Solar Eclipse!

I am jumping this post in the queue because I think it will interest you more than our sail our or my post on Cabo. Those are coming.

It’s an odd cruise when the climax comes on day three of a three week cruise, but that’s the way it is.  It was the eclipse that sold us on this cruise, as well as the realization that our Future Cruise Credits from COVID expire in May.  Use them or lose them.

I have been fascinated by Solar eclipses since the day a grade school teacher took me to the Hayden Planetarium.  My first solar eclipse was partial.  We made peephole projectors to be able to see the eclipse, kind of like a shadow puppet, on a piece of white paper.  Some of our dads said we could look at the eclipse through exposed photograph film.  Our teacher disagreed.

Pinhole projection on the deck.

I thought it was like looking at phases of the moon playing out on the sun.  Without totality it was ok, but also disappointing.

Sometime in the 1970s there was a partial eclipse while we were traveling in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.  A couple of kids had a welder’s mask and were offering peeks at the moon eating the sun, a few pesos for a about half a minute.

When we ran KAXE in Northern Minnesota there was a total eclipse over Winnipeg in October 1978 and a lot of Northern Minnesotans went to Lake Winnipeg.  They phoned in a live description.  I was handling the controls at the station and after hearing the silence followed by the wild whoops and hollers when the “diamond ring” appeared I wanted to see one for myself.

We had the opportunity in June 1999.   We were living in Slovakia.  The kids were visiting so we drove to a mountain area in the path of totality outside Gratz, Austria.  It was beautiful until about 10 minutes before totality when it clouded right under the sun, the cloud moved about 10 minutes after totality.  While we experienced the wind picking up as the light dimmed, the temperature drop, the dusk quieting and dawn bird chatter, the 360-degree twilight and the confused flowers, we did not SEE the sun, or its the corona. 

So we decided to try again and a movable cruise ship with doppler radar.  While we did not hear the birds quiet and see the flowers fold and reopen we experienced all the rest of it, this time including the corona and solar prominences.

Suzi bought some ISO eclipse sunglasses on Amazon and Holland America gave us branded cardboard ones.  Suzi also got camera filters which I used with mixed results.

Two hours before the start of the eclipse people staked out places on the ship. The astronomer on board told us the Captain would keep the eclipse to the stern so being on the Lido would be a good place.  Suzi figured that since the sun would be high in the sky we could sit in the shade by the midships’ pool and see it just fine.  Smart woman.

Cruise ships held station all around us as the eclipse started. 

Through the run up to totality I experimented with both my Lumix mirrorless and the filter, trying to hold the camera in one hand and the filter in the other while wishing for a third hand to snap the shutter, all while wearing glasses that made it impossible to see anything but the direct sun.  I got mixed results, with reflections and refractions. 

But I did get some pictures of “the dragon eating the sun” as my friends in Taiwan would say.  Some cruise mates made those pinhole projectors our teachers taught us to make so many years ago.  The astronomer suggested we go to the buffet and grab a Ritz Cracker, hold it up to the sun and see the crescent sun projected downward. 

As the temperature dropped and the lights dimmed it grew quiet on deck, then there was a gasp.  I was so absorbed in the event that I made only 23 exposures in the 146 seconds of totality, including a picture of the sun’s corona and Venus, which came out when the lights went down.

After that I just watched with the naked eye.  I saw some red dots around the perimeter and wondered if I had messed up my eyes in the earlier attempts to aim a camera, aligned with a handheld filter, at the sun.  I used my telephoto as a telescope and realized I was watching solar prominences on the star’s surface.  I stopped down the camera to dim the corona so I could better see them and then thought “push the shutter button, dummy.”  

After totality , as the Diamond Ring appeared a big cheer went up across the whole ship.

After watching the moon continue its retreat from the sun we went to our cabin to look at the shots and upload pics to Facebook.  Everyone else in the eclipse armada did the same thing.  The internet was excruciatingly slow.  I didn’t have many pictures to sort.

After that I took a nap.  I was so excited the night before that I couldn’t sleep.  Less than an hour later, when I woke up, 32 people had shared my photos.

Several of you asked exactly where we were. Click on this link to see the map.

3 thoughts on “Solar Eclipse!

  1. Rich, great description. We did the total in 2017, driving up to Great Falls to be under the totality. Same experience trying to get pictures… lots of fiddling and damned near missed the event. Discovered much better photos available elsewhere following the event. Henceforth, I’ll observe and enjoy.

    In 2017, sun activity was low, so we didn’t get the experience of seeing the corona activity but did get the diamond ring.

    HAL has said the eclipse cruises have proven so popular that they are replanning 2026 North Atlantic itineraries to maximize eclipse viewing.


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