Under the Path of a Polar Solar Eclipse
December 1, 2021

Under the Path of a Polar Solar Eclipse

As well as being Managing Director of the outreach company, FTP-Europlanet gUG, Dr. Lothar Kurtze has worked a scientific travel guide since 1998 for total solar eclipses viewed from the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Libya and Bhutan. For the upcoming total solar eclipse visible from the Antarctic, Lothar is onboard MS Hondius, acting as a guide for Oceanwide Expeditions, and is sending updates on his experiences for this Europlanet blog post. The maximum eclipse will take place at 07:33 UTC on Saturday, 4 December 2021.

Track Lothar’s progress

More about the Solar Eclipse from timeanddate.com

6 December 2021

We have now reached South Georgia and visited Grytviken today. As soon as we have clear nights, I will talk about the southern constellations and I will offer stargazing to the passengers – we are far away from any light pollution, and the sky is really dark, so we can hope for beautiful views.  

4 December 2021

Sadly no luck. Low clouds everywhere in the path of the eclipse. However it wa very impressive for the passengers how it got suddenly dark for 1.5 min.

3 December 2021

Countdown for the eclipse, now!

We are now preparing the observation tomorrow from the ship. Due to the poor weather conditions, we can not go down to the ice edge of the Wedell sea. We aim for a position between South Orkney and South Georgia. We have to make a quite complicated compromise between cloud cover, height of the eclipse above the horizon, wind and waves.

Our position for the eclipse will be aproximately 57°S, 43° 20′ W. Clouds are coming in from the West to the center line. So we need quite a bit of luck to still see something. Fingers crossed…

1 December 2021

This afternoon, we took a cruise in a Zodiac inflatable boat at Elephant Island, a rarely visited place.

This evening we continue to explore the island with a cruise on the main ship, MS Hodius. Overnight, we will continue towards the South Orkney Islands. The weather today has low clouds, and hardly any Sun visible. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed for the weather in three days time when we will be waiting in anticipation for the eclipse. 

30 November 2021

We have reached the Antarctic peninsula. The Drake passage initially had five-metre waves, which later calmed down to two metres – mostly harmless…  

We saw many albatrosses, as well as whales. 

Yesterday we have reached Cuverville Island in the best weather. There are thousands of Gentoo Penguins. However, being 64° 41‘ South, it will not get astronomically dark here anymore.

Onboard, there are many amateur astronomers, a professional meteorologist and a Dutch Astronaut who are, like the expedition staff, giving very interesting lectures.

We had a Covid-19 test for all passenger and staff – all negative. So, I am optimistic that the only ‘corona’, we have to worry about, is the corona of the Sun.

This is a quick report for now. We have one more days in the Antarctic before leaving towards South Orkney and our eclipse location.