Finally here! My very first total eclipse. Many in our group have seen 5 or more. My roommate is on his 7th. I never thought much of going halfway around the world to see something that lasted in this case, a mere 2 minutes, 9 seconds. People who do this are called “eclipse chasers”. But finally had some sense knocked into me when I realized that the eclipse is just a part of an otherwise fascinating journey. Each spot in the world has its own history, culture, sights to see, foods to try, art to amaze and people to make you smile. The destination is the reward; the eclipse is the extra helping of chocolate on top of an already really chocolaty ice cream. (with Oreos mixed in).
In this case, the eclipse part takes up one day (oh, but what a day). The entire trip is 15 days. What makes this event rather interesting is that the moon’s shadow achieves landfall at a single point: Cape York Peninsula of Northern Australia. After that the moon’s shadow skips merrily across the South Pacific with not even a single slight brush of any further solid ground. So I guess, we’re “it” along with any other chasers who might have chartered a ship.
In this part of the world the weather is always problematic, as it is tropical and entering the monsoon season. Downpours every afternoon and evening take place, and the sky is usually clouded over much of the day. Not a hopeful place for an eclipse. Besides this area in Cairns in the Cape York Peninsula, the shadow strikes a small island about 10 miles off shore called Green Island. It is about a square kilometer of rain forest with a resort in the middle of it. Largely the mountains surrounding the city cause the cloudy weather in the mainland. However Green Island has no such geography and is far enough away to stay clear of the overcast. The woman who hosts this eclipse tours started researching this one about 3 years ago. As part of the process she came out here in the same dates but in 2009, to scout out viewing locations, hotels tour guides and so on. She had two meteorologists (“weathermen”) she consults with and they said Green Island would be clear, but to stay away from the mainland. We had to get up at 1AM, to be the first ones out on the beach, as there were expected another 300 visitors, Japanese mainly, expected by about 2:30. After a very rough 45 minute ride to the island we had to make our way through about a quarter mile of the rainforest.