700 Eclipse Buffs Go Far for Photos

The Hartford Courant
July 12, 1973

By Philip J. Acquaviva

[The Hartford Courant]

You have to be a little nutty to travel several thousands of miles by airplane and cruise ship just to see an eclipse of the sun.

On Saturday, June 30, at 7a.m. more than 700 eclipse buffs assembled on the decks of the modern cruise ship, Adventurer, to photograph the sun and moon for four minutes and four seconds of totality.

The passenger list included amateur astronomers from as far away as California, amateur and professional photographers and a large number of people who had never seen an eclipse of the sun.

The Adventurer sailed out of San Juan, P.R. harbor on Saturday, June 23. Just about every passenger had carried on board a camera, a telephoto lens, a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

The first four days were devoted to cruising the islands of the West Indies. The ship stopped at Martinique, St. Lucia and Trinidad for one-day sightseeing tours.

On Wednesday, June 27 at 8 p.m. the Adventurer sailed east about 1,200 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The rendezvous was about 800 miles north of the Equator.

Eclipse Cruises Inc., had chartered two ships to observe the sun's eclipse at sea, the Canberra and the Adventurer, both of the Cunard Line. The Canberra, with about 1,800 passengers and scientists on board, was stationed off the West Coast of Africa. They saw about six minutes of the totality. Due to dust storms over the nearby Sahara Desert, they were told that there was a reddish haze in the sky in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Adventurer passengers were more fortunate. Meteorologists on board the Adventurer had located a hole in the clouds at latitude 11 ° north and longitude 43 ° west, and about 800 miles north of the equator.

To make certain that the Adventurer had clear skys at the time of totality, Norman J. MacDonald, meteorologist and weather reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston and research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was on board to interpret weather reports radioed by John H. Conover, a meteorologist attached to the Air Force Cambraidge Research Laboratories in Bedford, Mass. Conover was stationed in Washington, D.C. at the headquarters of the National Environmental Satellite Service. Conover read the daily and hourly reports of the weather satellite.

Starting Friday at midnight and to the time the ship arrived at a place with clear skies above, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, MacDonald and Conover were in constant radio communication. The trick was to stop the ship with clear skies above.

On the morning of the eclipse the skies were full of clouds. It was clean, only to the north of the Adventurer which was away from the path of the eclipse.

The partial phases of the eclipse started at 6 a.m. The sun was partially hidden behind clouds. At about 6:30 a.m., there was a break in the clouds around the sun. The partial phases were clearly visible.

Now all the ship's engines were shut off. Soon the ship came to a halt in the middle of the ocean with its bow pointed to the south.

On the port side the eclipse was now clearly visible.

Totality started at 7.a.m.

In next week's column I give technical information how we photographed the event.

Go to the Caribbean '73 Eclipse Cruise

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E-mail:   Ted Pedas — mpedas@ix.netcom.com