The EurAstro 2005 Hybrid Solar Eclipse Cruise

Jean-Luc Dighaye

Report on the EurAstro 2005 / Hybrid Solar Eclipse cruise (m/s Paul Gauguin)

The solar eclipse of 08 Apr 05 was of the annular-total-annular type, often referred to as hybrid. When total, it is necessarily of short duration and rather bright since the Moon is hardly large enough to completely cover the Sun.

Three eclipse cruises had been organised: the Paul Gauguin' and the Discovery' ones, both starting from Papeete, Tahiti, and the Legend' one starting from the Galapagos Islands. I first met Dr. Matthew Poulton and Annie Decroix in Papeete before they went for the Discovery cruise, then Dr. Glenn Schneider's unofficial party of veteran eclipse chasers.

Matthew pointed out that there was an opportunity to observe with the Société Astronomique de Tahiti (SAT) before joining our respective cruises. Indeed, we got an appointment with observer Claude Lamotte, who kindly showed us the SAT main telescope during daytime and prepared it for a star party at night. This self-made 660mm automated altazimuth reflector is a true wonder of craftsmanship; under their surprisingly dark site (in view of the proximity of the airport), it reveals subtle colours in star clusters - each star of omega Cen comes out with a distinct hue - and countless shades in nebulae around eta Car. Planetary work is seeing-limited, and I could not notice any aberration, thus both the figure and the collimation of the mirrors must have been excellent. Really a must-see in French Polynesia!

Link to the SAT and their instruments:

The Paul Gauguin is a floating Radisson hotel, with all the luxury you would expect there, three gastronomic restaurants, and the beautiful smiling Gauguines. If I had a body like that, I would smile too!" said a friend of mine.

The ship reached Pitcairn - the famous place where the mutineers of the Bounty settled - shortly before the eclipse. Captain Gilles Bossard, now a honorary EurAstro member, would position the ship according to Glenn's group suggestions in order to maximise the odds of seeing the totality.

Indeed, full steam ahead, we just escaped threatening clouds as totality set. Venus was visible to the right of the Sun. After some thirty brief seconds, totality was over. Visual observers saw prominences and/or the chromosphere during the whole of the totality. I took images with a Nikon D100 and a 70-200 lens, and details of the third contact with a Canon RT and a 1000mm lens.

Weather was fine at the intercept point of the Discovery. Annie took fine pictures with a Nikon and a 550mm lens on ISO 400 film.

Glenn's group celebrated in the usual fashion - together with some eclipse virgins.

As the ship proceeded to the Marquesas Islands then back to Fakarava, Moorea and Tahiti, Glenn and his team would have fun with the inhabitants of the islands too...

Sea life was best seen from underwater. Here some photographs taken in the clear waters of the lagoons:

Landscapes were fantastic, and so was the ever-changing weather, from the last moon to the last sun ray. It was an unforgettable eclipse cruise. Now, let's get ready for the next EurAstro eclipse missions...