The Grand Rapids Press
Oct 3, 1971
By Ted Pedas

Eclipse Cruise - Taking in the Eclipse, 1972: A slow Boat to Nova Scotia

NEXT SUMMER, a floating scientific hotel will be launched to observe and record one of nature's most spectacular sights — a total eclipse of the sun.

[The Grand Rapids reprint']At a press conference held recently in New York City, during the annual meeting of directors from major U.S. Planetariums, plans were revealed for a seven day eclipse cruise in July, 1972.

Departing from New York City a luxurious ocean-going vessel will cruise into the narrow path of eclipse totality off the coast of Nova Scotia.

On Monday afternoon, July 10, voyagers aboard the floating observatories will experience a memorable sight — the magic of the vanishing sun.

Employing all available scientific resources, including continuous satellite weather forecasting to aid in positioning the vessel, the "voyagers into darkness" will be afforded a spectacular view from the North Atlantic.

THE 1972 TOTAL solar eclipse cannot be seen from the continental United States. The next readily accessible eclipse will not be visible from North America until the year 2024.

Planning for the eclipse cruise was carried out through the efforts of Eclipse '72, Inc. Participating Planetariums include the Adler Planetarium, Chicago; Strasenburgh Planetarium, Rochester; and Philadelphia's Fels Planetarium.

It is fascinating,"said Dr. Phil S. Sigler, City University of New York professor, "that the 'astronauts' aboard this luxurious ocean-going space ship will be none other than members of the general public."

Dr. Sigler, who is also the eclipse cruise coordinating producer, added that "the eclipse cruise will provide anyone who so desires an unusual opportunity to be an active participant rather than a passive observer in an area that has been traditionally reserved for the scientific specialist."

FOLLOWING THE July 10th eclipse, the ship will sail to regular cruise areas, such as Gaspe and Sydney in the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Educational activities will continue throughout the week, including short courses in meteorology, navigation, star study and photography.

"It should, however, be emphasized," said Ami Vassiliadis, executive vice-president of the Greek Line, "that a holiday spirit will prevail throughout the cruise."

The cruise ships will return to New York City on Saturday, July 15.

The July 10, 1972 a total solar eclipse will be visible over remote parts of Alaska, Canada and the North Atlantic.

The eclipsed sun will first become visible at sunrise near Sakhalin Island off the coast of Siberia. After crossing the Bering Strait and northern Alaska, the moon's shadow will sweep diagonally across Canada.

Towards mid-afternoon (around 4:30 P.M., EDT) the eclipse path will pass over the more populous regions in the Atlantic Provinces. The narrow eclipse track will leave land at Nova Scotia and continue into the North Atlantic. Before dusk the lunar shadow cast on the Earth will come to an end over the ocean.

IT IS ONLY ALONG the narrow 110-mile band of totality, that the rare natural spectacle — the solar corona — will be visible for up to two and one-half minutes, depending on the exact geographic location.

The maximum duration of totality will be 156 seconds. Unfortunately, this occurs in a remote region, northwest of Hudson Bay, near the Arctic Circle.

The dark umbral lunar shadow, blocking the sun to cause the total eclipse, will be racing across the eclipse track at an average speed of 2000 miles per hour. At this speed the moon's shadow will complete its journey across Canada in less than 95 minutes.

Eclipses can be predicted hundreds of years in advance because their occurrence involves the movements of sun, moon, and earth. They come in cycles known as the saros. The saros eclipse cycle was known to the ancients who used it to predict eclipses.

The July 10, 1972 eclipse is the 45th in the saros series that began with a partial eclipse on March 10, 1179, and will end with another partial one on May 3, 2459, when this cycle of 72 solar eclipses is completed.

The 1972 eclipse will have the longest totality — 156 seconds — of any past or future one in this 1280-year saros.

Further descriptive information on the July '72 eclipse cruise may be obtained from local planetariums, astronomical societies, museums, or by writing Eclipse '72, Box 1972, Englewood, New Jersey 07631

Eclipses in History

ECLIPSES HAVE fascinated and terrified men since time immemorial. To ancient people, an eclipse was regarded as an omen forecasting terror and disaster.

The earliest written record of a total solar eclipse comes from China. Two royal court astronomers, Hi and Ho, knew that an eclipse was due. Unfortunately, according to the legend, on the day of the eclipse (Oct. 22, 2137 B.C.), Hi and Ho were too drunk to perform the eclipse rites of chanting, beating drums, and shooting arrows at the sun to drive away the evil dragon that was devouring it. As a result, the royal astronomers lost their heads.

The most famous eclipse of classical times occurred on May 28, 585 B.C. — an historical date that has been fixed by a solar eclipse. This eclipse, according to Herodotus, "Turned day into night" and created such awe that it ended a long war between the Medes and the Lydians.

There is at least one reference to a solar eclipse in the Bible (Amos 8:9); " And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon and I will darken the earth in the clear day."

This prophecy is one of the few events in scripture that can be assigned a definite date — June 15, 763 B.C. This was the great eclipse of Nineveh, which is also described in other annals.

THE FIRST AMERICAN eclipse expedition took place in 1780, during the Revolutionary War, as a group from Harvard College traveled to northern Maine. A special immunity agreement was negotiated with the British, so that the scientists could work unharmed.

The Harvard expedition, due to a miscalculation, never saw the eclipse in totality. They had chosen a site outside the path of totality.


  • Although solar eclipses occur two to five times a year most of them follow paths across the oceans (which cover three-fourths of the planet) or remote areas like Siberia or the Sahara Desert. An eclipse path rarely runs across heavily populated, easily accessible regions.

  • It has been estimated that any one person's chances of witnessing a totally eclipsed sun are one in 25,000.

  • The probability of a total solar eclipse occurring over the same geographical area on the average, is once in every 360 years.

  • During a period of 1400 years, in all the British Isles there have been only 18 total solar eclipses. In the same 14 centuries, there have been only two total eclipses in London, less than the average expectancy of one totality in every 360 years.

  • The first successful photograph of the sun's corona was taken in 1851, 120 years ago. Total observing time available since then has been less than 3 hours.

  • During the solar eclipse of 1868, traces of a previously unknown element — helium — were detected on the sun. In 1895, 27 years after it was discovered on the sun, helium, the second most abundant element, was recognized on the Earth itself.

  • The 1919 eclipse of the sun produced a dramatic confirmation of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The experiment sought to test his prediction that the speed of light would be slowed slightly by powerful gravity.

  • Eclipses occur because of a unique set of celestial circumstances. The sun is just about 400 times the diameter of the moon and just about 400 times as far as the moon is; thus its apparent size in the sky is almost exactly that of the moon.

  • If the sun were a little larger, or a little nearer; or for that matter, if the moon was smaller or a little farther, we would never have a total eclipse of the sun. On the other hand, if the moon were twice as near as it is, we might have an eclipse of the sun at every new moon.

  • Even with a total of 32 moons in our solar system, one could only witness a total solar eclipse from the planet Earth.

  • One of the most memorable eclipses for northern United States, occurred at 9:11 a.m. on January 24, 1925. It was calculated that totality would sweep across Manhattan. Many were disappointed, however, since New Yorkers above 80th Street witnessed totality while those below 80th Street saw a partial eclipse.

  • The maximum duration for totality is 7 minutes, 31 seconds. The longest eclipse in 1,200 years, lasting 7 minutes, 4 seconds, occurred in 1937. It was visible over the Pacific Ocean. Another one in 1955, visible only in the Far East, lasted over 7 minutes, The June 30, 1973, eclipse, visible over Africa, will also have a totality of over 7 minutes, making it the longest one until the year 2150.

    Go To Eclipse'72 — Olympia's Voyage to Darkness

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