Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parting Shot

I think this is fitting as a parting shot - the Welshman diving off the pier at sunset the day after the eclipse.

Milosh Is Awesome

One of the guys along on this trip was a professor at the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. One of his eclipse pictures from 2008 in Mongolia was on the cover of nature a little while ago. His website is fantastic and his shots of the eclipse strike awe and fear into the hearts of non-believers. Check it out.

An Eclipse Timeline

Here's a rough timeline in local dates and times for how this whole trip turned out.

7-15 Wednesday Honolulu (16th Thursday in Majuro)
Flying to the Marshall Islands

We left for the airport around 4:30am and landed in Majuro around 10am but didn't get in to the hotel until more like noon. Since we crossed the date line, it was noon on the 16th in Majuro. We got a breif swim in and had some time to take in the scenery while the team got an update about the airplane. We didn't yet know whether we'd actually have a working engine on "Amy" yet. And we were told that we were way over the weight limit. I took a walk with Huw around the back side of town (the island is thick enough downtown to support another road) and got my 'sense' of the place.

7-17 Friday
Beach and Sailing trip

We got word that the plane was on for tomorrow morning so we didn't really have anything to do today. It made no sense to unpack anything so we spent the morning hanging out around the resort and then took a boat in the afternoon over to two nearby islands. The best swimming was on the first island of Enemanit. It was basically a privately owned place with some awesome hangout spots. The coral was fantastic as was the raft with the slide and diving board.

7-18 Saturday
Flying from Majuro through Kwajalein to Enewetak

We got up at 4:30am to get to the airport. Our flight left around 7am for 1 hour to Kwajalein to catch more fuel. After a half-hour 'detention' on the military base we flew another 1.5 hours to Enewetak and landed around noon. We had quite a greeting and then took 'the bus' to the eastern most point of the island and set up camp at the 'dorms', 'radiation lab' and a few of us set up tents on the beach at the point. We set up tents and layed out the gear for the eclipse.

7-19 Sunday
Enewetak, Preparing

We spent all day outside setting up mounts hardware and other things. I spent a few hours at night doing some astrophotography.

7-20 Monday
Enewetak, Preparing

I was mostly useless at this point since Sarah and I had our experiment ready while the main UH tent was quite frantic. I spent the day inside making plots as it was over 100 and humid.

7-21 Tuesday
Enewetak, Preparing

This day mirrored yesterday. The main tent was stil frantic and I was still mostly useless. This was another day spent making plots. The sunset was great.

7-22 Wednesday
Enewetak, Eclipse

The day was frantic with preperation. Sarah and I did practice runs in the morning and were ready a few hours early. The eclipse was a fantastic display of nature and I had 3 full minutes to just sit and watch. Fantastic! I set up lots of cameras which in the end proved mostly useless. I had the exposure times way wrong and should have zoomed in more. And I didn'thave tracking mounts, only tripods, which would have killed any zoom shots. Lesson learned. However, after the eclipse we started tearing down the setups and I borrowed a mount for a few nights. This hooked me on real astrophotography. Our European companions had fantastic gear and I learned a lot about this subject from Milosh, Peter and Martin. I think I may have to borrow these mounts for Haleakala in the near future.

7-23 Thursday
Enewetak, Packing

We spent the day packing up and cleaning equipment, processing pictures and swimming with some more astrophotophotography in the evening. I tried out the IR Canon.

7-24 Friday
Enewetak, on a boat

We had chartered a boat ride to the concrete dome where they buried all the radioactive waste. Don't worry, we brough geiger counters and actually detected near-background levels. It was pretty odd considering where we were. Yes the counters worked, we calibrated them at the radiation lab using the stock samples. We got millions of counts from the samples, something like normal counts from Enewetak and nearly nothing out at the dome. You get more radiation flying in a jet at high altitude then you do down here. After the boat ride, we went for a snorkel on the ocean side. Fantastic.

7-25 Saturday
Flying Enewetak through Kwajalein to Majuro

The morning was spent packing and we left Enewetak on Amy around noon. We made it to the resort near sunset, had dinner and passed out.

7-26 Sunday
Sailing back to Enemenit

As a big group (save the Welshman) we took a boat back to Enemenit and spent the day snorkeling around. There were cirrus blocking the sun so it was actually quite pleasant. Cool water and not to hot. The family that owned the place was out so we got some good local stories and even got to go tubing in the lagoon side of the atoll. It brought me back to my summers growing up on the lake and the tube wars that ensued....

7-27 Monday
Flying Majuro to Honolulu

I'm spending the day in the resort restaurant catching up and posting all this stuff.....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fantastic Coral

The snorkeling and swimming at many spots here was fantastic. The highlights were Enemenit near Majuro and the ocean-side reef off Enewetak. These shots catch some of it.... I got in the water as often as I could.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Post-Eclipse Astrophotography

I discovered the benefits of using expensive equatorial mounts for doing astrophotography. Fantastic. It was easy to take 5-20 minute exposures with many lenses and get stunning views of the Milky Way. I had tried to do astrophotography earlier but was limited to 30-second raw exposures on a tripod. The tracking makes everything better....

I tried out the infra-red modified Canon I've got with the 750nm longpass filter. I used Martins 80mm f/1.8 for this run.

Then the normal pictures with my K20D and a 50mm prime at f/1.2 and f/2.1

This shows a wide-angle 18mm f/3.5 shot. It's pretty striking how big a difference f/1.2 to f/3.5 makes. That's a factor of 8.5 in light received. The wide angle shot catches the milky way but has a lot of noise still.... long exposure with little light.

This is a 30-second exposure recorded raw and highly processed. It's not bad in this compressed 800-pixel wide version but at full resolution it's fuzzy with a lot of color noise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The eclipse!

The eclipse was an experience worth all the pain and suffering......

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Enewetak Sunsets

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Enewetak, Practicing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Flying to Enewetak

We took "Amy" to Kwajalein and then to Enewetak. The flights were 1 and 1.5 hours in a fairly small plane. We all had to get off the plane and wait in a military holding tank at Kwajalein.



Enewetak. Yes, it's a runway with some coral on either side.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Boat Ride

In the afternoon, the lawyer for Enewetak had arranged a ride to some other atolls. Fantastic.