Solar eclipse globe

Just received my geektastic eclipse globe! It illustrates the path of every solar eclipse during the twentyfirst century—from 2001 to 2100—including 68 TSEs and seven annulars.

“This globe is ideal because the distortions inherent in any flat map of Earth are eliminated,” states the text at Great American Eclipse, where you can order one. “Moreover, a globe accurately represents the true areal extent of totality’s path across Earth’s surface. The base map gives the physiographic view of Earth. Color tints distinguish arid regions from humid areas; lighter tints and shading depict mountainous areas. The transparent yellow paths crossing the oceans and continents mark the areas within which a total solar eclipse can be observed. Thin red lines in the centers of these paths denote where the longest local duration of totality can be enjoyed. A small red-rimmed yellow circle near the midpoint of each eclipse path shows the point of greatest eclipse.”

Useful! Pretty! Twelve inches. Comes with a clear plastic base.

I’m looking at you, 2024. Mazatlán!

Radio New Zealand interview with eclipse chaser RG Coleman

Follow this link to hear my very excited and hopeful (and in retrospect, sad) RNZ interview with First Up host Lydia Batham, recorded at sea on the M/S Paul Gauguin after leaving Pitcairn Island.

Tahiti

 

The entire South Pacific Cruise to Totality was bookended by several days in Tahiti. The Easter Island add-on to the eclipse cruise required a couple of back-and-forth stays at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, and one long day at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort while waiting for my red eye flight back to Los Angeles.

I used my free days before and after life on the Paul Gauguin to sketch by the pools, shop at the market, and research and purchase a pearl necklace and a Tahitian ukulele.

I twice attempted to buy stamps and first day covers at the OPT (Office des Postes et Télécommunication) but, like Pitcairn and totality, it was another busted goal. (The philatelic window was closed during my first attempt, and soon after all OPT doors were locked due to a worker strike throughout the entire island chain. “The French are always on strike,” said a guide.)

Goodbye Polynesia and the M/S Paul Gauguin—I might be back. Maybe roll the dice again in December, 2020?

A footnote about cruising with the Paul Gauguin: Experienced travelers know that the worst part of the cruise experience is, by far, disembarkation. When that cruise is over, it is OVER. Guests are usually herded into hallways or into holding areas with hard plastic chairs and bare lightbulbs. The staff actively ignores them—a hurtful experience when just the day before everyone called you by name. Gone is the food, and the bar is closed, never to reopen. The deprivation and despair is rivaled only by the feeling of coming down from cocaine.

NOT SO on the M/S Paul Gauguin—or at least on this eclipse-at-sea charter. After checking out of our rooms and stashing our luggage by our stateroom doors, passengers came and went from shopping ashore like we owned the ship, or just lounged wherever we liked as the busy, cheery crew vacuumed the carpets and transitioned jobs. The Gauguines were still hanging around in their revealing island attire. Smiling bartenders were still available, making drinks. I joined some of my favorite people from Easter Island in the La Palette bar on deck 8 to drink mai tais and work crossword puzzles. The lunch buffet—served just before it was time to transfer to our luxurious day hotels and uncomfortable flights home—was as sumptuous as ever.

SLIDESHOW OF THE 2019 EASTER ISLAND/CRUISE TO TOTALITY EXPERIENCE

Photos:

Arrival in Tahiti

InterContinental Tahiti

Marché Papeete

Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort

Flight home

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moorea and goodbye

Heiva is both a celebration of Polynesian culture and a competitive festival during which thousands of performers and athletes from each inhabited island of the French Territory vie for “best of” status in dancing, singing, drumming, and traditional sports (like rowing).

It was a delight to be cruising with the M/S Paul Gauguin in July during the annual Heiva festival, and each island showcased their best and brightest adults and children. While anchored near Papetoai Pier on Moorea—just a thirty minute sail from our final destination, Papeete, Tahiti—the “Moorea Mamas” boarded the Paul Gauguin with armloads of flowers and island greenery to make flower crowns and leis for a mini-Heiva on the ship.

Later that night, the Paul Gauguin made the short trip to the quai d’honneur at Papeete, and Captain Toni and staff bid the eclipse chasers a formal farewell at the final cocktail party. Later, the outstanding performance by O Tahiti E—Polynesia’s premier folkloric dance troupe—might have been the cultural highlight of the trip.

Controversy: which one is Bali Hai: Bora Bora or Moorea? Both claim to be Michener’s special island, floatin’ in the sunshine, her head stickin’ out from a low-flying cloud. I believe Bora Bora is the island Michener had in mind when he wrote Tales of the South Pacific, but the hokey backdrop used in the movie South Pacific definitely looks like Moorea.

Bora Bora and Huahine

The cruise has picked up: the sun was out, the pool bar was busy, and only a few diehards were still complaining about the clouded-out eclipse four days before. (I overheard one old fella actually telling a virgin about the life-changing totality experience she missed, and describing the glorious phenomenon in detail. “Hush!” cried those around him, but the damage was done. How can people be so thoughtless?)

 

Bora Bora was a travel destination that has been in the back of my mind since I heard the name as a child, on a list of impossible-sounding places. I wondered if they were real—Bora Bora, Timbuktu, Transylvania, Cucamonga, Titicaca—or just cartoon place names. 

Bora Bora is real, and real, real beautiful. The colorful “Le Truck” tour bus circles the main road around the island, stopping at all the sights to see: a pareo dyeing operation, the overwater bungalows once owned by Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, a lovely overlook, the fancy hotels, WW2 relics, personal family shrines in residential neighborhoods, and a pristine beach with that surreal blue, Pantone 14-5711 water. We stopped for a quick drink at Bloody Marys, and fed the red hibiscus blooms that decorated the truck to land crabs who came rushing in and out of their holes to grab the flowers.

After Le Truck, I joined a lagoon excursion. A powered outrigger canoe carried a handful of people to three snorkeling stops at coral gardens and areas to swim with reef sharks and tame stingrays with names like Diane and Beyonce.

With no time to return to the ship before dinner and the island Heiva performance, I just wrapped a pareo around my bathing suit and topped it with the wet white button-down shirt I snorkeled in. I looked a mess, but didn’t care. “You look very tropical,” said someone, kindly.

 

Huahine is known as the “garden island” of the Society chain. “Wah-heena” says the ship’s Dutch travel concierge manager, but the natives pronounce it “Hoo-ah-heenie”—and that literally means vagina. Like most of the islands around Tahiti, Huahine culture celebrates sexuality and the male and female organs that are the source of all human, animal and plant life. 

On the “Huahine Nui Safari Expedition” tourists walked the Maeva archeological site, viewed the ingenious ancient fish traps, and learned about pearl impregnation and gestation. We viewed lovely Maroe Bay from the Belvedere lookout. Our guide tried to catch a sacred blue eyed eel for a photo opp, and encouraged us to take a big whiff of harvested vanilla, drying in the sun. I purchased a few ceramic items; Huahine is the only Society Island that makes pottery, using mud scooped from the bottom of their lagoon.

Photos:

Bora Bora

Snorkle time

Huahine

Back on board

 

 

 

 

 

Rangiroa and Motu Mahana

The M/S Paul Gauguin returned to French Polynesia, and all passengers proceeded through passport control before arriving on Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Surprise! The weather was bad and only got worse. All shore excursions were cancelled, and it wasn’t possible to snorkel “Gods Aquarium” (the lagoon). We combed the grey beaches for awhile and watched the waves until the drizzle drove us back to the ship. Rangiroa was eerie—no traditional island greeting by the locals, no popup shops on the dock. Rusted cars, ragged palms, hungry-looking stray dogs, unlike the well-fed pets that ruled the streets of Hanga Roa.

Back on board Feinberg hosted an “eclipse day in pictures” slideshow lecture comprised of shots submitted by passengers. Some were surprisingly exciting and technical taken during the partial phase between first and second contact. Not everyone saw nothing.

Onward to Taha’a. It was very windy and drizzly and flat-out miserable when the early tender boat dropped the first guests off on Motu Mahana, PG Cruises’ private islet of Taha’a. To compensate I began drinking early—something rummy in a real coconut shell—and tried to make some drawings from the bar on the beach as the wind whipped spray onto my sketchbook.

A couple of hours (and another coconut drink) later, the sun came out and revealed Motu Mahana to be what it is: paradise. Picture a breathtaking tropical island. You got it. “Les Gauguins and Les Gauguines”—the ship’s Tahitian hosts and entertainers, adorable young men and women clad in scanty pareos and maros—played ukuleles and sang while a barbecue lunch was served. There was a floating bar, the making of pandanas headbands, kayaking and jet skiing and paddling around in that bewitching blue water. 

Photos:

Gloomy day on Rangiroa

Waiting for the tender

NOW we’re talking: Motu Mahana, Taha’a

 

 

 

 

Emptyhanded

Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The pall aboard the PG created by the totality shutout exacerbated the already low spirits from the ongoing bad weather at sea and the Pitcairn fail. Disgruntlement circulated among actual professional astronomers and hardcore umbraphiles on the guest list, and they fomented unrest to whomever would listen around the pool and in the buffet lines. (These are the same individuals that found fault with niggling details in the science lectures and had actual conflicting opinions that they loudly voiced about Fillipenko’s dark matter statistics.) There was a way, they claim, to have seen totality, but I think their Monday morning quarterback plans would have compromised the itinerary and put the remaining island destinations at risk. 

The rest of us got over it quickly; as we have learned from Jimmy Buffet, there’s nothing like booze in the blender to help you forget. (As one practical individual observed, pina colada in hand: “The casino on these eclipse cruises is usually poorly attended. Because this whole thing is gamble enough.”) In retrospect, of course I would have liked to witness my eighth total solar eclipse, but the experience was priceless. The emotional highs and lows ranged from elation (“we’re heading to clear skies, it’s a sure thing!”) to the sickening realization that the eclipse we paid thousands of dollars to see would not be seen. It wasn’t for the lack of trying, though—see the photo below of the Paul Gauguin’s Spirograph-like path in search of clear skies.

We returned to life at sea as we sailed back to the Society Islands—touring the galley and bridge, playing trivia in the piano bar, solving the jigsaw puzzle. I spent time in my stateroom, drawing—the shelf below my porthole windows became a mini studio. Independence Day came and went without undue observation, partly because the planned ice cream social was cancelled due to rain, but mostly because the staff dropped the ice cream on the deck because the ship was pitching in the rough sea. This was not a trip for those prone to motion sickness.

I shifted my expectations to the sun and sand and snorkeling that would hopefully come soon.