Thursday, April 06, 2006

Kastelorizo Total Solar Eclipse - Part I

Well, let me tell you about the eclipse...

We got to Kastelorizo on Monday morning, having traveled on the "Dodekanesos Pride" from Rhodes in all of two and a bit hours. I had slept for nearly the whole journey as we had woken up that morning in the school building of Afentou (very kindly donated by the municipality) before dawn. Bleary-eyed and unsure of our footing we descended to the bus stop for Rhodes, treated to a stunning display in the eastern sky of the heavily waning moon together with a very bright Venus. See you again in about 60 hours I thought to myself as the bus pulled up and we argued with the driver over where to put the ridiculous amount of crap we were carrying.

Crap. Defined in this context as: Tents, sleeping bags, clothes and food for seven overnights in a free camping environment, cameras, tripods, personal SRT kit, caving ropes and anchors, in short: crap. Oh, and a bicycle.

On board the "Pride" there was only so much time for people watching before sleep overtook each of us in turn. There was just enough time to notice that there were an extraordinary number of geeks on board with film (rather than digital) cameras around their necks which made me want to paraphrase Obi-Wan: "Dodekanesos Pride: You will never find a more wretched hive of nerds and geekery. We must be cautious." They were amateur astronomers fer chrissake! Real life accountants and engineers, probably.

And after sleeping, we arrived.

And there was Kastelorizo, Megiste, laid out around the harbour in the sun. We met up with the Mayor, he gave us the help we had asked for in our letter. Before we had had a chance to sit and order a frappe we were heading off to the first pot hole of the week - but this is a slightly different story for the caving pages, later.

So there we were, with George the guy who runs the Beautiful Megisti Restaurant and drives the island's only taxi, taking Kostas and myself up past the airport with a fishing boat captain called Kykkos and Tassos, the guard of the island's archaeological collection who was going to show us a hole where he had lost a goat about forty years previously.

The car left us half way between the airport and the rubbish dump. There on a curve in the road was a man sitting in a fenced area containing a tent, three telescopes and link to a diesel power generator for the telescopes' tracking drives. He was called Kostas and was looking a little worse for wear after only two nights in the wild. He was there with a group from Thessaloniki who had been to the 1999 eclipse in Bulgaria and were looking for a better shot at totality here. He explained to us that where he was he would get some seven or eight seconds more totality than those in town and started telling us stuff he had translated from the Espenak bible. I let him know we were not completely uninformed and we set off to look for our hole, but not before we had spotted a nice hill slightly to the SW of Kostas where we would get the same view as him, but slightly better - a view with a clear horizon on three sides.

Within the first hour of arriving, we had found an unexplored pothole and found the place from which we were going to observe the eclipse.

Things were looking good.

To be continued...

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