|The adventure begins, as Tim and I both went to get our Yellow Fever vaccinations today.|
|We purchased our tickets for our flight today. One skip, five hops, and one jump and we are there (we're taking the scenic route to French Guiana). See the picture for our trek through the Caribbean.|
|We left Grand Forks at 5:00 AM and arrived in Miami around noon. Since we cannot leave for French Guiana until tomorrow morning, we decided to get a hotel along/near South Beach (either that or spend the night at the airport!). We opted to save a little money and took the city bus to the hotel - we saw a lot of economically depressed parts of Miami. Tomorrow we will take a taxi back to the airport. Finally, we went for beach stroll, took a little swim, and will venture out later to see why all the fuss about South Beach (aka SoBe).|
|South Beach was fun, but not much different from any other big city's night life area. Anyway, we left Miami on our Caribbean hopping excursion to French Guiana. First stop Haiti (left picture), then Guatemala (right picture). I was surprised to find the plane full on both of these legs. There were a lot of Hatian and Guatemalan tourists and business people on the plane.|
|From Guatemala we headed for Martinique (left picture). An interesting side note: At two of the stops they fumigated the plane for insects - while we were in the plane (right picture). Lastly, there were 7 Americans on the flight, 4 of us for the eclipse and 3 amateur insect collectors headed for the French Guiana jungle.|
|We finally arrived in Cayenne. But, it was too dark to take any pictures and we could not find an Internet connection, so we socialized with with other Americans (and a Dutchman) who were here for the eclipse.|
|We headed for the airport to pick up a rental car (taxis are real expensive here!) and headed towards Kourou to check out the hotels and the French Space Agency's (CNES) Guiana Space Center (to research potential webcast sites). We now have a couple of options (not the best network connections, but they would work) and will return to the space center tomorrow to meet with people at the center about using their Internet connection.|
|By the time we got to the space center it was closing, but I did get a picture of an Ariane 5 rocket (left picture) and the actual launch tower (right picture). The rocket is big - probably 15 stories tall! Unfortunately, the launch scheduled for Tuesday night was cancelled. That would have a real cool to see and webcast - bummer!|
|Finally, I took a picture of some islands (where Devil's Island is - the infamous French prison) that we plan to tour later this week.|
|We got back to our hotel only to find that our door no longer opens with our card keys (we have to have the manager let us in each time we want back in our room), our air conditioning no longer works, and they have no fans. It's hot and humid. Maybe we would have been better off camping in the jungle with the insect collectors we flew down here with.|
After a long hot night, we got up and pestered the hotel staff until they promised to fix our door lock and air conditioning.
From there we marketed our solar glasses (got to pay for these trips somehow!). Anyway, Tim said that going store to store to sell glasses and selling the glasses on the street made him feel like an "illegal alien." I had to agree. But, on the other hand we are doing a public service, as there are no solar glasses available and people did want them. We sold over 100 in just an hour or so.
We headed back to Kourou to meet with Mathilde Savreux (the Outreach Director at the Guiana Space Center). We described who we were, what we do, why we do it, and who watches and Mathilde agreed to give us access to their facility for the webcast. Tomorrow we head back to the space center to test the connection.
|We then headed of to the "roches" or "rocks" area of Kourou, which is a rocky outcropping along the coast (where a local river meets the sea). Like many of the rivers the spill from the jungle into the ocean, this river is BIG (left picture). We also saw the many boats coming back from the Devil's Island tours (right picture). Unfortunately we discovered that you cannot actually goto Devil's Island, only the neighboring islands. And the tour takes all day. We decided to skip the tour as we do not have that much time.|
|Tim also took a picture of some of the local fauna, including this bird (left picture) and some mud skipper fish (we think) right picture. These little buggers could "skip" across several feet of water. Click play to watch a short video of the fish - they move pretty fast!|
|We stopped for dinner at a little place and the only thing on the menu that looked good was “fricasseed de parts” which the waitress said was “like pork.” It was pretty good. However, I can’t help but wondering what parts of what animal I was eating? I guess this is one of the great mysteries one contends with when traveling to far-off places to webcast solar eclipses.|
|Just a sidenote: It seems that you can't go anywhere in the world without running into one of these.|
|We got up and did some marketing of the solar glasses. We then began our search for hardware to mount the 2 telescopes and a long network cable. After lunch we headed back to Kourou to meet with space center personnel to work out the details of our webcast (where we would be and what we would need). We spent the rest of the testing network bandwidth and equipment and modifying the webpage. The network here is a bit slow, but sufficient. It looks like we will on the upper/top terrace of the press center (left picture).|
|We also checked out a possible site along the beach (the "roches" or "rocks" area of Kourou). The network at the hotel (Hotel de Roches) is available, but slower than at the space center. While at the "rocks" we took a few more pictures for our readers pleasure. The image on the left is the old lighthouse that guided boats into the river. The picture on the right looks "up river" of the river (this is the same river as shown in Sept. 19's blog entry).|
|We made it back to Cayenne later that night and decided to have a very American dinner: French bread, French cheese, French beer and Spanish olives!|
We have gotten several calls from local optical shops for our glasses. The Guiana Space Center gave out free ones, but they went fast and the only solar glasses left in town appear to be ours. We have cornered the market and expect to retire to Tahiti soon...
We got up very early (5:30 AM) to drive back to Kourou to see where the Sun comes up. We have been told that there is a consistent marine layer and thus the beach may not be the best place. However, there are a lot trees to the east of the Press Center. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
It looks like the beach would be the best place to be, however the network was down this morning so we could not measure the (morning) bandwidth at the hotel. The locals (mostly soldiers stationed here) and guests of the hotel make heavy use of the network connection during the day and we where hoping that the bandwidth would be better early in the morning (we measured it in the afternoon before).
We drove back to Cayenne as we must change hotels/towns today. We move to a hotel in Kourou for the rest of our stay.
Since we had some time to kill, we decided to check out the city and a local beach where sea turtles lay their eggs.
|Here are a couple of pictures of downtown Cayenne.|
|Not all of Cayenne is as rundown as the city center is. In the outlying areas there some nice houses and the opens areas of the city are pretty lush. PS Cayenne has a similar population as Grand Forks, ND (50,000 or so).|
|Here is a view of the beach. Unfortunately, we did not see any sea turtles. We did, however, find a sea turtle nest that had been exposed by the waves.|
|The beach sand was very fine and had a multicolored pattern. As the waves come ashore the sand would get rearranged and the pattern would change. Also we found a sand crab.|
|Finally, here we Tim (left picture) and myself (right picture) on the beach.|
Here we are at 5:30 AM on the “big day.” It was a near perfect morning with a clear sky and only a little marine layer. The network bandwidth is not what we hoped for, but we will have to make do.
The webcast went very well. By turning off audio we had enough bandwidth to deliver a good image.
Finally, Tricia (Tim's Graduate student) gave me the idea (via the chatroom) to name the remaining *huge* cockroach living (one died) in our rental car "Bob." So I did. Here's to you "Bob"!
|After the webcast we went on a tour of the space center. The tour started in the control center and moved (via buses) to the launch areas.|
|Along the way we passed by the vehicle integration building - where they put the satellites on (left picture). We also passed by the vehicle assembly building - where they put the rockets together (right picture).|
|The tour then turns towards the Ariane4 launch pad (left picture). But, first we passed by some vehicle transport trucks (right picture).|
|From the Ariane4 launch pad we headed towards the Ariane5 launch pad. Since they now do all of the assembly work in dedicated buildings the Ariane5 launch pad is not as impressive as the older Ariane4 launch pad (where they used to do the assembly work at the launch pad). Here’s Tim (left picture) and myself (right picture) in front of the Ariane5 launch pad.|
|Here is a picture of the two railroad tracks (left picture) that are used to ferry the Ariane5 (and launch table) from the assembly areas to the launch pad. Yes, the launch table is so big, that both sets of tracks are required. Here is a picture of the access doors for the fuel (the Ariane5 is fueled at the launch pad).|
|Here are some pictures of 2 of the 3 blast deflectors which are used to redirect the exhaust away from the tower.|
The expedition was a success and we made new contacts with other people in the “business” which should help with the SEMs goals.
The End (we head home tomorrow).