Liftlines Forums

First Tracks!! Online Home | Forum Home

Switch to full style
Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Europe and Asia, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Post a reply

Far East "Eclipse of the Century" Cruise July 2009

Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:58 pm

Last year's China trip convinced me that I did not want to be on land in China for this year's eclipse, which followed the Yangtze River and exited into the Pacific at Shanghai. Last year's temp range while I was in Shanghai was 94/77 with very high humidity, and the tropical summer clouds and storms also made the clear sky chances no more than 50%.

So I signed up for a cruise on Costa Classica, which was chartered by travel agent Roy Mayhugh for 12 days to chase the eclipse, perhaps to its maximum duration of 6 minutes 39 seconds. The cruise was marketed as "Eclipse of the Century" because July 22 was the longest duration eclipse until 2132. Eclipses run in patterns called Saros Series, recurring every 18 years and 11 days, shifting about 120 degrees west in longitude each time but with very gradual changes in other characteristics, such as latitude and totality duration. This is the current longest active Saros Series, which had maximum totality of 7 minutes 8 seconds in 1955, and will also produce up to 5+ minutes totality over the Utah and Colorado mountains on August 12, 2045.

The cruise departed from Beijing's port Tianjin, so Andrew and I spent 3 days in Beijing first. First day on our own we hired a van, guide and driver with a couple from last year's trip and visited the Summer Palace.

Beijing was blazing hot, but the elaborately decorated covered walkway under those trees was fairly comfortable with even a breeze off the lake.

On the pre-cruise tour we went to the Great Wall at Juyongguan

By this time there was a lot of Beijing's haze/smog. This was a restored site with a bottleneck of climbing tourists below the lowest tower at left. I had to push briskly to make it up this high and back within an hour and a half.

Cruise departure day it poured rain all day, soaking my shoes in Tiananmen Square. Here's a pic from the still impressive Temple of Heaven.
IMG_4755.JPG (117.76 KiB) Viewed 6640 times

First day at sea was continued rain as in Beijing/Tianjin. But weather forecasts were favorable for our max totality objective. Before the eclipse the ship had brief port calls in Cheju, an island off South Korea, and Kagoshima in southern Japan, with continued cloudy weather.

At Cheju we took a 2km walk inside a lave tube cave. There were multiple lave tubes, and this picture is of a 7.6 meter tower that was formed when the lava broke through one tube into a lower one.

On Kagoshima I took and ferry and bus trip to the Uchinoura Space Center. On the ferry I could see the volcanic plume from the active Sakurajima volcano despite the overcast.

We left Kagoshima 2PM on July 20 for the next 3 days at sea. This cruise was populated by perhaps the largest concentration ever of eclipse fanatics in one place for such a long period of time. My modest record of 5 totals was certainly below average for the reported 964 passengers onboard. The level of scientific expertise onboard also resulted in numerous interesting lectures during the sea days, which were far better attended than Costa's cruise entertainment in the evenings. Since our eclipse objective was NE of Iwo Jima, there were also lectures by a WWII historian, and by the travel agent's father, who had served on the USS Tennessee battleship during most of the Pacific island invasions. Here's the view of Iwo Jima with invasion beach at center and Mt. Suribachi at left.

Iwo Jima had up to 5:10 of totality and some people wanted to observe from there. But the Japanese government controls access tightly, generally restricting tourism to war veterans and families, usually around the February/March anniversary of the battle.

We were nearest Iwo Jima about 8AM, then headed for the eclipse centerline before first contact around 10AM. With the sun close to straight overhead someone noticed that you could see both the sun and its reflection in the observatory window.

I returned to my spot in the left corner of the rear pool deck, where I had set up a tripod with the new SX10IS camera. This had a 560mm equivalent zoom vs. the 300mm on my film camera in Egypt in 2006. Second contact diamond ring had more detail but was not quite as sharp as 2006.

The greater magnification allowed the red chromosphere light to show in this pic. Mercury is barely visible as a smudge at upper left at this resolution.

The corona was not as interesting as some other times due to solar minimum and with greater humidity the streamers did not extend as far as 2006 or 2008. But long totality allowed more time to observe other things. There were more planets and stars visible than usual, and the veteran eclipse chasers were calling them out. Also, the 360 degree horizon sunset with low clouds. I finally took the camera off the tripod to shoot that just before third contact.

Most of the distant clouds and the steep uninhabited Kataio Jima island are probably just out of totality while the darkened cloud at right is still within the moon's shadow. With ship movement at 7mph we extended totality to 6 minutes 42 seconds.

As you can imagine there were many accomplished photographers on board. This 8-minute slideshow from many contibutors was put together quickly and shown the next day at sea.
This is easy to view online, but Powerpoint or pdf versions are available to download.

Here's a higher resolution 30 picture slideshow: ... 3677/show/

And now for some truly impressive work aboard a moving ship: ... 72009.html Composite corona ... 2009b.html Diamond ring sequence

To commemorate the "Eclipse of the Century" I brought some champagne on deck after it was over and a 1989 Chateau Mouton Rothschild to dinner that night. Those of you who have lived in NYC will appreciate the dessert celebration which Craig Small (works at Hayden Planetarium) has taken to each eclipse since 1970. Craig may have the best track record of any eclipse chaser (can we find his skiing equivalent somewhere?) with 27 eclipses (about 85 minutes in totality) and zero cloud-outs. He brings the ingredients for egg creams (chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water) and is in process of making about 20 of them here:
IMG_4795.JPG (144.59 KiB) Viewed 6641 times

Craig at left, his wife Robin, then Michael Gill, who fulfills the Marc Guido administrator role for the Solar Eclipse Mailing List.

Next day at sea on the way to Kobe, Japan it poured rain all day. The cruise was in Kobe for 2 days, then spent the another 2 1/2 days returning to Tianjin in China. Andrew and I chose to leave the cruise in Kobe to spend 9 days in Japan viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8113, including the Mt. Fuji hike viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8104.

Re: Far East "Eclipse of the Century" Cruise July 2009

Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:03 pm

Well organized web page with expandable thumbnail pics, brief description of the cruise and links to numerous reports: .

Interestingly Bill Kramer the creator of this web page was NOT on Costa Classica. He was on Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific, which both of us will be on next year. Bill and I met on Celebrity Galaxy in the Mediterranean in 2004 during the Transit of Venus.

Re: Far East "Eclipse of the Century" Cruise July 2009

Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:40 pm

Love the pic of Iwo.. Storys and pictures make it sound so much larger...
Last edited by jasoncapecod on Sat Sep 05, 2009 5:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Far East "Eclipse of the Century" Cruise July 2009

Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:07 pm

Storys and pictures make it sound some much larger...

Mt. Suribachi is 550 feet high. Surface area of Iwo Jima is 8 square miles.
Post a reply
All content herein copyright 1999-2017 First Tracks!! Online Media