kwilson

Eclipse Safari
2001-06-18 13:03:19 (UTC)

Three out of four...

This may be a long or short dispatch. There's much to tell
but we have to catch the bus back to our hotel shortly, so
I'll get in as much as I can.

After almost exactly 36 hours in transit we landed at dawn
at the Victoria Falls airport where a beautiful crescent
moon high in the sky (much higher than we ever see it in
Virginia) greeted us and reminded us of the time left to
the eclipse.

We'd hoped that we'd shaken an uninvited travelling
companion, Mr. Murphy (of Murphy's Law fame) but that was
not the case. Forty five minutes before leaving for the
Richmond airport my suitcase handle broke and I had to
quickly buy a replacement and re-pack it. In Greenwich, my
wife, Betty, tripped on the pavement and fell. When we go
to Victoria Falls we found that Betty's suitcase had been
broken into - locks drilled! Fortunately nothing was
missing.

Fortunately she wasn't hurt badly, a few bruises and a ding
on her camera. We had an 11 hour layover in London so we
decided to take the train to the Royal Greenwich
Observatory. They've improved the place since my last
visit, probably for the millenium celebrations a while
back. They now do a nice living history presentation and
have an expanded gift shop, modelled on the 'exit through
the gift shop' scheme. The highlight for me this time was
seeing all of the famous Harrison chronometers (H1 -H5) on
display. We, of course, posed for snapshots standing on
the 0 degrees longitude line that passes through the
Greenwich Observatory by international agreement. We got
there in time to see the daily dropping of the time ball
that signals official noon GMT to all ships in the Thames
River that can see it. This, of course, is where the
famous Times Square ball drop comes from as well as the
expression 'being on the ball'. The weather was delightful!

Once we reached Zimbabwe we took mini-buses to the Hwange
Game resort for two days of wild life viewing and two
nights of superb viewing of the southern night skies. We
saw elephants, girafes, water buffalo, lions, various
antelope, baboons, vervet monkey, jackel, warthog, cape
buffalo, zebrawildebeast, crocodile, ostrich, as well as
many birds a,d domesticated cattlwe, goats, and donkeys.

The southern Milky Way was incredible! Many new
constellations and deep sky objects to explore. I found
over 50 such objects with a pair of 8 x 40 binoculars. On
the last night we heard lions roaring nearby while we star
gazed on the lawn of the lodge.

Next we travelled back to Victoria Falls to see the great
water falls. We had a great view from a tethered helium
baloon and took a walking tour of the falls today. These
falls are twice the size of Niagra Falls and kick up a
spray that reaches hundreds of meters above the falls. In
two places we saw rainbows caused by the mist and sun
interraction.

Tonight we take a rive cruise on the Zambesia (the river
that causes the falls) and tomorrow head for Lusaka and our
base hotel for the eclipse.

This Internet cafe won't let me upload pictures so I'll
have to try that somewhere else.

We'll, I've got to go. More later.

Ken Wilson