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Curacao, February 26, 1998

Photo of the prominences (flames) on the sun.

[Photo of Prominences]

Photo of the corona (atmosphere) of the sun.

[Photo of Corona]

All photos taken during the BA's 1998 eclipse expedition to Curacao.

Report of the solar eclipse observation

Today was the day of the eclipse. We arose early again and gathered the equipment into the car and drove to the Sonesta for breakfast. We left there about 10:00 and headed to the west end of Curaçao.

The first place we stopped was next to some water storage tanks past Christoffel Park and past Boca Tabla. There were already several cars with observers there, but there were a lot of thorn bushes, too. We decided that I would drive to Boca Tabla and then take the coast road, which ran below the hill on which the tanks were located, while Beth and the kids would walk to the road. This saved us having to pay admission into Boca Tabla for three people, especially since we weren't going to stop to see the cave.

When we were there earlier in the week we turned back because the road got to be impassable. It looked as if the place we turned back was just below the water storage tanks. When I got to that place in the road, I was still quite a ways from the storage tanks, though I could see them. With just myself in the car I was able to negotiate the rough road and drive on to the next green ravine. That wasn't it, either, so on to the third I drove. As I approached it I could see them waving as they were coming down the hill. I passed through the ravine and pulled off the road. I started to set up the equipment: an Orion 90mm Schmidt-type telescope with a corrector lens objective, to which I mounted our 35-mm camera at the focal point. These were mounted on a rugged video tripod which could hold the camera and telescope so that even with the sun almost overhead, I could stand and look up into the camera's eyepiece. I was set up an hour before first contact which was scheduled about 12:40 P.M. Another fellow pulled in next to us while I was setting up. Beth and the kids arrived a few minutes later.

Until the eclipse started, Beth and Ben walked to the north shore while Rachel stayed with me. I took some photos of the uneclipsed sun to fill up the roll which was in the camera. This let me start with ISO 800 film, Kodak Max, which changed the exposure time from 1/45th to 1/250th second.

As first contact approached I relocated the telescope between the Divi-divi trees in the ravine. This gave a little shelter from the wind. In the meantime, Beth and Rachel built a tic-tac-toe game out of pebbles and they played that. From time to time they'd check the sun with the mylar glasses we brought with us and the ones which we received from the hotel yesterday. I did see first contact through the camera, a couple of minutes before it could be seen with the naked eye. Over the next hour and a half I took one roll of 24 pictures of the partial phases, doing so over a range of exposures. As totality approached, I loosened the solar filter so that I could lift it off the objective easily the moment of totality. I had also changed the film just before totality. When totality started, Ben took video tape of it while Beth and Rachel oooh'd and aaah'd. I could see the prominences and corona through the camera eyepiece and just kept pushing the cable release as fast as I could change exposure times, going through quite a range or exposures. I filled up the second roll and ended the third just as totality was coming to an end.

We noted the eerie light, which isn't quite sunlight, and yet not darkness, either. There were no roosters to herald the dawn, although I heard them with the 1969 eclipse which went down the east coast of the U.S.A. The corona was bright and prominent.

The third roll of film rewound, but when I opened the back of the camera, it wasn't all the way back into its cassette. It wasn't until I opened the camera in the darkened bathroom at the hotel that I found the film leader had doubled back on itself yet caught but wouldn't totally rewind. I think I may have lost 6 or more exposures. Still all in all it was a wonderful sight.

We didn't observe the egress but went sight-seeing in the immediate area instead. The ravine ended at a bay (boca) along which were several large tidepools with sea urchins. Although we could see them, we didn't approach them because the rocks are so sharp and ragged as the spray dissolves the rock. We drove back towards Boca Tabla, with Beth and the kids getting out in a couple of rough spots where we needed all the clearance we could get. From Boca Tabla we drove to the supermarket where we stocked up on pop, irradiated milk (which needs no refrigeration), cookies, yogurt, and the like. Then we went back to the hotel where Beth treated me for sunburn with the ointment we'd bought at the supermarket. I'm still greasy from it.

I stayed in and removed the film (by drawing the heavy drapes over the windows) while Beth and the children went swimming by the hotel beach. The kids wanted to do homework instead of eating out so we had room service bring us a couple of cheeseburgers, a club sandwich, and French onion soup. We had to go down to the restaurant to get the order to room service as the line was constantly busy. The food was actually quite good. It's now 10:20 and I'm turning in. Beth is already dozing and Rachel's been asleep about half an hour.

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