another platform behind me. There were no announcements of any kind from the ship during the eclipse). I ran to my 6x7 with the wide angle lens, moved the tripod and blasted off 7 shots in a vertical composition, with the sun at top and people at bottom. Then I looked up at the sun hoping to snag a look in binculars when the second diamond ring occured (to my awe and dismay).

I did get some looks through the view-finder, but was so harried/focused about taking photos, I could not concentrate on looking. I did snatch a look or two that I remember in the scope. I also caught diamond ring twice with the naked eye and saw the bright planets.

I will never, NEVER take telephoto or telescope shots of a total eclipse from a ship ever again. There are just too many variables that can ruin your photos. Better just to look. Fortunately I got a great view of the 91 eclipse with 14x70 binoculars.

The photo dept. photographers took my Kodak 100 print film negatives after totality (Film was Ektapress 100, shot at 100 because it could not be pushed on ship due to limited processing facilities). My photos came out wonderfully, and many are tack sharp. Some are somewhat soft due to movement of the ship, but all are excellent for lecture use. Now I have my much needed lecture slides for future expeditions as a team lecturer/"expert". I certainly paid my share of dues for them. It was nice to get all the compliments from numerous people on the ship and from tour leaders about my photographs and to see how much people appreciated the photographs. I get back my wide angle, medium format stuff tomorrow morning.


Mike Terenzoni 1998 Mar 5