Up before dawn to walk some laps and perhaps capture some images of the rising sun. Made may way to Deck 11 and almost immediately returned to the cabin. The air outside was close to freezing !! After so much time in the tropics it was a shock to the system. Dug out a jacket and back up to Deck 11. Another surprise, many of the die hard 'Eclipse Watchers' were already setting up for an event that was all of five hours away. Completed a number of circuits and took some photos. By about 0615 there were dozens of people with their camera and telescopes mounted on tripods and settling in for a long wait.
After a simple breakfast we gathered our solar viewing shades, camera and tripod and made for the helicopter deck on the bow. This is normally a crew-only area but has been opened to the public for the viewing of the eclipse. We joined an enthusiastic group and sat and talked for about an hour. The ship had slowed to a speed just fast enough to maintain steerage way. Our course had changed so that we were now heading along the projected path of the eclipse.
The predicted timetable was calculated to be:-
0910 - First Contact - the moon starts its journey across the sun
1020 - Second Contact - "Totality" when the moon totally covers the disc of the sun.
1023 - Third Contact - "End of Totality" when the sun starts to regain the sky.
1141 - Fourth Contact - the moon has completely moved aside and the sky is back to normal.
The excitement mounted as the time approached "First Contact". Look look, I can see the moon starting to eat the sun. Wow this is so cool. These and other comments spread throughout the crowd and grew in intensity as the moon progressed across the sun. If it was at all possible the excitement mounted to a fever pitch as the size of the visible crescent of the sun reduced to a tiny sliver.
Then within a minute of the predicted time, there was an awed silence as we experienced 'totality', that magic moment when there was total darkness, the temperature noticeably dropped and the wind picked up. Gradually people started talking again and all stared up at this unbelievable phenomena. Where the sun should be there was a black disk with a bright outer ring and certain astronomical object were also visible as if in the night sky.
Just four minutes after the sun was blacked out the moon moved aside and the first uncovered tiny sliver of the sun burst forth like a brilliant diamond and the remaining ring of light combined to make the most majestic and gigantic ring in the sky.
As the light gradually returned to normal, the crowd broke up and headed back to their other activities. It was a shared experience and we may have been the largest single group on this planet to have witnessed this event. According to the enthusiasts we are no longer 'eclipse virgins' and are potential 'eclipse chasers'. The talk now is "When and where is the next one ??".
Lunch was certainly an anticlimax after that. We ate lightly as we're booked for dinner at the 'Olympic', one of the speciality dining options. On the way to our cabin we chanced upon a bargain clothing table and surprise surprise there was a perfect jacket for Jenny, the right size, good quality and a colour to go with anything. Even better it was 50% off!! Opposite the clothing table was one sporting cameras and binoculars, yes she fell in love with a cute little binocular made by Olympus. The price wasn't too bad so Jenny now has a pocket size but serious binocular to carry in her handbag.
The normal 'Writing' session was today dominated by the event we'd just experienced. It certainly has made an enormous impact on some of the more observant and experienced authors. One of the most telling was the observation that we individuals are so insignificant, another observed the coming together of groups of crew members sharing a once in a lifetime event and how those with the knowledge explained it to their fellow countrymen.
Going up to Deck 10 for a cup of tea and having to line up while an overworked kitchen hand dispenses beverages from 'self-service' devices reminded me that were are still under 'full service'. I can't remember any more what it was like to serve myself to what I wanted rather than trying to attract a kitchen hand and explain to them what I want.
Dinner tonight at the Olympic Speciality Dining. In a word, fantastic, impeccable, stunning, excellent in every way. I can barely recall my choices and have even less idea what Jenny ordered so here's my best attempt.
Starter of poached pear and goat's cheese in a filo parcel beautifully presented, next a cube of pork belly that totally melted in the mouth. Jenny's starters were a goat's cheese soufflé followed by scollops Wellington style. Main meal a lobster tail cooked at the side of the table finished in a cream sauce and plated alongside a mound of mashed potato garnished with baby vegetables. Jenny's main was lamb cutlets, four of them!! Next the cheese course, a selection from over a dozen hard and soft cheeses.
Although we had decided not to have a coffee we were presented with a selection of petit-fours and to hammer that final nail into my coffin there was a desert of a degustation of sorbets and gelatas. Jenny's desert comprised a small slab of vanilla ice-cream, some profiteroles and a peach sauce.
I was asked for my cruise card although the charge had been prepaid. Our waiter was away for a long time and came back with a sizable chocolate cake inscribed with "Happy Birthday Tony". Too much to eat despite my best efforts.
We staggered up to the theatre for tonight's show which featured a variety of acts who perform in the various lounges. A solo guitarist Charlie Butler, a solo pianist Tammy Rafferty and a Cappella Quartet - Sonic Wave. All expertly backed by the on-board orchestra.
A very full and memorable day, I will long remember this birthday.