THE day

As I first open my eyes in the morning of the eclipse day, I look out of the window. The sky is mostly clear, with thin layer of clouds in some parts. The weather looks hopeful. But, as we have learned this previous week, it can change in short time.

Clear sky

Clear sky

This is our last day in Svalbard. Everyone is packing slowly, but it somehow turns out everyone is ready well before planned time to leave for eclipse observation spot. Some of us still need to visit the post office to send postcards with the special total eclipse stamps that are available only on the eclipse day.

Our free sledge (Arctic version of free city bicycles) that we had so much fun in last couple of days are gone. As we race down the hill on our foot with Agnese, I remember Tommy, traveler, dog-racer and owner of “Traveling Huskies” who told us how to drive the dog sledge. The central leash of dog-team needs to be under tension at all times not to harm the dogs. And it always was, as the dogs were eager to run forwards.
Our imaginary leash this morning is under tension as well. The aim is close. The bags are packed. The eclipse watching spot selected. Go!

View from our eclipse place

View from our eclipse place

We have selected a spot between the local church and sun-dial. Both of them, of course, the “northern-most” ones. As we have checked before, the church is very friendly and some of us use it from time to time to warm up during the eclipse hours in -18 degree cold. Norwegian flag is being raised near church. Yes, this small northern community can be proud of themselves!

It is some twenty minutes before the beginning of the eclipse and we are watching the games shadows are playing. The situation changes from day to day as each day is ~20 minutes longer at this time, however the sun is still low over the horizon. Well, the imaginary horizon, because you need to take into account the geometry of mountains. We end up following the visible area between shadows of two mountains during the eclipse.

Everything is set. Partial phase of eclipse is well underway. We are here. I am here. Everything that needed and could be done- is done. The weather is perfect. The time till Totality remains. I am standing there, observing how inevitably, in speed of Earth and Moon, my childhood dream comes true.

Totality is indescribable. I could tell you about the Corona and protuberances. I could tell you about visible Venus and stars during midday. About diamond ring and sun rays that shine through the mountains on Moon. I could even show you photos (Anders took some really cool ones)! But it will not convey what i felt and experienced.

Totality is just as indescribable, as a new unknown spice. You just don`t have words for that particular taste and the ones you have- they are just not enough. A spice, that is available roughly only each 18 month. Provided that the shadow of Moon actually crosses some land, not just oceans. Provided that you can travel to that narrow patch where it can be tasted. Provided that the weather is good.

I thought the last sentence was pretty good ending of this blog. But on our flight from Svalbard to Oslo, I finished an introductory book on satellites and from tens of unread books on my kindle, I chose a new one. The Happiness of Pursuit by Shimon Edelman- human and machine cognition professor at Cornell University. The same university Daina Taimiņa is teaching on hyperbolic planes, part of non-Euclidian geometry, another of my interests.

As I was reading the first chapter, a quote struck me unexpectedly like a lightning. A quote from “Monday starts on Saturday” by brothers Strugatski- same authors I referenced in my Day 1 blog. What were the chances.

The circle is now complete. The Diamond ring. With a new path forking off.
Author: Sandy kil at ru.wikipedia

Author of the diamond ring picture: Sandy kil at ru.wikipedia

Day 1. Childhood dreams

This day actually started the day before, Day 0, with the packing evening at my home. Packing and repacking due to different luggage size, weight and policies of different companies. Couple of missing items identified, to be organized on departure day. When people get into cars to go home, Agnese jokes about putting on make-up, as the main news channel will be interviewing us in airport. Yeah, right!

The departure day comes with Christmas feelings. Not that someone is giving presents, no. That crazy feeling that you need to finalize stuff. Work stuff, home stuff, technical stuff, administrative stuff, financial stuff and travel stuff. To be free from that stuff.

Eclipse instructions for kindergarten teachers- done. Cat. 13 arc-welders glass for safe watching- provided. There will be people watching at home the 77% version of what we will hopefully see in full.

Funny that most people are not planning ahead for such rare events as eclipses. But almost all of them are interested when they come. Even the taxi lady driving me to the airport.

As the group gathers in the airport, there is a camera-guy and microphone-lady nearby. Turns out Agnese wasn’t joking. We are making evening news and she has been giving interviews for another TV station and National radio as well. Expedition Solar Eclipse.

Flight to Rygge. Venus appears as the sky darkens while we wait for our train to Oslo. Another train to Oslo lufthavn. Finding the best spot to spend the night. Last meal before going to sleep.

Picnic in the airport. Reminds me of “Picnic on the roadside” by Strugatsky brothers. Notice someone has brought Lam’s “The Unbreakable”- Kristine. Funny how connections are made. It always silently awes me.

With late night arrival of Rudis, the group is almost complete- Anders will join us tomorrow.

There is another twist to that Christmas feeling of mine. Seeing full solar eclipse is one of my childhood dreams. Now I am going for it. You should, too.