Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Darkness at noon

Except here it was actually in the evening

This evening, Albuquerque time, the longest-duration solar eclipse of the 21st century was happening across southeast Asia and parts of the Pacific Ocean. The very best place to watch this eclipse, where the totality would last the longest, was out in the Pacific, a couple hundred miles east-southeast of an island called Kagoshima, which is, in turn, somewhere east-southeast of Iwo Jima. So that's where my folks, Gerald, Jer, Fuego, MaK, Z-Dawg, and assorted friends and relatives were, on an Italian cruise ship. (Two days ago, my blog had a visit from somebody claiming to be in Italy but also claiming to be in the UTC+9 time zone (Japan, Korea, central Australia), but I don't think it was a member of that particular party, since the visitor came on the usual search.)

So I decided to see if I could catch at least part of the eclipse live over the Internet. Now that I'm lugging my behemoth of a laptop to work every day and accessing high-speed Internet at work, it seemed feasible – especially since my lesson plans for this evening involved a lot of time during which the students would be working independently without any lectures from me. At the location where the eclipse would be longest, the penumbral phase would begin about at mid-class break, and totality would occur shortly before class ended.

But when I set out to find Websites where I could watch the eclipse, even from locations not at the best place, I found surprisingly little. There was a location that required a plugin that I didn't have (something having to do with making Firefox compatible with that other horrible browser). There was a location that invited me to come to the Griffith Planetarium in Los Angeles to watch a webcam feed there but that didn't give a link to that webcam. There was a location that asked "subscribers" to log in and gave non-subscribers an opportunity to give a credit-card number. There was a website that theoretically had three cameras on different islands along the eclipse's path, but while the names of those islands really looked like hotlinks, they weren't; they were plain text set in a different color with underlines.

In the end, I never found a single webcam that would show the solar disk. I did, however, find one site with two webcams that would at least show how dark it got. They were about 650 feet apart, pointed in opposite directions, and they were right at the very best spot, because – you guessed it – they were mounted near the bridge and on the stern of the ship that all those other people were on. This wasn't streaming video; the webcams updated themselves once a minute, and I had to refresh to get a new view – but still, I could at least get some idea of what was going on.

The view from the stern of the ship was particularly dramatic, as the sky grew darker over the churning wake – I'm guessing the captain was steering along the center line of the eclipse path as fast as was reasonably prudent in order to get a few extra seconds of totality.

It never really did seem to get all that dark. Part of that may have had to do with my wi-fi connection resetting itself, so there was a gap of time while I convinced the computer that it really did want to reconnect, but depending on exactly where the ship was, the eclipse had probably reached totality before the connection failed. When I did reconnect, 20 minutes later, it was much brighter, and the ship had slowed to the point that there wasn't much wake.

So in the end, it wasn't all that exciting, but, hey, I got as close as I could to being along on the voyage. A lot of the people who were on the trip have great cameras, so I should at least be able to see the shots they got. Meanwhile, I have bookmarked the ship's webcams, so I can keep track of the rest of the journey.

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Anonymous Jerry said...

The Captain was indeed driving parallel to the path of the eclipse, but only at seven knots. That allowed for more power for the stabilizers to create the best possible platform for photography.

I'll have my blog episode about the day of the eclipse posted in a while, once I get the pictures ready.

Thu Jul 30, 05:19:00 PM MDT  

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