Experiencing the Solar Eclipse from Scott Reef,
Reflections from our team
Ian Morris – Guest Lecturer
“This was an amazing event for every one of us – guests as well as the crew. I would not have known that Scott Reef was going to be the ideal location to observe this rare event, let alone be lucky enough to be there at exactly the right time on a remote sand island with a group of people with telescopes & expensive cameras! For this, we need to thank our astronomer Fred Watson and his partner Eclipse expert Marnie Ogg. The remainder of our guests were back on-board Coral Adventurer at anchor nearby with a comfortable perspective from the Vista Deck & the bar was open serving eclipse inspired beverages. We were all supplied with very effective ‘solar-viewer’ eye protection, giving us an ideal perspective on the rather ‘spine-chilling’ event unfolding directly overhead.
Several days before, Tropical Cyclone Ilsa passed through this region, causing very unstable weather as it drifted slowly southwards to the Pilbara coast. We were all a bit apprehensive that this huge system would prevent a clear view of the eclipse, but the day dawned with amazingly clear skies in all directions – a cloudless day!
Soon after midday the shadow of the moon began covering the sun. The main event began taking place. By 1.30 the landscape went eerily dark! For over a minute darkness overcame us. Away on the horizon for 360 degrees, it was still bright but the ship & sandbar were in the awesome ‘giant shadow’. Then, as quickly as it went dark, it returned to normality. The astronomers & camera crew were…dare I say it…over the moon, as the Xplorer transported them back to the ship. The photos tell the story.”
Fred Watson – Australian Geographic Host
“The Moon’s 40km wide shadow crossed a tiny portion of the Australian continent at Exmouth in WA. This was a particularly rare form of eclipse called a hybrid. At the beginning and end of the path of the Moon’s shadow (the ‘path of totality’), the Moon wasn’t near enough to Earth to completely cover the Sun, and observers saw an ‘annular’, or ‘ring of fire’ eclipse. In the central part of the path of totality, the curvature of the Earth brought observers near enough to the Moon to make the eclipse total. We saw the total eclipse from Scott Reef, with 1 min 15 seconds of totality beginning at 1:29pm Darwin time. Total duration of the eclipse including the partial phase was 3 hrs 8 min.”
Rosie Leaney – Guest
“Leaving our “mother ship” to spend 4 hours on a tiny speck of sand felt like quite the adventure. Despite its remoteness, the island was very hospitable – clear skies, a lovely cooling breeze, gentle sea conditions, some friendly noddy terns, and a few equally friendly turtle researchers who had been surveying the island. Within 20 mins of our arrival, we had all cameras set up and began capturing the early stages of the eclipse. As the moon’s shadow advanced across the sun, we noticed subtle changes in our surroundings like the intense white glow of the sand becoming duller, and a gradual temperature change. Our anticipation built as the eclipse headed towards totality. Then in the space of 1 min 15 secs, the sky darkened and brightened, the horizon glowing beautiful oranges & pinks, as the moon’s shadow cast us in and out of twilight. I don’t think any of us were prepared for how dramatic and beautiful the experience would be, made even more special by this small sandy paradise.”
Luke Jongens – Expedition Team
“Eleven of our guests set off for the isolated sandy quay on Scott Reef. Armed with telescopes, cameras, tripods and champagne, the group cruised across a glassy Indian Ocean from Coral Adventurer while flying fish glide across the water as we neared our destination. Crystal clear water and a shining sun meant the reef below was clearly visible for all to enjoy!
Upon landing on the secluded quay, the race began to set up all our equipment to document the rare spectacle. Tripods raised, solar filters on, settings dialled in, we had National Geographic Wildlife Photographer Scott Portelli yell out “3 minutes until partial Eclipse begins”. The Even begun, and over the course of the next hour anticipation grew as did the excitement and smiles among the team. Another yell from Scott and the 67 second moment of truth begun to unfold! Everyones excitement had peaks, smiles all round and even some screams of excitement, I couldn’t help feeling oddly emotional over the event. The sky’s darkened and stars became visible, our usual bright sun suddenly cast an empty black hole through the middle while what appeared like flames burst elegantly from the sides. The sky’s brightened, the champagne flutes were filled and guests enjoyed a swim reminiscing on what just was.”
Images by Scott Porteli