Darkness into light
When Eddie Frank and Dr. Laurance Doyle get together they turn darkness into light, when everything is dark around them. Solar eclipses bring them together and in 2020 Tusker will offer an illuminating total solar eclipse trip to Chile’s Patagonia.
Eddie handles everything below the tree canopy ( i.e. accommodations, wildlife viewing, hiking) and Dr. Doyle handles everything above. Dr. Doyle is an astrophysicist who works at California’s Carl Sagan Center, SETI Institute and enjoys sharing his 40 years of astronomical insights with Tusker’s tribe. His research includes detection of extraneous solar systems as well as patterns of animal communication and how it relates to humans. His love of astronomy is contagious and he enjoys spinning historical anecdotes with celestial events.
“People have been watching total eclipses for thousands of years and there is always something new to discover, ”he said. “A total eclipse is the safest most dramatic thing in nature.”
Based on astronomical mapping, the bottom fifth of Chile will be the best place to view the total eclipse of 2020 that will occur Dec. 14 and last about 130 seconds.
Chile has become a player in the astronomical world since 2005 when Cerro Tololo, a world class observatory opened in the forests at 9,000 feet, about 300 miles north of Santiago. Dr. Doyle said that on the Tusker eclipse chasers will visit the obersvatory during the day, and an effort will be made to use the telescopes at night. Tololo features five working optimal astronomical telescopes, and during Dr. Doyle’s ten days there in 1998 he saw a super nova in a spiral galaxy, 41 million light years from earth. The skies above Cerro Tololo have much less infrared water vapor than other major observatories making it a prime stop on the star gazing circuit.
“We’ll get the full Southern Hemisphere stars as well as the center of the galaxy down there—always a popular attraction with the eclipse chasers,” Dr. Doyle said.
Astro-tourism and Tusker
Eddie and Dr. Doyle have been chasing maximum totality eclipses for over 30 years and when they get together amazing things often happen. They saw a green halo around the moon on a 2002 eclipse trip to Australia and Eddie off-handedly said it looked like a green tiara. Laurence sent the photos of the green halo to Sky & Telescope magazine and the “Green Tiara” effect was born.
On the 2012 trip to Cairns scarlet sun flares on the eclipse’s low horizon resulted in a lime green pink rainbow, another once in a lifetime sight. The duo started their discoveries in 1983 uncovering a lunar calendar created by a now extinct people in Northern Kenya in 300 BC. Those ancients used 19 basalt pillars as a unique observatory. Tusker’s eclipse trips have included 2 visits to Australia, Zambia, Ghana and Mongolia. The Mongolia eclipse trip was so successful that Eddie developed a back-country Mongolia trek that has become a staple in the company’s annual trip list. Eddie said the Patagonia eclipse trip is limited to 40, and includes an optional extension to the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park.
Under the guidance of Doyle, the group will be touring the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, where Doyle observed in the past. They will then head south to an optimum viewing spot on the eclipse center line just south of Gorbea. After the eclipse, the group will head down to Puerto Varas for some adventure; hiking, biking and kayaking for those who wish. There will also be an optional extension for some great trekking in southern Patagonia’s spectacular Torres del Paine national park.
If Tusker’s previous eclipse trips are any indication, this one will fill up years in advance.