RESULTS OF OUR AUSTRALIA TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE EXPEDITION
APRIL 14-24, 2023
by Paul D. Maley
Appropriately named for an eclipse, Sunny Yando watches as the partial phase begins. Lisa McConlogue photo.
This photo tells it all. A great trip and a successful solar eclipse with blue skies!
A fantastic image recorded by Eliot Herman showing incredibly fine detail in prominences seen during totality. Nikon Z7II, 400 mm lens, 1.4 x teleconverter, f7.1, exposures vary the best flare picture is 27 images stacked that have varying +/- 1 stop. The top image is before Eliot worked for 2 weeks to process it to obtain the best resolution which is shown in the lower image. Note that the vertical structure in the 11 o’clock position is not a prominence but actually a solar tornado that was spinning before later moving up into the Sun’s atmosphere and disappearing. The tornado was captured by Miguel Claro in Portugal, far away from the eclipse path, but I recommend you take a look.
Our 2023 total solar eclipse cruise was perhaps the most lucky trip that we have ever taken. Almost everyone traveling to this hybrid eclipse was headed to Exmouth, Australia. We on the other hand chartered a ship in order to increase our flexibility in obtaining clear sky and targeted a different city north of Exmouth. However, a rare tropical cyclone formed several days prior to our departure and headed straight for our jumping off point of Broome, Western Australia. It looked initially as if the cruise might be cancelled or delayed and that Broome potentially might even be hit extremely hard by this hurricane equivalent.
Cyclone Ilsa as it approached the Broome area.
Broome was where our ship was to first dock and then depart with our group. We had to be concerned that we could even fly across Australia from Sydney on the east coast to Broome on the west. The track is shown below. We had to fly April 13 into Broome and from the graphic you can see that its track looked as though it would turn toward Broome on April 12; but instead it made a slightly more westerly course before turning south and then east. It missed Broome entirely though wind and rain were experienced. The airport never did close for incoming flights.
Path of Cyclone Ilsa.
As if that was not enough, our flight to Broome from Sydney was to leave from gate #13–not exactly the luckiest number. A 3.5 magnitude earthquake then hit Broome but caused no significant damage. Most of the group arrived as scheduled and we had to pass two Covid testing gates. The first was a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of departure and the second a PCR test within 2 hours of boarding. Of the 71 passengers 6 were unfortunately unable to board. Luck was truly with us! In the end we never experienced tsunamis, earthquakes or any other major disruption although we did have rough seas at various times. The following are eclipse results with images from the rest of the cruise appearing after that.
Our ship, Coral Expeditions Coral Discoverer was to maneuver into the path of totality for our observation. However, given that a moving ship is not the best setup to take photos I searched a land location that could be a more stable spot for the more serious photographers. That turned out to be Ah Chong island. The major concern was the overall weather and any effects Cyclone Ilsa might have had on the area into which we were scheduled to sail. As it was we had to bypass one area because of damage inflicted by its passage but the eclipse observation spots were not impacted. These were located in the Montebello Island area. Due to the overall short duration of totality at the center (65 seconds) we had to plan this quite carefully.
Coral Discoverer anchored
The last weather model results posted before the ship’s location would be set on eclipse day.
Eclipse path where the blue line is the center and pink line the northern edge. Maps courtesy of X. Jubier.
Site surveying from afar can be tricky business. As an example, prior to the July 22, 2009 total eclipse I was able to get access to the WWII island of Iwo Jima where I had hoped we could land a group. Unfortunately, 4 months before the eclipse the Japanese government disapproved our chartered flight from landing for the eclipse but yet I was able to get on the island, walk the beach and choose some good sites. The photo below shows the location of Iwo Jima between the center and south limit of that eclipse 14 years ago. In the end I had to move our second observation site to the island of Butaritari in Kiribati while our primary group observed from China.
Paul Maley conducting a site survey on Iwo Jima in March 2009. Mt. Suribachi in background….Battle of Iwo Jima (courtesy Wikipedia)
Pre-scouting map of Ah Chong island with my comments
Although planning for this eclipse was not as challenging as that of the 2009 TSE it was not easily accomplished by just using online imagery. It did require a real survey. Ah Chong has 4 beaches but on eclipse day up to 45 knot winds were blowing from the east toward the ship; not as high on the island sites but still blowing. This was not an ideal situation for disembarking the team. Prior to traveling to Australia I decided to choose the northern beach because the beach had some minor protection from a berm and it was accessible using the ship’s landing craft; the west beach appeared too small and perhaps too shallow for landing. The day before the eclipse Byron and I traveled in a Zodiac with 2 crew members to scout. It was a truly miserable experience because of awful seas and difficulty maneuvering the Zodiac between islands. It took hours just to finish scouting and be retrieved by the ship. But on eclipse day the team was able to travel in the larger Xplorer craft which was better able to maneuver and more comfortable; after scouting they chose the western beach which opposed the wind direction and had the best protection. Fifteen members of our team elected to land on Ah Chong while the remaining 51 elected to observe from the ship positioned in the sea but with additional challenges. In the image below the range they set up was between the yellow and blue arrows.
A closer view of the actual landing site at Ah Chong on eclipse day.
Landing on Ah Chong April 19. Looking at the view you would never guess the choppy waters we passed through to make it to this point (and after)
Paul and Byron return from the Ah Chong scouting trip. Seas a rougher, sea weed clogged the propeller of the Zodiac twice on the way back forcing the crew to stop and clear it.
I intended to place the ship on the centerline but this proved impossible due to the combination of choppy seas and high winds. In addition, there were a number of oil rigs in the area and 3 mile exclusion zones complicated the positioning. During the hours preceding eclipse start the ship was buffeted and it was noticed that when the ship was moving in a preferential direction the effects were less than if heading into the wind or if anchored. I decided to set up the ship to move in a zig zag pattern timed to change between the start and end of totality.
Map showing the nearest exclusion zones (dashes) and the target area (small orange area in the center) where I wanted the ship to be during totality. We would have to sail from the upper left toward center and then begin the zig zag maneuvers. It resulted in 7 fewer seconds of totality but was the best that could be gained given the Ah Chong deployment.
Success with the ship location and maneuvering would not have been possible if not for the skill and cooperation of Captain Simon.
Paul Maley briefing the eclipse circumstances. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Eliot Herman’s briefing “Transient Events and Photography”. Monica Schmidt photo.
Tony Crocker and Liz O’Mara describe their eclipse experiences. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Mario Mateo discussing “What Colors Tell us about the Universe”. Mary Lynn Smith photo.
In addition to Mario’s prop catching fire during his talk, this bizarre photo was captured by Mary Lynn Smith.
Bob Hulse gave talks on the Green Flash, Creatures Seen from the Deck and How to Make Better Photos. Brian Siegel photo.
ECLIPSE SITE LOCATIONS
Ship position:20 deg 33.007m south; 115 deg 25.011m east. 55.1 seconds of totality
Ah Chong site: 20.52612 deg south; 115.54325 deg east. 63.8 seconds of totality
MOVIE OF THE ECLIPSE PROCESS FROM AH CHONG by Monica Schmidt: see https://www.flickr.com/photos/eliot_photos/52860792378/
This location is in the Dampier Islands (also called Murujuga) where our ship visited. Provided by Bob Hulse.
The full extent of the corona with processing by Eliot Herman; an 8 stop HDR captured with a Nikon Z7II, Nikon 400 mm + 1.4x teleconverter,ISO640
Mercury (magnitude 2.0 and impossible to reproduce faithfully here) and Aldebaran (magnitude 1.0 and you can see it here) are identified in this newly processed image from Eliot Herman. Nobody reported seeing either one due to the shortness of the total eclipse but with appropriate software tools it is possible to find things that would not ordinarily be viewed.
A unique fish-eye view on Ah Chong showing Monica Schmidt silhouetted against the eclipsed Sun with the outline of the area outside totality clearly delineated along the horizon. This is a screen grab from a GOPRO 360 camera running as a movie by Monica Schmidt. The camera is likely pointed southeast. The grab occurred about 5 seconds after the start of totality and the theoretical edge of the eclipse path in this direction would have been about 24km/ 15mi. You can also see a gradation as the opacity of the shadow varies from the bright edge to above the Sun.
The corona from Bob Hulse. Olympus EM-1 Mark III, f/9, 1/30 sec, ISO2500, 150mm focal length
Transition from the diamond ring to Baily’s Beads from Fred Farin. Nikon Coolpix 900, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO100, 62mm focal length. Compare to the next image where the Beads are more defined.
John Kallend (left) and Mary Lawlor.
Totality approaches Au Chong Island with darkening sky and shorter shadows. Left to right: Roger Smith, Julie Aronow, Larry Aronow. Mary Lynn Smith photo.
ECLIPSE FROM SPACE
The Moon’s shadow moves from southwest to northeast in this sequence of 3 images from the Japanese Himawari satellite.
Not to be outdone this image shows the Moon’s shadow about 65 minutes after passing us as seen from the Japanese Hakuto-R lander. This spacecraft crashed on the Moon 5 days later. Image provided courtesy of Mario Mateo.
THROW AWAY PHOTO?
You should always double check every eclipse image. The biggest mistake is to not have the subject in focus. If that has been verified, then even if your camera (usually smart phone) has bloomed out of focus there may be internal reflections
that are actually in focus.
Earliest partial phase image at 10:11am local time by Paul Maley withNikon Coolpix 900, f/8, 1/400sec, ISO400, 152mm focal length.
one of a series of Maley photos just before totality that is vastly overexposed but with a secondary image above that is an artifact of an internal reflection. The same camera was used set to auto focus. Should this image be trashed? When isolating the secondary image the result is as follows:
These are clear Baily’s Beads that appear masked inside the overexposed image. The dark gaps are lunar mountains interrupting the Sun’s edge. Sometimes what seems to be a photo that should be deleted may actually have valuable information.
Observing/photographing the partial phases. Leroy Maxfield (right) used this standing position to take some of his impressive photos above.
Regine Bouts using both sunglasses and eclipse glasses. Bob Hulse photo.
Rick and Emily Littlejohn. Juliette Sterkens photo.
Solar crescents projected
Junie Weed-Ziegler using an oversize mylar sheet for partial phase observation.
A collander is used to project many crescents on deck as the partial phases progress. It was Nancy Mateo who went to the ship kitchen and was able to scrounge the collander for this very representative photo. Lynn Palmer photo.
Binocular projection of solar crescents. Nancy Mateo photo.
John Mordes photographing the partial phases. Les Pearce photo.
Chuck Cummins. Lisa McConlogue photo.
You didn’t have to look far to see telephoto lenses shooting the eclipse. Jack Putnam and Jean Gortner in foreground.
The overall sky just before totality. Bob Hulse photo taken with an Iphone 14 Pro.
Juliette Sterkens recorded part of the ship’s structure opposite the Sun and was able to capture shadow bands in the 5 minute period prior to the start of totality. Although they were just briefly recorded they exhibited the classical pattern of faint alternating light and dark bands often seen during total eclipses. Shadow bands are very difficult to record and this is one of those rare captures. WATCH CAREFULLY. THEY ARE VERY FAINT AND LOW CONTRAST AND ARE VISIBLE FOR ABOUT 7 SECONDS BEGINNING 8 SECONDS AFTER THE START OF THE VIDEO. THE BANDS MOVE FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP OF THE SCREEN. For future total eclipse planning Juliette has reported that she used an Iphone 11Pro. This means that even some of the older technology smart phones can capture shadow bands and if you are planning for the 2024 eclipse, definitely consider to schedule some time in the 5 minutes before the start and after the end of totality to try to record these bands against a white surface opposite the Sun’s location in the sky. The surface below is angled to where it seems almost perpendicular to the Sun during the recording. you can tell this by the appearance of ship structure shadows in the lower left part of the video as it begins.
Unfortunately there was no measurement of the temperature drop at sea or at Ah Chong. However, my colleague Paul Stewart in Exmouth measured the drop there. It showed a 3.6 deg C drop delayed as usual after mid eclipse and this drop was likely similar to that we experienced.
Onshore progression of ambient air temperature from Exmouth as collected by Paul Stewart.
The eclipse team from the ship site with the official eclipse flag of the State of Texas that has been flown at most Ring of Fire Expeditions since 1977: Left to right: Rick Littlejohn, Paul Maley, Pam Hayden, Fred Farin, Charles Hayden, Penny Frush, Lisa Farin, Lino Belli, Anna Fang, Jim Crawford, Junie Weed-Ziegler, Richard Becker, Belli, Michael Parry, Karen Parry, Nancy Mateo, Rainer Hantschel, Lynn Palmer, Brian Siegel, Mario Mateo, Lisa Siegel, Jack Putnam, Jean Gortner, John Mordes, Carol Merritt, Sunny Yando, Regine Bouts, Deb Hulse, Tina Greene-Bevington, Emmanuel Bouts, Byron Braswell, Sharon Braswell, Chuck Cummins, Emily Littlejohn, Karen Hoffman, John Bevington, Florence Cummins, Les Pearce, John Roll, Lisa McConlogue, Dace Roll, Juliette Sterkens, ___, Leroy Maxfield, Danny Clark-Lowes, Marlene Kirton, Bernie Stallmeyer, David Agard, Rosie Clark-Lowes, Jeni Sadler. Not pictured: Carol Anderson.
The Ah Chong eclipse team: left to right, Eliot Herman, Anne Adkins, Monica Schmidt, Liz O’Mara, Tony Crocker, Ann Butler, Larry Aronow, Julie Aronow, Mike Butler, John Kallend, Mary Lawlor, Joe Malnar, Stephanie Mardahl, Mary Lynn Smith, Roger Smith, Naomi (CD crew).
Joe Malnar’s green flash April 17 sunset.
Joe Malnar’s green flash April 18.
Joe Malnar’s green flash April 19 sunset.
Joe Malnar’s green flash April 20 sunset.
Sunset green flash by Jack Putnam on April 21. This was the night when many passengers visually saw the green flash!
Bob Hulse’s green flash on April 21
Joe Malnar’s green flash on April 22
Bob Hulse’s green flash on April 22
The solar eclipse cake
The eclipse Oreo cake
Official Corona beer served on April 20
Eclipse day lunch menu
Eclipse muffins during the partial phases on deck
ON SHORE EXCURSIONS
The island shown on maps called Dampier Island is known as Murujuga in aboriginal culture. Our group who visited Murujuga made headlines in local news.
Headlines of our visit to Dampier/Murjuga. Bob Hulse image.
Rock art showing an animal outline in Murujuga. Mary Lawlor photo.
Serrurier Island underwater snorkeling. Coral Discoverer photo.
Catching a fish. Tony Crocker photo.
Muiron Island crab. Coral Discoverer photo.
Muiron Island fan coral. Coral Discoverer photo.
Rock Wallaby. John Kallend photo.
Another attention grabbing rock wanna be wallaby. David Agard photo.
Alpha Island wildlife. Coral Discoverer photo.
Malus Island wildlife. Coral Discoverer photo.
Coral. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Coral window. Bob Hulse photo.
Juliette Sterkens seen diving. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Snorkeling. Tony Crocker photo.
Atomic bomb test site.
West Lewis Island briefing by aboriginal officials. Coral Discoverer photo.
West Lewis Island ruins. Cora Discoverer photo.
Bright orange glows appeared at sunset every night in this scene from the upper deck. Venus appears to right of center.
After the eclipse the Moon and Venus appear in the evening sky. David Agard photo.
The Southern Cross and Alpha and Beta Centauri as seen next to the ship’s mast. Bernie Stallmeyer photo.
Mary Lawlor captured stars while the ship sailed. 1 sec exposure, Iphone 13 Pro Max.
One of many colorful sunrises.
Where we didn’t go for the eclipse, but 60,000 visitors were expected to descend on this town far south of Broome. However, if we had gone here, I might have been able to set up my telescope on a street that bears my name. Instead we had the ocean all to ourselves. Photo kindly sent to me by Chris Alexander.
Post cruise, Manuel Pamkal teaches his stories indigenous culture, painting, fire starting,and spear throwing at Top Didj & Art Gallery in Kakadu National Park. Here he teaches Lisa Siegel how to throw a spear using the Kakadu area straight boomerang. No humans or animals were injured in this session though it is a skill one might use in a large city to defend yourself. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Rock art in Kakadu National Park after the cruise. Lisa McConlogue photo.
Expedition leader Dave on Enderby Island. Nancy Mateo photo.
Course of the ship around the Montebello islands. Bob Hulse photo.
Colored sky at sunset. Bob Hulse photo.
On deck at night. Bob Hulse photo.
Sunset barbeque. Juliette Sterkens photo.
Mario Mateo quelling a smoking piece of hardware outside after his presentation. Nancy Mateo photo.