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Day 16 - Eclipse Day in Ceduna
Wednesday December 4

Erg. What an awful night of sleep. The wind never let up at all and it was pretty cold. Luckily I had bought a sweatshirt on Hamilton Island and that additional layer proved to be a real comfort. As we laid on our cots this morning, trying to deal with the bad nights sleep we both had, I reminded Beth of where we were.

We are about 100 yards from the Southern Ocean. This is no longer the Pacific that we had been vacationing on. In the book I've been reading about Captain James Cook it talks a lot about the Southern Ocean because one of Cooks mandates was to find the fabled continent called Antarctica. The Southern Ocean is special because it is not separated from other oceans by continents and land masses but by currents. Sailors worldwide always knew when they had entered into the Southern Ocean because several things changed.

First, the seas would get rougher. Caused mostly by the rotation of the earth at high latitudes the waves in the Southern Ocean could easily swamp the largest vessels of Cook's day. Second, the winds would pick up con cider ably, with squalls coming from the south, and the cold air with them, the winds would cut thru a man to the bone. Many of Cook's most famous voyages took him to tropical destinations like Tahiti and Hawaii so his men were always disappointed when they had to dawn foul weather gear. Third, the salinity of the ocean would decrease. In Cook's most southerly plunge he found that he could actually use the sea water as if it was fresh water. The Southern Ocean is indeed a particular beast and Beth and I slept a mere stones throw from it last night.

We're gonna see a Show

Basically today was about waiting. The eclipse was not suppost to start till about 6:08 PM, that is what they call "first contact" because it is when the moon first begins to encroach on the suns sphere. To pass some time we went into town to see some of the festivities.

This aborigine guy was helping a tourist fix her didgeridoo. If they become cracked they will not play right because the air leaks out and affects the sound. Basically they were running wax into the cracks to seal them. As he would play the instrument he instructed her to rub her hands together to warm them and then loosely run them down the length of the didge. She was suppose to feel small amounts of air leaking out.

This guy explained the "Roo Bars" that everyone has on the front of their cars to us in great detail.

Back at camp I met Doug Fowler (www.jdfowler.com) who was from Texas but had been on the road for 2 years. Doug had been the president of a software company in Texas and sold out his share to his partners in late 1999, right before the crash. He then sold his house, his furniture, his cars and everything but what he could carry on his back, which included a Sony Vaio and a small digital camera. Doug had been to several countries and his intention was to stay in Australia and start a sailing charter business.

Doug and I had a long chat about James Cook and sailing and the fact that some of the charts that Cook had created in the late 1700's were still in use in the 20th century. As we said goodbye and I watched him walk off with his long pony tail of 46 year old grey hair I was more then a bit jealous of his completely unfettered lifestyle.

I also had a very interesting conversation with a woman named Christine Anne. She was British, as was evidenced by the stereotypical bad teeth. I asked her if she had seen an eclipse before and she said that she tried in Scotland a few year back but her plans were foiled by rain. I asked if she was disappointed and she said, "I will travel the world until I see one".

I was impressed with her passion for persuing something that she had never seen. She then said, "Aren't we lucky that the moon is just precisely the right diameter to create the beauty of an eclipse". I responded, "I wouldn't call it luck buy yes we are indeed treated to quite a show aren't we."

"Ah, I trust from your comment that you are a Christian?"

"Yes I am."

"Well, please take no offense but I just can't accept the fact that there is only one way to get to God. And although the description of creation in Genesis is beautiful there is just too much evidence that points to the contrary that the earth was created in seven days."

I said, "A good friend of mine once said, 'I call myself an Evangelical Christian. I believe that the Bible is true and without flaws and represents the inspired word of God. I believe the historical parts to be historical and I believe the allegorical parts to be allegorical'."

She responded, "Bravo, your friend has a glorious command of the English language."

I assured her that normally that is indeed the case and we parted ways after wishing each other luck in viewing the eclipse. I couldn't help but think that she would never fully appreciate the show unless she knew the one who was "throwing the party".

Off to the Viewing Site

After an afternoon nap it was time to head out to the very end of the Thevenard Peninsula to the viewing site. This was the Southern most tip of the Ceduna area. Beth and I had a great time walking around and seeing all the gear people had brought to document the eclipse.

This german guy brought what I think is a really nice telescope all the way from Germany. He was very friendly and even shared a bottle of Champaign with a really loud guy from Pennsylvania and his wife afterwards.

This guy insisted on wearing his hat for this photo. He didn't speak a word of english.

Mr. and Mrs. Science

We met a guy from the States whose name we never learned. Beth and I started calling him "Mr. Science". I actually called him that to his face several times. Mr. Science had backpacked thru Australia about 15 years ago and never left. He was an expert in all things eclipse oriented. He had seen a few and could go on and on about all the tricks to viewing it the best way possible.

Chris, Mr. Science, and 2 of his Eclipse Veteran buddies.

It was as if he was doing choreography. Goggles on, goggles off, spin around to see the 360 degree sunset, goggles on, look up. Beth and I found it refreshing to be in the presence of someone who was so knowledgeable and free with his expertise, it reminded me of the people that I work with. Experts who want nothing more then to see people "have a good show".

Some of us start a lot younger in our quest to see the perfect Eclipse.

Eclipse wear.


The moment of totality in an eclipse is the brief amount of time when the moon is EXACTLY inline with the sun and where YOU are standing. Some people say they feel closer to the universe when they are witnessing an eclipse. The effect is amazing because the sizes of the Moon and Sun given their respective distances from the earth makes them appear to be the same diameter. As the Moon moves into alignment it blocks out all the direct light from the Sun and allows you to see the most amazing light show.

Lyndhurst, South Australia, the OTHER spot people gathered to see the eclipse.
Not the view we saw... unfortunately.

There are rays of light that eminate from the Sun that are much to faint to see during a normal day because of the intensity of the brightness of the Sun. During a total eclipse is the only time that we can see these rays and they are beautiful. Many people come to photograph and try to catch the event on video but the best thing to do is to just look sky ward and enjoy the most amazing celestial event man can witness with the naked eye. It is really no wonder that ancient man feared the eclipse and connected so many superstitions with it.

Totality came and went and although our view was mostly obscured by one cloud that blocked the sun for a mere 32 seconds, those 32 seconds were exactly the 32 seconds of totality. Although it was slightly disappointing we felt no regret for traveling so long to see. Almost immediately I said, "I have no complaints but I WILL see another eclipse before I die."

The 32 second cloud

That evening we charged the iBook battery while downloading pictures in the Club and showed some of the photos to some Australians who had never seen iPhoto, of course I ended up giving them a full demo. It was on this day that we surpassed 2000 photos for the trip. We also showed the Sydney portion of our trip to Bob and Catherine from Seattle who would be going there after the Eclipse we encouraged them to enjoy the bridge climb. Bob expressed some fears given the terrorist threats. What are you going to do?

We headed off to our tent at about 11PM and packed up most of our stuff for an early trip home. Tomorrow morning, before the sun would rise we would begin our own push for home. It will be a very long day to travel from Ceduna to Sydney.

Day 16

Copyright 2002 • Chris and Beth Fenwick