[AZ-Observing] Six Weeks in Namibia - Sort of On Topic

  • From: Tom Polakis <tpolakis@xxxxxxx>
  • To: az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2004 13:54:07

Folks who pay close attention to every message that comes across this
mailing list may remember a message forwarded last August by Christine
Shupla about an observing opportunity in Africa.  A luxury eco-tourism
lodge at the base of the sand dunes of southwest Namibia was soliciting the
services of astronomical tourguides.  They recently purchased a 12-inch
LX-200 telescope, and are filling slots for people who would be able to
show guests their way around the sky with it.  The position and flight to
"nearby" Johannesburg are uncompensated.  Compensation comes in the form of
sleeping and eating at a $400-per-night lodge in a spectacular setting, and
a long stay at latitude 24 degrees south with free reign on a telescope.
The minimum stay would be six weeks.

After a month or so of dawdling, I pitched my southern-sky knowledge and
enthusiasm to the director of the program.  Nearly six months later, the
lodge offered me the period from the beginning of August through the middle
of September.  I realized that I would be replacing six weeks of the
hottest of the hot Phoenix summer with the coolest and driest winter period
in Namibia, and a couple seconds later I accepted it.  I am currently
finalizing air travel plans with my travel agent (who is incidentally the
co-founder of EVAC): six weeks for me, and the last two for Jennifer as well.

Here is the Web site of the lodge.  http://www.ccafrica.com/reserve.asp?id=10

It is located a couple km from the eastern edge of the world's largest sand
dunes, which fill the expansive Namib-Naukluft National Park all the way to
the ocean.  The region receives roughly four inches of rain per year,
typically between December and May.  Here are some of the better sand dune
photos I have seen from near Sossusvlei:

http://staffi.lboro.ac.uk/~copal/pal/play/photography/gallery_nature_d.htm

Just imagine how the place looks under moonlight!

I am not concerned about sky darkness, as this place is remote!  Namibia is
the size of the four states of the Southwest U.S., and contains 1.5 million
people.  Windhoek, the largest city, has a population of only 150,000.  It
becomes more and more sparsely populated (and less inhabitable) as you move
south and west from there.  As for transparency, I have been told by a
person who did a stint last year, that suspended sand is not a concern.
I'm sure there will be plenty of clear nights.

This will be my sixth Southern Hemisphere observing trip, and I'm hoping it
will be my best.

Tom

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