It wasn’t looking promising. Since sunrise the sky had been getting progressively darker, and as we gathered for breakfast the dark clouds were still rolling in.
We were heading north into the Pacific Ocean, towards the island of Sayang, where we were hoping to witness 99.75% of the March 2016 total eclipse.
So far our journey had taken us from Sorong in west Papua, into Raja Ampat, and north over the equator. Every day dolphins had joined us at the bow, sometimes in pods of 20 or more. We’d dived at an array of mind blowing sites, been on bush-whacking treks through tropical rainforest, and kayaked around mangroves and a vast labyrinth of a lagoon.
We’d seen rare endemic birds, ancient rock art, traditional papuan villages, and climbed to exhilarating heights for a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view.
It had been an epic few days. The main event, however, looked set to be a washout.
Our British and Irish guests were facing the prospect of untimely bad weather with adept good humour. The American continued to predict a bright outcome with dogged determination.
By 8:45 the drizzle had set in. We huddled under cover with necks craned towards the lightest part of the sky, peering up into the clouds. Unlikely patches of thinner cloud started to pass by, offering occasional glimpses of a more defined shape – and, undoubtedly now, there was a small dint in the top right corner of the sun.
At 9:15 perhaps a quarter of the sun was covered. We’d moved the boat into a brighter looking spot and it wasn’t raining anymore. Actually the sun was 75% out and shining. We continued to check the progress through what we now recognised to be very helpful patches of cloud cover.
And at 9:57 there it was; a fine line of pink-orange light, like an eyelash on a photograph. Around us it was almost twilight, but the patches of clear sky behind us are a brilliant blue. Unsure what to do we cheered, clapped, and called for beer.
As the wisp grew into a crescent and the sunshine spilled back into the day we began our return south. Although it’s what we’d all planned for, the actuality surpassed expectations. Nature had doubt and suspense with the weather, as if the sun going out wasn’t going to be dramatic enough – and we felt luckier for it.