Eclipsing moon

Wed 16 Apr 2014 22:26
08:09.8S 120:33.5W

Matthew had emailed us the details of the moon's eclipse, so we eagerly calculated the times it would take place and hoped for clear skies. Whenever there have been moon eclipses before they've only been visible for an hour or so in the Uk and inevitably it's been cloudy. It has always seemed that the best place to view them was some outlandish place like the middle of the Pacific. And where was the best place to see this one? A couple of thousand miles South West of the Galapagos, in the middle of the Pacific, in fact, just where we were! Amazing! Unfortunately the skies were mostly cloudy, with rain showers passing over, however the occasional glimpses of the moon we were able to catch showed... nothing happening. We'd got confused by the time differences and thought it was the night before! The actual night proved to be nearly clear, with the occasional cloud skidding by without spoiling the show.

We lay on deck looking up at the night sky and watched the show unfold. A sort of smudge on the side of the moon deepened into a bite, which gradually continued to nibble its way across the face of the moon. Marvelous to realise the curve we were seeing across the silver circle was the curve of the planet we were on. We'd got the binoculars out and, with their aid, the moon had never looked so spherical, rather than circular. It was easy to see it as the astronomical object it is: a massive lump of rock flying through space, in a continuous dance with the earth. Our gravity keeps on trying to pull it towards us but it's going so fast it keeps on missing.

When the Earth's shadow finally enveloped it the whole face turned burnished copper, darker towards the North. In the sudden darkness all the stars came out in celebration, like on new moon nights. We used the binoculars to stare into the Greater Magellanic Cloud, a sort of smudgy bit near the Southern Cross. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of countless specks of light that were stars. Each one may have some planets. Each planet may have some moons. How many other eclipses were taking place that night?

Nothing more would happen until the moon had moved across our shadow and out the other side, and I must admit I fell asleep a while (mine had been first watch and the show started just after second watch so I'd not gone below - who could sleep when a once in a life time experience comes your way?) and woke to see a sliver of silver on the other side of the moon, mimicking a fortnight's waxing in a couple of hours. It was certainly a night we'll remember.

Other than that we're trundling along nicely, past two thirds of the journey now, more than a third around the world, watching the miles count down. Phil is still seeing dates, but they're occasionally getting a tad tenuous: "1366!" he exclaimed "Do you know what happened in 1366?" "Nope" "The 300th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings!". I wonder if they had bunting and street parties.


Day 13: Oatmeal porridge; stovies with beet root and oatcakes (ask a Scottish person!) then fruit cake with apple compote; cream cheese and fig relish on pumpernickel.

Day 14: poached eggs on toast; couscous, tomato, basil and mozzarella with balsamic dressing, fried aubergine with fig relish; vegetable chowder soup with pate and tomato roll.

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