Up and Running (again)

solar

It has been a while since my last post here and I apologise to those who have visited my blog only to find the cupboard bare. Now it’s not that I’ve had nothing interesting to report but more a lack of internet access during our last couple of trips.
I fail to understand why some cruise companies can offer a very realistic and affordable package to get online and some can’t….but ‘hey ho’ them’s the breaks.

Earlier this year we took another chance to visit Norway, the land of the Northern Lights. But as a bonus the trip also coincided with an opportunity to witness a total lunar eclipse of the sun. Here is the piece I wrote at the time…..

Eclipse

Even at the best of times I’m not a great fan of standing in the rain and getting soaked, worse if it’s also icy cold and blowing a gale.
I really struggle to understand as to why some of the great musical composers have glorified what is essentially a cold shower by associating the experience to being ‘happy again’ or suggesting it’s something you should do with the ‘one you love’ in order to glean the very best out of a relationship. I’m certain a nice warm bath together would achieve a much better outcome.
Either way a box of tissues should be readily available.
Anyway, here I am standing in a puddle of freezing cold water with my feet slowly going numb, my hair is saturated and a steady procession of drips are meandering down the back of my neck in search of somewhere to accumulate and make my existence even more uncomfortable….if that were even possible at this moment in time.
Now believe it or believe it not, I’m quite content to stay in this same spot for at least another hour or so despite the fact that I am a self confessed wimp and a warm, dry environment is just a few feet away.
Am I completely mad? Have I finally lost the plot?
Well no more than usual, but I do have an exceptionally good reason to be doing this. Today is Friday 20th March 2015 and I’m standing on the upper deck of the cruise ship Oriana just outside the port of Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. The time is 08.40 and the moon has just started a rare transit across the sun. At around 09.40 there is to be a total lunar eclipse.
Unfortunately the heavens are almost fully veiled by a heavy grey cloak of cloud which is determined to spoil the day for around two thousand expectant pairs of eyes. But there is hope because there are a few tantalising gaps which allow the onlookers a brief glimpse of the moons progress as it slowly engulfs it’s mightiest of companions in this small corner of the universe.
Everybody is furtively scanning the firmament….pointing and gesturing in various directions….estimating the wind speed and the subsequent movement of the swirling vapours above us.
Will we or won’t we?
Then a gap opens up and quickly the assembled don the cardboard glasses which have been issued to protect fragile eyes from the harmful light. But the combination of the dark filters and the natural foggy barrier on high renders them all but useless this time.
Now as it happens I’ve actually come fully prepared….for once….and had the foresight to bring along a couple of sheets of dark blue gel. These have been cut into several strips which I can combine any number of to get a good view of the proceedings, as well as affording the required protection.
There’s just enough time to see that the moon has managed to cover around half of the sun and then, just as quickly as it appeared, the ongoing spectacle vanishes behind another encroaching bank of cloud.
Time passes and the tension increases….as does the volume of cold water collecting in my underwear.
There’s a surge of chatter with a frantic waving of arms from a nearby group who loudly voice the suggestion that if all two thousand of us blow at once then maybe….just maybe….we can disperse the offending obstruction.
Then a bright shaft of light hits the sea half way between us and the horizon and another multitude of voices rise as one to demand the captain quickly puts the ship into warp drive to delivers us ’OVER THERE’….ah well, if only.
With just a few minutes to go a hush of reluctant disappointment descends to mute all but the insanely optimistic into silent reflection. And at that very moment I observe many of my fellow cruisers looking to the heavens whilst quietly muttering. Many a request for divine intervention was being offered to the almighty, maybe in return for the promise of abstention or a greater future commitment….and as if in appreciation of this renewed dedication there was a sudden and significant response.
With almost perfect timing the cloud cover clears enough to see that all but a thin sliver of the sun remains….and it’s bright enough to make the cardboard filters useable and necessary.
There is an audible gasp of gratitude (there will be plenty of opportunities to review any rash, spur of the moment promises made later)
The next few minutes were undoubtedly some of the most dramatic I’ve encountered (certain events aside J)
At first the thin sliver of sun which remained seemed to hang around unchanged for quite a while. Then in the last few seconds before totality there was a more noticeable movement of the moon, until the solitaire ring was displayed, a flaming diamond on a golden band. This pinpoint of light finally vanished like someone had flicked a switch.
For just a second or two everything disappeared from sight….AND THEN….there it was….the iconic sight of a total eclipse….the black disc of the moon surrounded by a corona of radiant light.
For two whole minutes the ice cold trickle down my back didn’t exist and I just didn’t care how numb my feet were anymore.
No words can truly describe the event itself but for me there was reflection.
Along with fleeting thoughts of the terror this phenomenon bought to my ancestors, there was the understanding that these eclipses have been occurring for millions of years, long before I came into existence, and they will continue to do so long after. For the attending it was special, but in the grand scheme of things it was just another day at the office for Mother Nature.

Once again I marvel at the wonders of our universe and realise that in the bigger picture I’m quite insignificant after all. But at least I got to make my mark and humanity has to acknowledge that no matter how trivial my presence is in the grand scheme….I was at least here to witness one of natures’ most amazing spectacles.

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