Countdown 1 (on the way to Woleai)
Follow along moment-by-moment as we make our way to Woleai to cover the total solar eclipse.
by Eclipse Field Crew • February 29, 2016
Our most recent news is at the top; older posts are farther down. Dates all shown in Micronesia time.
Friday, March 4
The boat is rapidly approaching the Woleai Atoll. Despite spending many hours looking at pictures, I was surprised to see so many small islands.
The Woleaians have sent out a boat to lead us in! We are all very excited and there is frantic gear packing (and a lot of us taking pictures of each other taking pictures).
Amaris filming our arrival, with Bill in the background (photo by Exploratorium)
We boarded the skiffs and headed for land. (photo by Exploratorium)
Landing on the beach (photo by Exploratorium)
Later that day…greeting the Chiefs
We were greeted in a meeting circle with all of the chiefs, where Rob and I explained our project and asked for permission to continue. They were so gracious and offered us whatever support we needed. We are allowed to move freely around the island, but we must ask permission to take photos.
On the beach where we met with the chiefs (Photo by Troy Cline)
Troy Cline had brought an incredible tactile diagram of the eclipse, which he presented to the head Chief, who is blind. When he did this, the other chiefs applauded. As the Chief felt the alignment, a great smile crossed his face. It was an incredible moment for us all.
Now comes the brutal work of getting the gear ashore. We imagine it will take many hours of hard labor in the heat. (The weather is in the 90s, with 85% humidity.)
The skiff we’ll use for unloading our gear. Our 3,500 lbs of gear. This might take awhile. (photo by Exploratorium)
We have picked our location for the live broadcast: the runway of the island’s World War II era airstrip. It’s no good for airplanes anymore, but perfect for our purposes.
The Woleai airstrip (Photo by Troy Cline)
Thursday, March 3
I got up this morning at 7:00 a.m. CHUT (Micronesian time) worried about how everyone would be feeling. I went down to the lounge and there were a half dozen of the crew looking much better. At 8:00 I went to breakfast, and I did a headcount: 14! (Not bad, our crew is 15.) The one missing was asleep—a good sign, as he was the sickest of the bunch.
Everyone still looked tired, though, and the ship was rocking, rocking, rocking. I canceled all work (rehearsing, editing, etc.) until we were anchored at Woleai. I need the crew strong when we hit the ground.
So what did they decide to do to relax? Why, watch Jaws of course! (Really!)
At lunchtime, the headcount was 15! :-)
The crew, looking much healthier at lunch (Wayne Grim, Pheobe Tooke, Paul Doherty, and Aaron Rosen in the back) (photo by Exploratorium)
Here's a snapchat of what everyone’s up to this afternoon...
(photos by Exploratorium)
One of the ship's crew is fishing. He dropped a line in the ocean and circled it around an empty Coke can. When a fish is on the line, it will crush the can. (Sashimi for dinner!)
Bill is searching for the location of the International Space Station in hopes that he will be able to view it with the telescopes (and show it to the kids) on Woleai.
Amaris is working on a backup video of past eclipses in case there are clouds on eclipse day. (We hope this is one video the world never sees!)
And Aaron is taking a nap! No photo; we'll let him sleep in peace.
Later that day…
The boat just noticeably slowed. The Captain tells me that we have been making really good time, and that, at that rate, we would reach Woleai at 4:00 a.m. He slowed the vessel so that we’ll arrive about 7:00 a.m. (Sunrise is at 6:30.) Wow!
Wednesday, March 2
We boarded Solitude One today. Our “cruise director'” Alfonso gave us a rundown of life on board: mealtimes, safety, evacuation, etc. We were warned that the seas would be very rough, and the crew handed out sea sickness pills. yikes. We went to our cabins to unpack. As you would imagine, they are small but very efficient.
Some of our crew, ready to depart (Foreground: Rob Semper, Wayne Grim, and Troy Cline. Background: two members of the Solitude One crew and Jim Flowers) (photo by Exploratorium)
And then we were off! We sailed out of Yap, waving at kids on the shore, lovely. Flying fish skidded alongside the boat.
Bill Dean on deck, out to sea! (photo by Exploratorium)
Later that day…
But as Yap faded into the distance, the waves began to grow. And roll. People started to feel queasy. All of us had tinges of nausea. I saw many determined crew outside, staring hard at the horizon, trying to control their stomachs. What had we gotten ourselves into? Remember, most of them had just gotten off a 22-hour air journey followed by only five hours of sleep, and jet lag does not help.
Three of us got it pretty bad; three others just looked green and sat, unmoving, in the lounge. One came to dinner, took one sniff of the food, and left.
No seasick pictures for this post, that just wouldn't be fair!
Boat crew on the bridge of Solitude One (photo by Exploratorium)
Tuesday, March 1
After arriving at 2:00 a.m. last night, the crew was up early and site-seeing around Colonia this morning. We will be boarding the Solitude One at noon today. The ship has already cleared customs and is taking on extra water. We anticipate leaving the pier at 1:00 p.m… and then the real adventure begins!
The ship’s crew has notified us that there are very rough seas today…it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Note: email will now be harder and more expensive. Please think calming thoughts (for both the seas and our tummies)!
Monday, Feb. 29
The rest of the team flew out today to join Paul and Robyn on Yap.
The Solitude One crew notified me, about an hour ago, that they would not be reaching Yap until 7:30 p.m. instead of at noon, as planned. The port will not let them dock in darkness, so the crew can't board until tomorrow morning.
I completely panicked! We were going to sleep on the boat, and literally every hotel room in Yap is booked tonight due to Yap Day festivities. So suddenly, I had a crew of 15 with nowhere to stay!
What hadn't occurred to me was that most of the Yap Day crowds were planning to leave Yap on the flight at 3:00 a.m. The airport asks people to get there three hours before their flight…so at midnight there would be lots of availability in the hotels. Our crew's flight touches down at 12:38 a.m.
Whew!! The Manta Bay resort was able to offer us 12 rooms for the crew, and the Yap Pacific Dive Resort (where Paul and I are) came up with rooms (after midnight) for the rest.
Let's hope the rest of the trip is a bit smoother.
P.S. Stanley called on his ham radio today and said the power is back up on Woleai!
Later that night...
The remainder of the team arrived safely on Yap early this morning. "All tucked in their beds :-)" writes Robyn.
Saturday, Feb. 27
Solitude I, the boat that will carry the team from Yap to Woleai, where they will film the eclipse, is heading toward Yap from its home port on Palau. You can follow its progress as it’s tracked by satellite.
Paul D. writes:
Hot hike today 90+ F, humid and sunny, but a wind and occasional cloud shadow helped.
View of Colonia, Yap, from the nearby summit (photo by Exploratorium)
Friday, Feb. 26
Robyn H. writes:
Here's a pic of me with Stone Money pizza (hole in the middle....and really that's what they call it!!)
The people of Yap use, as a traditional form of money, giant stones with holes in the middle. (NPR did an interesting story. on this.) Robyn and Paul have seen stone money at the airport, the bus stop, the hotel...and a version at the local pizza joint. (photos by Exploratorium)
Paul and I taught 250 kids over four hours today. Exhausting, but now all the kids know us by name. (We hear Hi Robyn! Hi Paul! everywhere we go.)
I am terrified of the unsettled weather, and the internet is down in Woleai: let the nail biting begin!!
Robyn and Paul teach a class in Yap. (photo by Exploratorium)
Monday, Feb. 22
Educators Robyn Higdon and Paul Doherty fly out of San Francisco for Yap, the expedition's first stop in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). They’ll spend a week teaching the local people about eclipses and safe eclipse viewing techniques before the rest of the team arrives.
For more eclipse information and to watch the live broadcast, visit our eclipse website.