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Total Solar Eclipse, 11th July 2010, Easter Island

Photos and time-lapse sequences

All the original photos taken on Easter Island are copyright © 2010 by Wolfgang Wohofsky and Heinrich Bauer. Learn more.

Heinrich Bauer's Report

Journey to Easter Island

Clicking on an image will display a large version. The box which appears also allows you to view several additional photos.

The solar eclipse of 2010 extended over the entire Pacific, beginning at French Polynesia, passing Easter Island, finally arriving at Chile, ending in Patagonia, where the eclipsed sun could be seen just about the horizon for two minutes. I decided to go to Easter Island, in order to experience the magnificent phenomenon in the midst of the enigmatic sculptures, the Moais. The Easter Island is very remote; you have to go more than 2000km to the nearest land, namely the Pitcairn islands. The Chilean mainland can be reached in a 6 hour flight. The runway of the airport has been enlarged to 3.5km as an emergency landing field for the space shuttle!

On July 7, we started via Madrid to Santiago de Chile. After a magnificent approach over the Andean I touched South American ground for the first time in my life. Santiago is an impressive town with 6 million inhabitants and characterized by the overwhelming mountain panorama of the snow-covered Andean mountains. Santiago is also a good choice for all who like seafood, giant steaks and excellent beer, which you have to order as “schop”, which is derived from the German word “Schoppen”. But mostly renowned in the world are the fabulous wines especially the Carménère, which came from Medoc but was extincted in France by the Phylloxera.

However, our arrival on Rapa Nui (which is the native name for Easter Island) was quite disappointing. On the day before the eclipse we encountered a tropic rain storm, which let us minimize the odds for an observable eclipse. Nevertheless, the monotonous splashing of the rain ceased at midnight, and the Southern Cross and the Center of the Milky Way showed up in the sky in all their splendor! We selected Anakena beach in the north of the island as our observation site. Presumably, this is the only bathing beach of the world with two World Cultural Heritage monuments, namely the ceremonial platform Ahu Naunau with seven Moais and Ahu Ature Huki. According to ancient myths, this is the place where Hotu Matua, the legendary first settler, landed on the island.

Since we were close to the central line, we enjoyed totality for four and a half minutes. The sight with the Corona and the Moai was anyhow unforgettable and rewarded us for the efforts to get to this unique place! Through my TeleVue Ranger 70mm Telescope I could see so many prominences and the fine structure of the corona, which no photograph can roughly depict! Also, the shadow bands were strikingly visible, both at the beginning and at the end of the totality. Comet C/2009 R1 was not visible with the naked eye, but Mercury and Venus lined up near the sun!

For the details of the corona I used a Canon EOS 450D with a 270mm Zoom Lens.

After that, we had some days to get more impressions of Easter Island. Most fascinating are the monolithic human figures (Moai). Supposedly, many of them were made between 1250 and 1500. Hundreds were transported across the island and set on the Ahus around the island's coastline. It is believed that the Moai are the living faces (aringa ora) of deified ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna).

Another highlight of this journey was the visit of the European South Observatory on the Paranal Mountain. We had to take a flight to Antofagasta, 2000km north of Santiago, and to drive by car more than 200km through the Atacama Desert. There we got a direct view of one of the four 8 meter primary mirrors.

On the last day of our journey we visited Valparaíso. This picturesque and colourful town played an important role until the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. It is declared as World Heritage. Since it is built on many hills, you have a perfect view over the coast and the port. Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean writer, had a marvellous house on one of the hills. It is a must to see. There are also many funicular elevators from the 19th century, which are still in operation.

The National Airline of Chile managed it to extend our journey by one night, because the return flight to Madrid had a three hour delay. Thus, we missed our flight to Vienna and we had a free stay in a nice hotel in Madrid. We enjoyed the warm breeze at our night walk downtown because we came from the south winter! The original Egyptian temple in Park Debod was the perfect place for our farewell.

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Santiago de Chile

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Easter Island: Anakena Beach

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Totality

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Rano Kao Crater

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Moai on Rano Raraku

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Sunset at Ahu Tahai

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Highway to Paranal Observatory

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Valparaíso

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