Oh wow! Just woke from a couple of hours of arvo snooze after a massive few days. I’m still feeling the power of the eclipse. Amazing! Watching the shadow of the moon racing across the waters of Exmouth Gulf until we were in it! Laughing, crying, grown men sobbing. A swim just before totality to wash off the old. A swim just after totality to wash in the new. One minute of reset as the moon cut off our source, the Sun!
The day began with a frantic scramble. We’d set the telescopes the night before for a stargazing extravaganza for True North II guests and crew. I woke up in my swag the next morning on the beach under a perfect canopy of stars. Everyone else had returned to the vessel to sleep this night before the eclipse. The island we’d chosen as being the closest to the centre line of the eclipse was now in the path of a howling easterly and the tide had all but washed my feet during the night.
Repacking telescopes and trudging them around to the lee side of the island through gruelling soft sand full of old half buried coral land mines seemed the only thing to do. The 10:05 start time of the partial phases seemed all too soon for such a task. My legs pumping, my shoulders shouldering, 8 minutes there, 8 minutes back seemed like it would take forever to move all the gear before start time. After 2 loads the True North II tender arrived telling me they couldn’t do the lee side of the island as it was too rocky to land guests.
There is a bigger island 5km away with the shelter from the wind that we needed. There was a bit of beach half way between my now two piles of equipment on our small island where we had at least a little chance of not being swamped by waves as we reloaded. More leg pumping, more coral land mine ouchies, more shoulder shouldering and we had both piles of gear sitting on the same bit of beach ready to load. The tinny on a long anchor rope backed onto our chosen landing heaving consistently rather than totally out of control. Four of us managed to fill the boat with gear and then ourselves sprawled all over it as we eased off the beach into the easterly whipped swell. Once clear of the island we chanced a turn in a lull between sets to bring ourselves around to have a following sea. Now we could breathe a little. We were off the island with everything intact heading back to the big luxury cruise vessel. Up load all the gear again onto the transom so we can up anchor and bring the big boat 5km across to our new chosen sheltered island beach. By now it is 9:30. We reload the tinny and head for the beach. We’ve chosen well and the landing is easy. There’s not much beach with the tide still coming in. I get one telescope set up. Then two. Guests start arriving and I put them to work keeping solar filtered telescopes tracking the Sun. Then 3, 4 and 5 telescopes are set just in time for the 10:05 ingress of the moon over the face of the Sun.
We’ve got an hour and a half to totality. The chefs arrive, the most incredible Congee breakfast is set. Guests are driving all the telescopes so I get my first sit down since dawn, a magnificent bowl of Congee in my hands and then in my belly.
We’re all pumped and ready for some major shifts in our lives. It is real. It is tangible. You can feel it, you can smell it, you can taste it. We are certainly looking with eyes wide open with ears pricked in anticipation. Telescopes are showing major amazingness, solar glasses, solar filtered binoculars and by now the shadows are looking distinctly fuzzy.
We look out across Exmouth Gulf as the shadow of the moon races towards us at 3000 odd km/h. An island a few km out goes dark! And then it’s our turn. Darkness, Venus shows, Jupiter too, the Sun’s corona and prominences leaping off the edge of the by now completely obscured Sun. Whipping the filter off one of the telescopes the purple prominences of the Sun are intense! Almost too intense. And then all to soon our magic minute is over, the Sun exposed once again and the whole thing unfolding as the moon slides off the Sun.
Swimming, rejoicing, feeling, serenity and elation all at the same time. We’re on a high. We have stood under the direct shadow of the moon!
OK, time to pack up, load telescopes off the beach, stash them back aboard True North II. It’s time for me to go, farewelling beloved guests and crew with whom I have shared in universal magic. I’m on the helicopter heading 35 nm to Exmouth to present at the Dark Sky Festival Yacht Club long table dinner. We circle Exmouth and marvel at the crowds below in a land big enough to swallow them all.
Arriving at the dinner, TV crews grab me for a quick chat. They are high in the whole experience too. All the dinner guests are totally in love with life having just experienced one of the most powerful minutes of their lives. They are mine for the having and I take them, love them and feed them their own connection to the sky, to life and to all events. I want to take them all home, back to the source.
This day has been huge, my body working beautifully in hard labour with the elements of wind, fire, earth and water, lifting, carrying, pushing and now balancing finely as it carries me between the tables of the long table dinner, microphone letting me whisper and then roar, lasers blazing as I introduce my friends in the sky to my new friends seated at dinner.
My body spent, my heart full, I crash into a deep eclipse fuelled communion with the other worlds. Waking the next morning to a glorious Exmouth dawn, doing my garden gnome impression in the front garden and I’m ready for the book signing event and talk at the Ningaloo Centre. Once again it is easy as a couple of hundred energised eclipse experiencers are hungry to listen and absorb my sharing, my feelings, my insights and to share theirs in return. They buy 2 boxes of books, my hand forgetting how to write as I sign them all with Eclipse 2023.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this story, waking now from a most amazing afternoon nap to feel my body grateful for the opportunity to rebuild and ready to dance the night away with Caravana Sun.
I salute you all, those who stood under the shadow of the moon, those who witnessed the moon at least touching the Sun and those of you who were simply on the Earth while she so beautifully interacted with her dancing partners, the Sun and the moon.
Words by Greg Quicke