Comet-chasing specialty cruise hopes to eclipse competitors

By Andrew Means
Arizona Republic—Sunday, March 25, 1984

Cruising for Comets
A brother-and-sister team is organizing two cruises that will monitor the 1986 return of Halley's comet.

In a business that habitually follows the sun, Ted Pedas and Marcy Pedas Sigler go one step further. They seek out the stars.

The brother-and-sister team is organizing programs for two cruises that will monitor the 1986 return of Halley's comet.

[Arizona Republic] Halley's comet, which last was seen from Earth in 1910, will be visible only from the Southern Hemisphere on this occasion. It will not return again until 2061.

“People who want to see it will have to travel anywhere from about 15° above the equator to Rio or Buenos Aires &$151; the further south the better, actually,” Pedas said.

“Each night or morning, depending on whether you see it in January or March, the comet will appear for a couple of hours, either at sunset or sunrise. It will not be streaking (like a meteor), but it will be moving. We will be able to notice the movement against the background of the stars. The tail of the comet will be larger and larger each day.

“We will have two professional photographers from Kodak photographing the comet and developing slides, which will be shown on a daily basis.”

Sun Line will provide the two Greek-registered ships for the project. Stella Solaris will leave Miani Jan. 4 1986, for a 14-day voyage to the Caribbean and Amazon.

The comet re-emerges from the sun's glare in early March, when the Stella Oceanis is due to leave San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the Caribbean and Venezuela's Orinoco River.

Pedas, 45, an astronomer, science writer and university lecturer, and Sigler, a schoolteacher turned Realtor, are pioneers in the field of specialist cruises.

“Our formula has always been to go to unusual places, plus a staff of lecturers and so on, plus an event,” Pedas said. “I feel we have the perfect combination: See the Amazon, which is now the new frontier for ships, go to places most people just dream about; see the comet; and be in the company of some very unusual people. ”

Pedas and Sigler built their first theme cruise around a solar eclipse in 1972. The idea had originated nine years earlier, when they drove to Canada to watch an eclipse only to have clouds block their view.

An abortive attempt to build a rock festival around an eclipse followed in 1970. An appropriatly named site, Eclipse, Va., was chosen. That time, city officials obstructed their plan.

July 1972 was their next chance to organize something.

“We started looking at the path of the eclipse, and because a lot of it was over water, we decided it was a good idea to look at ships, Pedas said.

“We went to every shipping company in New York City, and they all just laughed at us. We wanted to go way up in the north Atlantic near Iceland in the middle of summer when everyone was going the other way. Finally we convinced one line, the Greek line, to take us on porviding we made a $50,000 contribution toward the promotion. We scraped every single penny we had together. My sister was a sixth grade schoolteacher, myself at the university planetarium and my brother-in-law, who was a sociology professor. Not only was it a success, but every single berth was taken, and we had a long waiting list.

“The irony of the whole thing was that people who went to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton (in Nova Scotia), Gaspe (in Quebec) and those areas where the eclipse was also total were all clouded out. We were the only people who could see the eclipse because we had maneuverability.

“We had a very unusual group of people. We had lecturers: we had Scott Carpenter, the astronaut; some well-known astronomers and planetarium people.

“The passengers were an odd sort. They were baasically curious people. About 20 percent were doctors and professional people. They did not frequent the discos. As a matter of fact, the casino closed the fourth night from lack of business. One night, I understand, they took in $10.

“The eclipse only lasted one minute, but it was enough to warrant major articles about this concept.

“Our professional staff of lecturers included the top people in every field — Issac Asimov, the science fiction writer; Arthur C. Clarke of 2001 (A Space Odyssey) fame; Margaret Mead, the anthropologist; Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. We had Nobel Prize winners as passengers.

“About 20 percent of the passengers who have already signed up for the comet cruise had seen the comet in 1910. It will make a very interesting group of people, exchanging tall tales about how they remember it.”

Pedas and Sigler already are pitching ideas for April 8, 2024. On that date, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible from their birthplace, Farrell, Pa.

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News Article — Comet-chasing specialty cruise hopes to eclipse competitors

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