TSE 2010 TATAKOTO, French Polynesia

Private expedition to Tikahana Motu, Tatakoto Atoll, French Polynesia
July 3rd-July 18th, 2010

A first timer's impression of the eclipse
             by Emily Love on Tikahana Motu

French Polynesia was far from somewhere I had envisaged ever actually traveling to. Instead, I had settled for frequent day dreams of the endless summers, glorious sunsets and of course - the overwater bunglows!

I guess you could say I was easily convinced when Geoff suggested we go there for the next eclipse, I may have even pulled out the suitcase that night :)

Having never experienced the magic of a total solar eclipse, Geoff - the doting teacher - instructed me to read certain chapters of "Totality" (by Espenak, Willcox & Littmann) in preparation. Thankfully, I read with precision as a test followed shortly thereafter! You'll be pleased to hear I passed with flying colours and the plane tickets were promptly paid for.

(Above) Geoff and Emily set up their equipment 120m west of Joe and Bengt across the channel 
from the Eclipse City camp. The reef can be seen as dark patches in the crystal clear azure
waters of the Tatakoyo Lagoon where we all went swimming or snorkelling after third contact.

When it came to relating this to my first real life eclipse experience on a beautiful motu on Tatakoto Atoll, I understood for the first time the threat of looming clouds and the impact they could have on the ENTIRE purpose of our trip. As we travelled to our chosen observation spot a few hours before sunrise, I wasn't anxious or even stressed because things couldn't have looked worse. It really didn't seem like we were going to experience totality so I didn't get my hopes up. I liken it to an incoming thunderstorm in Sydney - large, thick grey clouds overtaking the sky, and temperatures dropping far below what is required for an optimal viewing experience!

(Above) Trying to keep a positive frame of mind in what looked like a hopeless situation

(Above right and below right) In both photos, Emily tries to stay dry during a pre-dawn rainshower first at the 4wd
then during the ten minute boat ride to Tikahana - one of several to plague us on eclipse morning.

It was only as the Sun rose that there was growing optimism. Every minute that went by teased us with breaks in the clouds, but these breaks were often followed by more clouds, light rain showers, and spectacular rainbows. The weather was extremely fickle.

First contact was made, and I remember being thrilled as I first saw the tiny bite out of the Sun through the eclipse shades. Seeing the transformation as the Moon slowly but surely covered up the Sun was so incredibly exciting at the time, but I know now that was just the start of wonderful things to come. As the eclipse progressed over the next hour or so, the air gradually became still and the ambient light took on a strange colour. A few minutes to go, and the heavens opened up to make way for blue skies. We had been watching the clouds move across the sky, and now, a few minutes prior to second contact, we knew that we WOULD see it! Before I knew it, darkness swept over our tiny motu and - you guessed it - second contact was made and we were surrounded by darkness. 

I can honestly say that seeing the diamond ring is one of the most visually impressive things I have seen in my entire life. Real diamonds are often described as "brilliant" and this was a fitting term. As the moon progressed along its path I was also lucky enough to see the prominences through binoculars. I remember being surprised to see such a true shade of red from the white/gold traditionally associated with colours of the sun.

Prior to the trip, I had been shown pictures of totality - but experiencing it in real life far exceeded my expectations. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can do it justice! That's the beauty of it though - if it could be experienced from the comfort of your living room couch the thrill of the chase would be gone.

Experiencing 4m28s of totality and "losing" only 15 seconds or so to light cloud is unbelievable. I can now understand when Geoff says a 99.9% solar eclipse is not the same as 100%. You really feel for those who missed out. While no words can describe accurately what it's like to experience a total solar eclipse, I can say that comparing it to the flat pictures I had seen in books gave "depth" and "dimension" a whole new meaning.

I feel incredibly spoiled, yet somewhat nervous to have experienced such an ideal first eclipse. My expectations are now as high as they get for land dwelling eclipse chasers. I'm going to be twice as anxious next time around... but I can't wait! :)

     -  Emily Love

In her report, Emily refers to the motu as beautiful, she isn't kidding.  Whilst the whole atoll is very pretty, Tikahana Motu
had that extra special something.  People who've looked at the pictures have described it as looking like we were on a movie set.
It was an idyllic place to view an eclipse.  After third contact, we all went swimming or snorkelling. Some brought eclipse shades
into the water. Emily was the first in.  It was as well we swam between 3rd & 4th contact, it poured rain 20 mins after 4th contact.

Links to individual observer's reports and photographs
TSE2010 Home Page        Group report as sent to SEML on July 14th. 

Joe Cali                         - Images from  70mm f6.2 APO refractor;
                                     - full frame fisheye totality flash slide show;
- wide field time-lapse video;
- written account of observations on Tikahana Motu;
- pictures of shadow bands projected on clouds;
                                     - flash gallery of pictures from the eclipse and Tatakoto  

Bengt Alfredsson          - Images from  200mm f2.8 APO telephoto;
                                     - flash gallery of pictures from a great week on Tatakoto. 

Larry Stevens               - Images from  90mm f11 Maksutov.  
&  Michelle Bales            (still under construction)

Matthew Poulton           - Flash gallery of pictures from a fantastic week on Tatakoto 

Geoff Sims                   - Wide field and close up stills;
                                     - two really well-edited movies : -
                                            - one of the eclipse;
                                            - one covering the eclipse and our whole week on Tatakoto. 

Emily Love                     - First timer's impressions of the eclipse.                                                                           <-  YOU ARE ON THIS PAGE

Bill Speare                    - Written report.

Bob Pine                       - Bob's account of the eclipse from an almost deserted Tumukuru ( the town on Tatakoto).