Friday, November 20, 2009

A starry disaster!

It was at 3:00 in the afternoon when our driver Raghu started the jeep to head to the peak of Kodachadri. The previous two days it rained heavily during the day time but the nights were amazingly clean. It was this fact which made us feel good and have positive mindset.

We were at the top by 5:20 PM and as soon as we are out of the Jeep the locals at the top were screaming to drive a Gaur away from the vicinity. After sighting the massive Gaur and rushing to take a closer glimpse of the hulk and failing miserably (thanks to the screaming and noise making locals) we were back in track at 6:00PM.

Then it was a time to transfer our things to the peak which is a steep walk of almost a kilometer. Our strategy was to pitch the tent first and then go back and bring the gears. The total weight of all the things that we carried, combined was not less than 40kilos. It was still cloudy and at times it was getting very much foggy as well.

Unmoved by the very frequent changes in the conditions, we pitched the tent and we were all fearing that it would go in air like a parachute if we pitch even a single peg of it loosely. It took quite a good amount of time and effort to make sure that the tent is secure and safe. Though the wind was terribly fast at times, the tent stood on the ground, even though slightly deformed at times! It was very much important for us (probably as imp as the camera itself) because in that part of the western ghats, if it rains, it washes away everything and the nearest safe point was 1 kilometer down the top! So our prime focus at first was to have a stable roof and then start photographing the things above that! :)

It was very windy and we have made our best effort to pitch the tent firmly and took the courage of leaving it for having our dinner at ‘bhattara mane’ 1 km down. After having dinner we took all the camera and related things and headed back to the peak and by Gods grace the tent was intact but distorted a bit, not of very much worry.

The sky was very clear and what a place that is for star gazing! Absence of even the slightest of light pollution, we could easily identify the milky way and some other stellar formations. We took our gears out and decided to do a trial on the long exposure and calculation for the time lapse. By that time we were almost sure that we are going to have a blasting time ahead! After about an hour of different trials, adithya and self decided to cam down a bit and take a bit of rest.

Milky Way

The next moment when I opened my eyes, it was 12:40AM! Just about the time when the Leo rises from the horizon! With all excitement I opened the tent and dumbstruck by the scene out there!! The sky was covered by clouds! Damn! Back to bed again, as if it were a bad dream! Woke up at 1:15, sneaked out of the tent…. Worse! Back to bed! It was getting cold and cold. All the time the wind gust was so huge that the sound from the fluttering tent was enough to scare away the Gaurs which occasionally come there for grazing!

2:15AM and we have decided to have some camp fire to warm ourselves up. Thanks to the continuous fog and small drizzle, the woods was wet and luckily we had kept few inside the tent. With good amount of work we finally were successful in bringing the fire up! All these things happened under the shade of the thick clouds above!

3:30AM, few of the brightest stars were visible just over our head and few in the North. Being close to the coastal, the wind direction was almost always from W –> E. So there is very little chances of the clouds in the East moving to North which seem clear. Adithya decided to continue sleep for a while and I have decoded to set up my camera facing east for sometime.

30 min later the sky in the North east cleared very slightly. I was keen. It was like that for about 5 mins. But no luck with any streaks. Clouds were back again.

At around 4:15 again a bit of the clearance in the eastern patch. I was on a long exposure and thought that my 12mm would cover that. As I was looking there…… there went a long streak! Wow! I thought my camera would have captured that, but I had missed that one by as close as few centimeters away from the right edge of my viewfinder! A big disappointment for me! Wait after that yielded nothing mut disappointment and frustration! I hit bed again at 4:30!

5:30, something was sounding very loud! Initially I thought I was dreaming but it dint take long to realize that it was pouring outside like mad. Huge outburst of rain clouds and the tent was reverberating with the sound of the raindrops hitting the plastic roof! After the disappointing time with the farther stars, we were expecting a good view of the nearest star rising at least! But the rain washed away every possibility of witnessing the famous sun rise of Kodachadri….

Nothing was fruitful for any of us. All the pain in getting those heavy things to that top and managing to spend the cold and windy night at a place which is a grazing land of the Gaurs, went into veins with the Gods of the rains having no mercy on our efforts.

What remains after this project is the immense brainstorming and knowledge gathering activity that went behind in executing it and the overall team effort that was put behind. If it were a win we would all be proud of it. But I am sure we are equally proud of this failure as well, or rather as Ganesh puts - we are all very proud of this ‘successful’ failure!

Three cheers to the team and their Herculean efforts first… then another three for Harsha for making this happen…

I am proud to be a team member of Leonids 09!

UPDATE: Yesterday night, when revisiting the long exposure images that I made, I noticed that without my attention I had caught one meteor!! Below is the update:-

So, finally looks like I too have one in my kitty. In the below image observe a small streak (!!) near the bottom right. The direction of the streak is quite different than the motion of the stars around. So I strongly suspect that it must have been a meteor strike. Harsha is also suspecting the same thing. It could be the third one for the team!  

This was in desperation when in spite of the cloud cover I was keeping my camera open for long exposures. For the bare eyes even those stars were also barely visible!


1 comment:

molarbear's posts said...

Excellent preparation and co-ordination on this effort; to me, the success or failure was almost incidental!