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Travel [1403.05]

Solar Eclipse and Moai 2010

(this article first appeared in our 2010 holiday newsletter)

In July we went to see a total eclipse of the sun. Yes, another one! But this truly was one we could not miss, as it passed over Easter Island, home to the mysterious moai (huge stone carvings of human heads- more on this later).

Dave also thought this might be his last good photographic opportunity for a long time (maybe until the 2017 eclipse). For this one, totality would be reasonably long (about 4 and a half minutes), occur on land, and have good coronal features if the sun remained quiet.

Best of all, we thought we would be able to ship equipment over. What a refreshing change this would be from schlepping his usual assortment of tripods, cameras, telescopes, mounts, and other equipment through planes, trains, and automobiles! And, he was really looking forward to using extra heavy equipment, like his medium format (6x7 cm) camera and mount. But it was not to be, of course, and we ended up hauling over 130 pounds of equipment through airports, customs, hotels, etc. Then again, this was nothing compared to the crates and crates of equipment the National Geographic people brought.

July is the middle of the winter rainstorm season on Easter Island, to which we can attest. We experienced daily rains for a week, culminating in an 18-hour torrential downpour the day before the eclipse.

It was still raining on eclipse day, and we thought for sure we would miss it. But gradually it stopped raining, and slowly the sky began to clear. Miraculously, just before first contact the clouds cleared up enough for us to see all phases of the eclipse! Most importantly, we had great views of second and third contact (the beginning and end of totality), definitely the highlights of any eclipse experience.

And, it was clear enough to see shadows, so my moai-themed pinhole pattern was able to resolve solar images. The clouds came and went throughout the event, which made for an interesting video of the pinhole pattern. In fact, it was downright spooky with the moai’s eyes being the first things to appear and the last things to disappear.

See the post on Dave's astrophoto site for links to a video of the eclipse itself, as well as other photos and clips. Be sure to have the sound turned up when you watch the eclipse video!

We viewed the eclipse from the grounds of our hotel, which was a ways out and up from the main town of Hanga Roa. For their protection and preservation, most of the moai sites were closed to visitors during the eclipse, so we were not able to get an eclipse shot with a moai (other than the extreme zoom of the seaside moai in the eclipse video). But given that we might very well have been rained out, it was nice to be close to shelter, amenities, and great food!

Update 1406.12: Added article to newly created eclipse series

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