Solar Eclipse Observing and Photography - Joseph Cali



Friday  June 21,  2019

I observed my first total eclipse was in the Bolivian Altiplano, 25 years ago.  Now, just like back then,  first stop is in Buenos Aires,  my staging point for the July 2nd total eclipse and some other touring. 

Avenieda Cordoba in the Palermo District -  Saturday just after dusk

The recent and untimely death of my close friend and eclipse chasing partner, Bengt Alfredsson, has resulted in a strange echo. Although I have committed to this trip with another friend,  Terry Cuttle from Brisbane, I procrastinated endlessly on making my own travel arrangements.  Mind you, Terry did his own fair share of didling which meant that I didn't know what he was doing. Excuses, Excuses!  The net result was that I made most of my travel arrangements in the last three days before departure.  "Thank you internet!" as Bengt would have said with a bellowing laugh.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2019
Bengt and I planned this trip together 3 years ago whilst we were in Ternate, Indonesia to observe the 2016 total eclipse.    

March 2016 total eclipse, Ternate, Indonesia.

This had been our pattern for the past 18 years, planning 3 years ahead, booking travel arrangements strategically and as required or necessary until his untimely passing 3 months ago.

The end result of the procrasting was that I did most of my bookings on the 3 evenings before departure and some on the fly. I packed including last minute mods, cuts and trims to equipment on the morning of departure day, went to work for a couple of hours in the afternoon to tidy up a couple of jobs and copy some files I need to review and send responses to while away. I went to the bank and got my foreign exchange then headed for Sydney.  

I am meeting up with Terry Cuttle from Brisbane, another eclipse veteran and long time friend of mine, in Mendoza on June 28th.  Terry and I collaborated closely for the 2012 total eclipse in Cairns and I have known him for many years. Until then I am free-wheeling. 4 days in BA and 4 days in and around Mendoza, San Luis and Parque Nacional de las Quijadas. 

The flight over was uneventful and very very comfortable. Air New Zealand's premium Economy is rated to be on par with business class on some other airlines. Having never flown business class, I can't comment but I arrived feeling very relaxed. Sydney Auckland is a 3 hr flight, there was a 3 hrs stopover in transit at Auckland then a 12hr flight to Buenos Aires. I wasn't especially tired and only had about 3 hrs sleep overnight.  My body clock seems to have got straight into sync.

So this morning I decided to unpack the gear and do a test assemble and stocktake.  Nothing missing. I seem to have all the bits I need and all the bolts and nuts and tools to put it together. One pack of 50 zip-lock disposable plastic bags  and a whole packket of rubber bands got packed by mistake. They seem to be the only hitch-hikers. Ok now I can relax. Today was supposed to be a recovery day but since I don't need it, I am going out to do some sight-seeing, photography and see how the city has changed over the past 20 years since my last visit. 

Me and my big mouth.  Jetlag hit me hard today about 30 minutes after I wrote that sentence saying I was unaffected. I slept most of the afternoon waking at 8pm. 

Tonight, I am going salsa dancing. What's that I hear you say? Buenos Aires is the city of tango.  Yes, I suppose it is, but life is too short to tango, my goodness, tango dancers take themselves waaaay to seriously.  BA has plenty of great salsa venues. Not coincidentally, two of the best are just a few minutes walking distance from my apartment.

Sunday 23rd June

You may have read how accommodation is hard to come by and other resources are very tight for this eclipse. The reason is that the type of tourist infrastructure required by the bigger tour companies, buses, ground operators, large hotels and things apart from the eclipse to put on the itinerary, places that can accommodate busloads of people not just to see, but also to "pee" and "feed" are much easier to find in Chile.  Then, I think that a lot of other smaller tour operators, and private travellers don't do their own research and possibly just copy what the big companies are doing because, "they must know best."

Three years ago, before any tour details had been released and well before we knew that Bengt was not going to be with us, he and I planned this, and did our own weather assessment. I have known Jay Anderson for many years and sent him my assessment.  He told me it was in line with what he was finding. He has access to and is able to use more robust statistical methods.  We view cloud photo loops and look for places that are mostly clear. Eventually tours were announced, almost all in Chile, yet across the border there is a part of Argentina, with weather prospects as good, or even a touch better than locations in Chile.  The landscape is open, whereas in Chile, you have to pick your location carefully  or risk being blocked by mountains. The result is that if any of you wanted to head to Argentina  right now, you could still very easily make the arrangements. Plenty of flights available to Mendoza, plenty of rental cars available, and accommodation in San Juan is still easy to find. The south limit passes through the north east of San Juan and the centre line is an easy 1 hr drive north of San Juan.

This is an approximate map of what I'll be doing.  I arrive in Mendoza on June 24, head out to San Luis and Sierra de las Quijadas. But in actual fact, I need to cut back to Mendoza on June 28 to collect Terry from the airport.  Details, details. 

Up close, we want to be located at a lookout on a hairpin bend overlooking a dry lake with the Andes in the background.
This satellite photo is from Google Earth. 

By comparing various mapping resources I have come up with this rough simulation of our view of the eclipse overlaid on Google Maps streetview. 

This is not the weather forecast you want to see. Clear sky right up to  18 hrs before totality then cloud building up to 98% at totality. Great! Just Great!

Note that this is the GFS forecast, my experience is that this far out (9 days to go), you may as well toss a coin as look at any model including the GFS. 

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