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Gallery Report
Programmer: Bill Kramer
Last update: April 17 2015

Report

June 30, 1973

Off the coast of western Africa on board the Canberra, a big ship, with over 2000 eclipse enthusiasts on board. This was a two week cruise in which Earth science was the primary theme. For a science freak like myself, it was "nerd-heaven". There were even "nerd-celebrities" on board; people like Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Scott Carpenter, Walter Sullivan, Allen Hynek, and many, many more. They had a small museum set up with a lunar rock (we asked each other - how can you tell?) and other neat stuff from NASA. All in all, this was a great trip, completely overwhelming the previous year’s cruise. The focus was so much on the eclipse, that even the normal movie selections shown in the ship’s theater had been altered to show movies with eclipses in them (no matter how badly done) and to show adventures to Africa. One of my favorites was the "African Queen" which although an old movie, was very well done. They also showed "2001 Space Odyssey" several times. As I said, a Nerd Heaven!

This ship was quite large and boasted to be the fifth largest luxury liner afloat. It was also of English registry which meant that the food was not as exotic as the Greek ship had been. I found that to be more to my liking anyway as a 14 year old. We met lots of other interesting people and really enjoyed the life on the high seas while sailing from New York City to Africa. We also stopped in the Canary Islands on the way and saw why it is a popular vacation spot for Europeans. After the eclipse, we went to Senegal for a day excursion. For an American, Africa is a very different place and Senegal is a poor country. That was quite a culture shock coming off a luxury cruise ship into that poverty and lifestyle! Even for a day.

On Eclipse day, once again, we enjoyed perfectly clear sky conditions thanks to the mobility of the cruise ship. There was talk of sand dust in the air due to sandstorms over the Sahara, but this did not seem to be much of a bother. The seas were calm and the ship rolled considerably less than the Olympia had the year before.

The eclipse was much longer, over seven minutes and I had come equipped with my trusty 35mm SLR camera with 210mm lens to record the event once again. I had also brought along my 4.25" Newtonian telescope and a set of 7x35 binoculars to observe with. After staying up all night long to guard my position on deck and to make sure no clouds compromised our position, eclipse day seemed to go very slow. The experience of the previous year helped tremendously as I didn’t take as many "football" pictures and made sure to spend time observing. I found the view with a 1" eyepiece in the telescope to be spectacular. This eyepiece yields a magnification of 45x and the view of the chromosphere and prominences was amazing. The corona and prominences were very nice to observe in the binoculars too. A small telescope yields an interesting view, if you are intrigued by seeing stellar mechanics at work from a different perspective. The "prettiest" view is obtained in a good set of binoculars or a wide angle telescope.

After the eclipse finished, every one applauded and someone rang the ship’s bell. This was a long eclipse and the darkest one I can remember of the ones I’ve seen. It was difficult to read the exposure settings on the camera as I made my adjustments.

And being on a ship added a certain spice to the whole adventure. I don’t think the crew will ever forget it either. The normal shipboard activities of bingo or gambling or lounging by the pool were taken over by meetings and classes taught by experts in fields such as weather, geology, oceanography, African culture, astronomy, photography and so forth.

Best of all were the NIS Science at Sea programs which I participated in. We carried out a series of scientific experiments and observations working with the leaders in the field. It was a great opportunity and an experience I will always cherish. We had lectures too. The picture at right was taken during a lecture by Isaac Asimov who spoke just like his books read - he was an amazing man. The lecture rooms were full to the brim each time, and the other ship board activities came to a standstill. To illustrate, during the second week there was a gal and some friends at the swimming pool we spoke with. They commented that they were part of the crew and this was the easiest cruise they had ever had. Turns out they were part of the cruise entertainment and some of the shows had been cancelled to allow for additional lectures to take place.

We had three weeks at sea and many good friendships were formed. Since I've posted this web site, I have had several people contact me about being on the Canberra. All of their memories are as wonderful as mine. It was truely a magical adventure none of us will soon forget.


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