LAST UPDATED FEBRUARY 1, 2010
RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS succeeded in observing the annular eclipse of the sun from three locations in Uganda on Januar 15, 2010. This eclipse path was more than 350km in width with maximum duration of annularity expected to be around 8 minutes at the centerline; solar elevation at max eclipse was only 18 degrees at approximately 8.25am local time. The expedition traveled first into Rwanda, then over the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and northward into central Uganda. The team divided into three groups. The first group remained at our base at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary: Byron Braswell, Jeff Pohlman and Linda Pohlman.
The second group with Carolyn Whitman and Barbara Flack, led by Lynn Palmer traveled to the centerline where a site was found in real-time along the main roadway near Nakasolongo.
The third group was composed of our science team with Paul Maley, Richard Nugent, Charles Herold and Bhanu Pratap Sharma. Two sites were set up at 4.5 and 3.5km south of the central graze zone southeast of the town of Gulu. Coincidentally, both sites were located inside the zone of totality for the future total solar eclipse of November 3, 2013! The principal science team objectives were to videorecord the Baily’s Beads formation and dissipation at the northern edge of the annular eclipse path. Since at an annular eclipse the beads are from the opposing lunar pole the north edge team observed Baily’s Beads created by the South pole of the Moon. The team depended on successful observation by others in Kenya or India of Beads from the southern edge of the eclipse path in order for a solar diameter correction to be determined.
Along the route we stopped at a restaurant and during lunch noticed that one of the fried onion rings had a remarkable resemblance to the annular eclipse.
The main reason tourists come to Rwanda is to see the dwindling population of mountain gorillas. Of the 16 tracked families in the Volcanoes National Park we had a difficult but successful adventure to meet one of them. This included driving through rain, fording a swollen stream, being set upon by safari ants, and a strenuous 2 hour hike into the park as well as a bumpy 4-wheel drive experience.
Perhaps not the most inviting tourist destination, we had to pay a bribe in order to get our visas approved at the border crossing between Gisenyi and Goma. This was a short border crossing lasting about 2 hours where we drove through what amounts to a huge refugee camp created by prior eruptions of the Niyragongo Volcano and also by civil war within the DRC. The UN has a large presence there and most people live amidst encrusted lava flows; streets, fences and houses are constructed around and inclusive of volcanic rock. We took the time to examine one of the flow areas where houses are still encompassed and a new road has been built over and through the flow. Attempts were made to coerce our group into paying for photos of the lava flows but our guides were successful in negating this.
The most enjoyable part of Uganda was not being bumped and jostled along many of the unimproved roadways but as a result of seeing Uganda’s natural resources–its population of animals, the Nile River, and Murchison Falls.
Hyena along the road in Murchison Falls National Park where most of these images were taken. Photo by B.Braswell.