The cruise ship people probably find this cruise somewhat unusual. I don’t think the casino is getting much business from the scientists on board, and few people go to the magic / acrobat / variety shows put on each night by the cruise director. In addition to all these typical cruise ship activities, the folks who chartered this particular itinerary have assembled a bunch of people to give lectures which are actually interesting to the people who signed up. One of the stranger ones was called “Geology and WWII”, and intermingled slides showing island formation in the Pacific as the plate slides over a lava vent, and the various expansions made by the Japanese in the years before World War II, and the various progress that the Allies made curbing these expansions. One of the linchpins of this progress was at Iwo Jima, an island south of the Japanese mainland where radar would detect Allied sorties made from New Guinea. Taking out this radar became a prime imperative, and it was quite difficult, among other reasons, because fighting is very difficult in lava flows. Another slide listed all the major battles in history fought in lava flows.

Anyway, it gave us an idea of what to expect when we reached Iwo Jima shortly before the eclipse — it was at the edge of the zone of totality, but we had enough time to make it back to the centerline before totality began.

The clouds and rain finally went away in the middle of the night before the eclipse — Ray was able to get up and see a bunch of stars from the deck. We cruised around Iwo Jima, and found many birds flying around the ship; some Dutch bird experts identified the primary species we were seeing as brown boobies, but they had seen at least six other species. One guy got a phenomenal picture of a brown booby about to swallow up a flying fish, by far the best picture I’ve seen anyone take of anything on the trip.

We headed up to the centerline, always concerned about the cumulus clouds which hung out here or there. But finally, as totality approached, the only clouds to be seen were a series of cute inclined puffy things on the horizon, which made the approaching shadow much more visible. As you have no doubt heard, it was a long eclipse, six minutes and forty-some seconds. The sun is particularly inactive right now, and there weren’t any prominences I noticed, though some photos we saw afterwards pointed out a few. I saw most of it through binoculars, and the corona was quite symmetrical and horizontal, with some cute tufts at the top and bottom. We easily saw Mercury and Venus, and it was easy to find Mars in the binoculars. A plane flew by the star Capella which was close to Venus.

Then it was over, and the boat turned and headed for Kobe. The weather held the rest of the day, and provided more stargazing opportunities after it got dark. I so seldom get to see the entirety of Scorpio, which is hidden from our house.

We’ve been parked at Kobe for a little over a day. There were several shore excursions available for purchase — some one-day tours of Kyoto, some overnight tours of Kyoto, and even an overnight tour that takes you up to Tokyo on the bullet train and back. That’s like flying to LA and taking an overnight tour to San Francisco, except that they haven’t bit the bullet train yet. We spent the days with our friend Ken, who translated Opcode stuff into Japanese and now translates Avid stuff. He showed us around various high spots, including a music-box museum, and several informal yet delicious opportunities to ditch the cruise boat fare and to have some authentic Japanese food. Alas, it’s all aboard an hour from now, and we’ll be at sea two days as we make our way back to China.

About 100 of the 1000 people aboard ended their voyage at Kobe. We considered that, but it was quite expensive to fly back to China. One of the people getting off warned us about the survey form we will be asked to fill out, pointing out that anytime we rate something as less than “excellent”, someone will lose their job or fail to be promoted. We’ll see if we can target the people who shop for the ingredients used in the food served on board, or perhaps the ones who decide that all soft drinks cost extra money, and that none of the dinners are served with included wine.

(Sorry the last few posts don’t have locations — I don’t have the GPS with me. We’ll update them when we get back to Beijing.)