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  Australian Solar Eclipse Expedition 

November 26, 2002 - December 5, 2002

An Expedition Arranged by META Research and Led by Tom Van Flandern

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Having never visited Australia, this expedition was irresistable even though there were long travel hours involved. The first part of our journey took us from Baltimore to St. Louis, and then on to Los Angeles, California where we stayed overnight. While in LA we toured Hollywood, saw dozens of movie star homes in Beverely Hills, and other attractions including a beach and a man on whom wives could practice their bossing skills. At the beach we found a completed sand monument, and the nearby artist busily completing another.

A long tiresome flight of 13 hours from LA found us in Sydney, Australia viewing the most beautiful opera house in the world! Among the views from the top of our Hotel was a park full of trees, shrubs, flowers, and a memorial edifice. At night, the roof top city view was filled with a sea of lights. As we walked through the streets and parks of Sydney, we saw various trees and flowers such as white agapanthus flowers, strange spiders, eucalyptus tree blooms, etc. Not far from the parks, an old cathedral lifted its magnificent spires to the sky.

The round Sydney Tower was excellent for viewing the city in all directions. One was forced to buy a ticket to see a "Disney-Like" show prior to visiting the top of the Tower. The hologram scenes of the show were very well done, but the part of the show that was a jerky-seat ride, was less than rewarding for us old timers.

The Expedition included a ferry boat ride through the Sydney Harbor to Manly Beach for lunch. The Harbor, an integral part of the city, was a facinating harbor with many kinds of boats, and beautiful views along the water's edge including the Opera House that juts out into the Harbor. The Sydney Harbor Bridge crosses over part of the harbor, and people could be seen walking over the top of the Bridge which no doubt gave them a spectacular view of the the Harbor and City. Our goal to swim at Manly Beach was accomplished before it turned a bit cold and windy.

One of the most popular destinations of youth and tourists in Sydney is "The Rocks," Sydney's oldest precinct. It is on one side of the harbor that was settled early on by English convicts and troops. The name, The Rocks, was the result of most of the original housing being built of rock from the area. The Rocks has been reconstructed and retains much of the old rock structures. The coffee shop where we had coffee was in an original rock edifice. The streets are narrow, restricted from auto traffic, and provide fashionable places to shop, grab a coffee, dine, or have a "snort" at a bar.

A few hours were spent at the Taronga Zoo to make sure we would see koalas and kangaroos. The Zoo provided a bird and seal show, and many other attractions. A stupendous view of the city from the Taronga Zoo was especially pleasing and is shown in the photo at the top of this page.

The day before leaving Sydney we ate dinner at the Bondi Beach, about ten minutes away from our Hotel by taxi. It was a surprising coincidence that our waitress was a young woman whose home had been about five miles from our home in the Washington, DC Area. The Bondi Beach lived up to its fame as being one of the best 3 beaches in Australia, and had beautiful clear green water with nice three foot waves. It was much too cold for swimming without rubber swim suits.

On December 2, 2002, we flew from Sydney to Adelaide arriving about 10:00 AM and checked in at a downtown hotel. To feed our obsession with beaches, we immediately took off to Glenelg Beach by riding an old and perfectly preserved streetcar known as a tram in Adelaide. The ride was a straight shoot through downtown and suburban areas, and provided a glimpse of the normal communities of Adelaide. The beach was cold, cloudy, and full of teens having a volley ball competition between numerous teams. For us, the water was too cold for any swimming, and no one else was in the water either. We took the tram back to downtown Adelaide after eating lunch in a glassed in restaurant.

In the evening near Adelaide, we had a kangaroo dinner and night walk for viewing animals at the Warrawong Wildlife Preserve. Most of the animals we saw on the night walk were either kangaroos or woylies. Woylies are small nocturnal rat-like kangaroos scientifically named bettongia penicillata.

The next morning a chartered bus took us north out of Adelaide to the "outback" to where we were to view the solar eclipse. The first part of the route north was through miles of wheat fields. It was as if we were in Kansas, USA. Once beyond the wheat fields, the land became drier and rockier with little if any vegetation. We had a couple of rest stops and ate lunch on the patio of a preserved old blacksmith shop. Jacaranda trees with purple blooms caught our eye everywhere along our route. We arrived at our overnight accommodations at Leigh Creek which had been designed for tourists, and included ample facilities for eating, recreation, meetings, etc.

On December 4, 2002, bus tours took us to three sites. Our first stop was at ocher pits that had a class of natural earths, ranging in color from pale yellow, orange, red and gray. The ocher is used by aborigines for painting their bodies and faces. One of the more intriguing stops was at a shop where a bearded artist worked and sold his products. The artist, Cornelis Johan Alferink, known as Talc-Alf, was very friendly and would talk about his work if one asked him to do so. Our third tour stop was to view huge coal pits and coal-mining machinery.

In the afternoon of December 4, we were transported to a very barren area where the eclipse would be viewed. Cameras and telescopes were immediately set up in different spots for capturing the eclipse. The eclipse finally arrived toward sundown, and made a short but stupendous show. The diamond ring effect was produced by several diamond flares that did not quite portray the usual image of a ring with a diamond, but the show was exceptionally impressive.

We returned to Adelaide the next day, detouring through the Flinders Ranges National Park. A photo-opportunity stop at Hucks Lookout afforded the opportunity to marvel at Cambrian geological rock half-a-billion years old. The lunch stop at the beer garden at Wilpena Pound Resort was a restful spot set among many large eucalyptus trees.

Our trip back home from Adelaide started at 7:30 AM on December 6, and after 32 hours traveling it was still December 6 when we finally arrived home!

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Report by Robert and Tahleen Nabors