Success is a blacked out sun!

November 13th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

AMAZING! The eclipse was beautiful. I had a tear in my eye when it was all over: the result of a primal emotional spot deep within that the sight of a blacked out sun is able to reach. It’s hypnotic and when the eclipse is all over, it’s hard to grasp a clear memory. Standing in the shadow, it’s as if time stops and all awareness around you melts away.

This eclipse was suspenseful all the way to totality. Massive clouds filled the sky all throughout first contact, but a clearing arrived just in time. While some whispy clouds did travel in front of the eclipse during totality, it wasn’t enough to obstruct the view.

I have chosen to not worry too much about photography during the event, since it’s only a few minutes long (this one was 2 minutes and 3 seconds). So, my snapshot doesn’t do the eclipse justice – there are amazing images of eclipses out there. Google one!







Cloudy skies

November 12th, 2012 § Comments Off on Cloudy skies § permalink

So far, only 1 of the 4 mornings we’ve been here would have been good TSE conditions. Today the sky is again clouded over, gray, and impenetrable.

All we need us 2 minutes of clear skies tomorrow!

Met up with some people last night who have been on 8 eclipse trips, and have been successful each time. Hopefully they are good luck.

They’re predicting 60,000 visitors to the area (that’s right: sixty thousand) to witness the event.

Not a bad spot to watch an eclipse…

November 10th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Today would have been a great day for the eclipse, weather-wise. It’s our Morning #2, but given all the travel time to get here, it feels like we’ve been away from home much longer.

Morning #1 brought us gray, rain-bloated clouds and opaque sky — bad conditions for the TSE… but not quite the worst (that would be a full-fledged violent storm, which we experienced at sea during the “eclipse of the century” in 2009).

It’s Sunday now, and the eclipse is on Wednesday morning just after sunrise. The picture attached to this post was taken during the relative time period of totality.


CCP Comrade

July 15th, 2009 § Comments Off on CCP Comrade § permalink

After beating the streets and making a visit to the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party, we stumbled out of the heat and are finding refuge in the 1901 club in an arty area sipping pints. The propaganda museum will have to wait until tomorrow.


July 13th, 2009 § Comments Off on Breakfast § permalink

29 hours later. What we didn’t know about our flight to Shanghai was the stop over in Beijing. Unfortunately the weather this time of year in Beijing tends to be filled with electrical storms in the late afternoon. So when we were nearing the end of our first leg and looking forward to stretching our legs the announcement came that we were diverting to Hoahot 45 minutes west of Beijing. Add another movie and some soda crackers to pacify the already weary travelers and we finally arrive in Beijing around 3 hours later only to be marooned in a secure gate somewhere in the sprawling Beijing airport. Sometime around 1:00 am after snoozing restlessly on airport benches we were whisked onto the tarmac in the 75° heat of the early morning and put on our final flight for Shanghai. Hotel arrival approx. 4:00 am & 80°, add a few hours of sleep and we were ready for the breakfast buffet in the Sofitel Shanghai.

Eclipse of the Century, 2009

July 9th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

We’re back to Asia for our second TSE (total solar eclipse). It’s the longest of this century, coming in at our location around 6 1/2 minutes. We won’t see another eclipse of this length until the year 2132, so it’s a BIG DEAL in astromony circles, and in particular, that of the eclipse chaser.

We’ll be at sea, south of Japan, and *knock on wood* there won’t be a typhoon to obstruct the view. July is typhoon season, and weather is just one of the eclipse chasers’ foes. Usually they’re concerned about more sedate rain storms or simple clouds, getting their huge amounts of gear confiscated at the airport, and, once in a while, obtaining permits for restricted areas that fall under the moon’s shadow, also called the path of totality. For this trip, we also have to worry about getting quarantined for a week on arrival in China, thanks to the swine flu.

The eclipse will happen on July 22. I could say more about it, but you should just read this easy-to-undertand article published by a few of the most serious chasers I’ve met online:

Benjamin and I will be aboard a cruise ship departing from Shanghai and stopping in Korea and Japan before heading out to open seas for the big day–for this eclipse, the best chance for viewing success is at sea, as ships can more easily find and get to holes in clouds and bad weather. Plus, the polluted skies over China are iffy on a good day. The company we booked through has aptly named the excursion Eclipse of the Century. There is countdown clock on their web site, which now reads 14:02:17:36

It will be a first for us, traveling on a schedule that someone like Julie McCoy has developed–and on a tour. We like to swing with the breeze and avoid packaged travel, but the ocean offers the best options for witnessing this event, and I’m not such a great boat captain and while I am a pretty good swimmer, it’s just too far out.

You can see approximately where we’ll be on July 22, 2009 (and what the weather is like) here.

Mongolia photo albums are up on Flickr

August 9th, 2008 § Comments Off on Mongolia photo albums are up on Flickr § permalink

See Cheryn’s Mongolia collection on flickr

Descriptions, tags, and all that jazz to come once back home, with time to add the details…

Total solar success

August 3rd, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

After months of planning and hoping for success getting from point A to B to C to D (the final location being our eclipse camp), not to mention all the wishing for good weather and clear skies, the TSE (total solar eclipse) of 2008 has come and gone, and WE GOT TO SEE IT!

Only 2 minutes and 5 seconds, it was lightening fast (time never seemed to pass so instantaneously in my life)… but during totality, when the moon blotted out the sun in the sky, the sight of the glowing ring around the black orb was mesmerizing… and the sight, like a picture in a photo album, is etched into my memory even though afterwards, it felt as if the whole experience was a dream. Perhaps the sight is so surreal that the brain cannot interpret the event in any other way but as an odd concoction of sleep’s imagery.

As everyone who has witnessed a TSE has said, it was truly a spectacular sight. I can’t say it was a life changing experience – apart from the fact that any travel to foreign lands is a life changing experience – but it did add another hobby to my ever-growing roster. I’m addicted to eclipses and can now call myself an ‘eclipse chaser’, with plans as soon as I get home to make arrangements for next year’s TSE, which will be over 6 minutes in the seas south of Japan!

They say you shouldn’t bother trying to photograph the eclipse, especially for ‘eclipse virgins’ like me; it’s hard to capture unless you’re a real pro with a lot of experience (not to mention it’s a waste of time to be fiddling with your camera instead of looking at the sky). I took this image during totality, which comes nowhere close to doing the sight justice. The sun/moon looks much smaller in this photo than it did in “real life”, and the camera recorded a lot of the sun’s flare, which isn’t visible during the actual event – it sort of ruins the effect of a glowing eye, the ‘eye of God’ as some call it. There are 2 white specks captured, just left of the sun (and slightly higher) – 2 of the 4 planets visible during the eclipse. I believe the closest to the sun in Mercury and the other is Jupiter.

I have much more to say about travel in Mongolia, and the eclipse experience itself, but I would be held up in this internet cafe for a solid week if not longer, just getting it out of my head and journal. Stay tuned for more blog updates, but for the real story, I need more time (and a willing publisher).

Getting on Mongol time

July 20th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

I haven’t felt this way since I left on our last trip. Granted our last trip was more grandiose in scale and emotion particularly on a more personal level. If you aren’t familiar with it I suggest you yield and get a flavor of it and then read on.

While the scale and time frame are much shorter in comparison, the stress and anxiety level are still the same about leaving. No I am not selling all of my stuff (phew), no I am not worried to much about what to wear, no I am not worried about what I may have forgotten and need, no I don’t have to find a new job in a culture I left a year ago. I have a whole new set of unknowns: Why I am taking my tent, a sleeping bag, a GPS unit (oh thank you Molly D!)(which I do take comfort that I will be able to find my way back if I get lost), adopting an optimistic attitude about mutton, looking forward to fermented mares milk, man I hope we find a driver that will take us further into an already remote area of the globe that we have never been to, did I tell the guys at work about the idiosyncrasies of rebooting the server on a Friday? That last one was eating away at me on Thursday night, but after the smooth, painless and happy smiles of the stand-in tech team training on Friday I feel a great weight lifted. Smooth sailing Boys!

Five weeks total on the road and three weeks of those on literally no roads to nowhere to witness something that has been referred to as “a spiritual experience”, “seeing the eye of the universe”, “Amazing, brilliant, awesome, mystical, super, incredible, heavenly, and out-of-sight! , an emotional experience” “addictive” according to the eclipse chasers group on yahoo. I must point out that we have to be in the right place and the right time (in the right middle of nowhere) to actually see this phenomenon. All of this with little to no confirmation of transport or lodgings has me a bit stressed out and very excited at the same time. But hey it is Mongolia, I thrive in this kind of chaos, what do I have to worry about. Everything I have read indicates that Mongolia is actually the largest campground on Earth. Tent, sleeping bag, GPS, open mind, mmmm mutton, sense of adventure, seeing something few have seen, yeah here we go!
04:27=19:27 tomorrow in Mongol Time

Pre-trip musings

July 20th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Some say the sight of a total solar eclipse will make you cry. Others cite the experience as the closest thing to a spiritual encounter they can imagine (or have experienced), calling the sight of the glowing black orb in the sky the ‘Eye of God’–a lofty claim coming from astronomer-types, who are, most often, people with a proclivity towards a rational state of mind. Nonetheless, the sight of a TSE (total solar eclipse) is reportedly a soul-touching event… a connection between the universe and those who are lucky enough to witness it, as the sun, moon, and Earth align in such a way that for a short bit of time, in an area that covers only 1% of the Earth’s surface, a narrow track of the moon’s shadow sweeps across the planet, turning day into night, at a specific moment, in a precise place. Enter the Eclipse Chaser.

Eclipse travel, often to remote corners of the globe, is made that much more exciting and memorable from the feat of getting to the location in the first place. I know from my own trip planning that there are many more elements than the spectacle in the sky that contribute to the experience and the promise of adventure. For no other trip have I had to get so prepared and yet be so hopelessly in the dark about how things will unfold–it’s not easy to plan ahead for travel and accommodation within Mongolia. There is logistical research–I never imagined myself to be looking up latitude and longitude coordinates for a camp site; there is an extensive equipment checklist: solar viewing filters and glasses, telescopic binoculars and camera lenses, GPS apparatus, and camping gear. This, not to mention learning a thing or two about astronomy and solar eclipses, and careful attention to climatic conditions and weather predictions, all without knowing for sure that we’ll actually be in the right place to see it once we’re in Mongolia, and if the weather will cooperate. Eclipse chasers often sign off email with the same closing statement: Clear skies!

Not that one can do anything about the weather–and for eclipse chasers, who plan years in advance their vacations around these events that occur every year and a half, a cloudy sky can be the devastating factor of a trip taken for naught. Perhaps the gamble of good viewing conditions adds to the suspense and anticipation of an eclipse trip, but for me it seems an ironic twist of fate that an act of nature’s forces, timed so closely to the second and pinned so meticulously along coordinates on the Earth’s surface, can be ruined by nature’s own temperamental tendencies. It’s poetic, in a way, that the event can be so predictable with the same potential to be elusive–nature’s way of keeping us humans in our place? It’s surely a reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.

And so (I think to myself now in the comfort of my home), even if after traveling thousands of miles and enduring the hardships and misadventures that are sure to come with it, I feel fortunate for this break in the routine of things, and this unusual encounter with nature, even IF (I think now) things don’t work out. It’s got me thinking about nature’s forces–life’s forces–that are out of my control… bigger things than schedules, and work, and the trivialities of life; it’s got me thinking about the forces that govern the planet upon which I live, and the mechanics of the universe I can’t understand and which no government or corporation can ever own or control. Man cannot tame it, and this, in itself, is a comforting thought when in my daily life I see the destruction of the natural world we leave in our path–when all is said and done, we are not the ultimate masters. And knowing that something so powerful, mysterious, and uncontrollable exists leaves me with a feeling of awe, fear, and comfort all wrapped into one undefinable emotion. Does it sound like a spiritual experience? Perhaps so, and I haven’t even witnessed the eclipse… yet.

Clear skies!