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Tall Ship Soren Larsen  Cruising the South Pacific in tropical trade winds.

A true ocean sailing adventure under square rig from Auckland, New Zealand to Easter Island, in the South Pacific. Relive the classic days of sail with Sren Larsen as she harnesses the world’s trade winds for this ocean adventure. Sail in the wake of the ancient Polynesian navigators and pioneering voyages of Captain Cook aboard this magnificently restored square rigger. Blue water passage making on an authentic tall ship to famously remote Pacific island of Rapa Nuie.

Itinerary Day 1 Auckland, New Zealand 10am arrive onboard - introduction to the crew and signed on Ship's Articles as Voyage Crew. Safety instructions and departure. Day 2- 29 ocean sailing adventure in a true blue water passage across the Southern Ocean to Easter Island. Depending on our overall passage time we aim to have 2-4 days at 'Rapa Nuie' - Easter Island Day 34 depart ship at 10am at our final destination, Hangaroa, Easter Island.

The Spaniard Alvaro de Mendaa was the first known European to make contact with Polynesians: In 1595 Mendaa was sailing from Peru to the Philippines when he encountered the islands and named them Las Islas Marquesas after his patron, the viceroy of Peru.

French Polynesia map

 In 1842 France took possession of the island group, which has remained under French rule until the present. Sometimes the islands are called by their French name, Les Marquises. During the mid-1800s, quite a few Marquesans were carried off to South America as indentured laborers. None are known to have returned.

By the time French painter Paul Gauguin went to the Marquesas in 1901 there were as few as 1,500 Marquesans left. Gauguin spent his last two years living among them and painting in their remote islands. He is buried on Hiva Oa.Map of the Marquesas islands

Because of their relative isolation, the Marquesas have basically languished for the past century, with little growth or economic development, although the population has rebounded somewhat.

Polynesia is GMT - 10 which means 10 hours behind the Greenwich Meridian time. But don't forget that Gambier islands are 1 hour ahead of Tahiti and Marquesas islands 30 minutes. USA Pacific Time : when it is noon at Los Angeles, it is 10:00 am in Papeete USA Eastern Time : when it is noon at NYC, it is 7:00 am in Papeete

My berth is on the right, just forward of the mid-point of the ship. Storage is minimal. In the storage cubicle in the panel at the foot of the bed, I put my socks, t-shirts, underpants and handkerchiefs. In the curved sidewall magazine rack, I place my toiletries and shoes. Under my mattress I laid out my trousers and shirts and the flattened duffel bag. Also under the mattress, I store my life jacket and foul weather gear. With all the stuff under the mattress, there are a few lumps are here and there. I will adjust, if necessary, as time goes on.The thrill of being at sea for the first time overrides everything. marquesas islands picturesThe wind, the magnificent billowing sails, the roll of the ship, the brilliant blue of the sea, and the bow cutting through the water, the foamy wake, all make me feel wonderful. I am grateful to have this moment in my life. We are on our way to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Sailing time from San Diego will be about three weeks. This is the beginning of the hurricane season in the northern hemisphere. The storm that delayed our sailing date is dying over the Baha peninsula of Mexico. Another low – lows breed storms – is forming in the Pacific miles west of us. Roger, our current Captain, has decided to sail straight west, and then bend to the south to run between the systems. The backside of the winds from the disturbance over the Baha should, after we turn south, push us along to the equator.

The Captain, Roger, divides the crew into three work shifts called "watches". The day is divided into five periods, also called "watches". The problem is not only learning the mechanisms of steering; the elements are against you too. For everything to work, the sails and wind must be balanced. The wind is always forcing the ship around and it is not constant. Waves, called swells, are big rollers coming from some distant disturbance (maybe our Baba hurricane). The smaller waves on top of the swells are called chop and originate from the local wind. The ship rides up and down the swells. Some are taller than me standing on the deck. They generally do not come straight in, more on an angle.

Only a few towns have airports. Many villages can only be reached by sea and the Aranui 3 is one of the best options for getting to them. Our first port of call in the Marquesas is the island of Ua Pou, where the early morning air is steamy and hot. A few villagers have arrived at the pier, including a woman who welcomes us ashore with a smile and a tiny fragrant gardenia. Unloading all the supplies will take about five hours, which is the amount of time we have to spend in the village. Hikes are possible on most of the islands and the one-hour walk up to the Belvedere lookout here is one of the easiest -- and most scenic, offering a spectacular view of the crescent-shaped bay and lush mountainsides.A combined cargo boat and passenger ship, the Aranui Soaring mountain spires, so tall they pierce the clouds, rise up behind the village of Hakahau as our boat approaches the pier. If there's one thing you won't forget on a visit to this remote island chain 1,400 km east of Tahiti, it's the landscape -- and the pillars of Ua Pou are about as dramatic as it gets. One of these mountain pinnacles was the inspiration for Jacques Brel's song La Cathedrale. The Belgian crooner who lived on the Marquesas for a time, often travelled between the islands in his small plane.BOTTOM LINE


Ua Pou, population 2,000, is one of six inhabited islands of the Marquesas, which form a 300-km-long chain in the South Pacific. Unlike most villages in the Marquesas, Hakahau, has a bank, a post office and a pier, where the Aranui can tie up. In other towns, the ship anchors at sea and passengers are shuttled to shore in whale boats.

Ua Pou (its name means pillar) is featured on the 500 Pacific Franc note. Languages spoken are Marquesan and French. The first church in the Marquesas was built in Ua Pou in 1842. For details on trips to the Marquesas by cargo boat visit aranui.com. carries up to 200 people on a comfortable 16-day journey to 15 villages on six Marquesas islands and two villages in the Tuamotu archipelago

The ship is rolling, pitching, and yawing, which is a nice way of saying that everything moves everyway all the time. I must hang onto the ship while steering, a major task for me. One wave is so violent I am thrown down thumping my head against the gunnel. Sometimes I am lashed in by hooking my harness to the support beam behind the helm. The beam goes by the horrible name of "gallows". Raised ridges on the deck, which I thought were to route off water, are really for gaining a grip. I hook my toes on them, to try to stand up or at least stop sliding around. The biggest problem I have is luffing. To "luff" is to loose wind in the sails from being at the wrong angle. I am so far off course the sails start flapping or luffing. Dean is yelling, "port, port". I have trouble remembering what "port" is, finally the ship is righted and the sails refill. It would have been bad, very bad, if the back of the sails filled with wind. At the end of my turn I was sweating. Next time I will do better. Learning the ship, like how the sails worked. Learning about the world surrounding me, like the brilliance of the stars. Learning the sea, like squadrons of flying fish. The first few days of moving to the southwest the winds from the northwest are strong. The sea is rough. The temperature is surprisingly cool. I thought that being so far south that I would be wearing tee shirts instead of a heavy jacket and stocking cap. The wind diminishes as we increase our distance from the storms on the coast of Mexico. We have clearer days and nights. The clearer nights give the moon a chance to reveal its radiance. Stars have their opportunity when the moon is visiting the other side of the earth.

Toward the end of the first week, the wind reduces to gentle breezes. Not strong enough to push the ship, we have to motor. Truthfully, I enjoy the motoring even with the added non-natural engine sounds. It is comfortable walking around the ship without much pitching. Dozing on the roof of the cabin in warm sunshine without being thrown off by the rolling sea is delightful.

Nearer to the equator the wind reduces more, the Captain calls the area between the northern and southern hemisphere's winds the "area of convergence". I think "area of convergence" is a complex modern phrase for "doldrums". In the old days the sailors would have been stuck until stronger breezes came along. We move on. Two or so days north of the equator we pick up the southeasterly winds. Mild at first, the southern trades, as the southeastern winds are called, bring our first brief and fierce squalls.

Paths in the sea:

I love the night watches. Usually there is not much to do. Watch for another ship, spin yarns, hunker down, meditate, nip tea and biscuits from the galley, or serve your time at the helm. The young lads doze. Occasionally the watch chief prods the lads in a fruitless effort to keep them alert. By this time I have learned to steer the ship using some distant star or cloud formation for reference. Distant points help in reducing the problem of over steering since the position of the ship is used to judge control decisions instead of a six inch long compass needle. Rectifying an unwanted shift in course by relating the bow to a star is much easier than trying to react to an infinitesimal movement indicated by the compass.

My favorite guide is Venus. In the early evening when the night is clear, a very bright Venus gleams in the western heaven. If Venus makes a walking trail, the moon makes an interstate highway. The trouble with the moon is the fickleness in its appearance. Sometimes it is small or is not to be seen, other times it is a highway behind us.

My other favorite is the full moon in the western skies then the road ahead is broad and golden. The moon hangs in the heaven above the end of the road the "old man" showing us the way. The south sea islanders see someone else other than the old man. Some see a woman with a water bucket, the maker of rain.

Most beautiful night:

A few days out of San Diego the clouds break up and the skies finally clear. I experience what I call the "Most Beautiful Night". The "Dog Watch" is the name given by the sailors to the watch from eleven in the night till three the morning. Lonely hours. I come up from below pull myself over to the port side bench using the lifeline tied each night around the helm area. A cool wind is from the northwest, tilting the ship to port. I hunker down; the mainsail overhead blocks my view of the heavens. I had been sound asleep in my warm bunk when Lucy, a sailor from the previous watch, had shaken me awake. Once under the boom, the sail no longer blocks my view. The night is clear exposing brilliant stars from horizon to horizon. No moon is shedding light to dim the heavens beauty. The entire sky is filled with bright stars. The numbers are far too many, defying man's ability to count, I stare at the heavens in awe. The sea's immense vastness emphases the even more vast night sky above with its crown of stars. I feel my own humanity and my insignificant place in this universe. Drinking in the wonders, I study the star patterns on this night as I did for many nights there after. Dominating the sky from horizon to horizon is our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Squinting my eyes a little, I imagine where our solar system fits in the outer edge of the vast Milky Way. On the north end is the Big Dipper and the North Star, in a few weeks I will view the Southern Cross on the south end. The white dense cloud of stars, so many as to be indistinguishable, is concentrated in the center directly above my head and forms the core of the Milky Way. I stare and stare but cannot see a warrior wielding a bow. The Big Dipper, on the other hand, is descriptive and properly named. It's also well described as a bear being pursued by three hunters or more appropriately a bear doing the pursuing. The beauty of the night sky goes on and on. Mars blinks red and orange, far away galaxies show up as discs of light, some star is so low on the horizon that I think it is another ship. Shooting stars burn in a fiery death across the night sky as they glaze our atmosphere. One other night a shooting star entered the earth's atmosphere head on, for a few moments the night was as bright as daylight. On clear nights when the sea is perfectly flat the heavens are mirrored, a sight never to be forgotten. The lunar cycles are ever changing, bring a beauty of it's own. Regardless, the most beautiful night to me is the clear moonless night at sea where natural viewing of the heavens is unencumbered. The first is unforgettable, each additional is a blessing.

The Tucker's seaworthiness and the quality of the Kiwi sailors became more evident to me as we moved across the sea to the southwest. A short but violent squall, brought by the southeastern trade winds, told the tale.

The first windy squall hit us about two days before the equator. It was on our watch, the early evening one, from seven till eleven. Several showers with gentle rains had passed. With the warm temperatures, I enjoyed the rain, cooling fresh water showers. I dry in just a short time in the breeze, I feel better, cleaner and cooler. One gentle rain passed over opening into a patch of clear sky. You could see the next squall coming. It was not gentle. A heavy dark wall moving in fast from the southeast, no way we could avoid it.

The crew acted calmly, as if nothing was amiss. Evan, from the helm, barley raised his voice giving instructions to Dean and Roger who systematically went about lowering sails; the jibs, square tops'ls, and mainsail were furlled. The forward main was lowered only halfway and set parallel to the wind so as to provide stability. Evan went with the wind. In less than fifteen minutes it ended like it started, very abruptly. We broke through into extremely calm weather with broken clouds.

Salt water was used for washing cloths, flushing the head, and for bathing if extra baths were desired over the allowed every three day fresh water bath. A reservoir near the aft mast was filled with ocean water by each watch and supplied water by gravity to the galley. The galley also had hot and cold fresh water. A hot water heater for the shower in the head was rarely used. The sink in the head had only one faucet supplying fresh unheated water.

Dipping water from the sea was a skill that had to be learned. A bucket tied to a line was dropped over the lee side of the ship. The lee side was used since it was protected from the wind and the ship was heeled over in that direction making less distance to the seawater. It took some practice to drop the bucket so that it filled with water, not skip across the surface. The bucket filled very fast and would be jerked out of hand from the water force. We lost several buckets from people getting cocky with their skill or forgetting to tie the line.

To take a salt-water bath the bucket was dipped, then the water poured over the body. Usually this was repeated several times. When the sea was really rough the bath was taken while sitting on deck and getting someone to dip the bucket and pour the water.

Water I had been told would go down the drain in a counter clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere. The water is supposed to do the same as the weather systems, counterclockwise north of the equator and clockwise south. I should be able to tell when we cross the equator by watching my bathwater draining. North of the equator the water did drain counterclockwise. I would have been happy if it changed anywhere near the equator but my bathwater did not change directions all the way to New Zealand. Counter clockwise the entire distance.

Message Bottles
Before I left home, I solicited messages in bottles. I had three; one from Mary Frantz, an environmentally conscious potential world traveller; one from Bob and Susan, newly moved to Fulton and products of the computer era, who retired early; and one from Mark and Marcia, Susan's son and his intended from Spokane. Anyway I had planned to drop them on the equator. Rodger explained that if I dropped one a mile north of the equator one on the equator and one a mile south the prevailing currents should send them to different continents. On the appointed time, I positioned myself on the rear starboard corner of the ship.

We were a long way from land. I will be interesting to see if they are ever recovered. Dean told the story an Englishman who found a bottle with the will of a rich heiress and was set for the rest of his life. The story intrigued me so much that I decided to check it out. In 1937 a wealthy English lady named Daisy Alexander an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune did throw a bottle in the ocean in England giving her fortune to whoever found the bottle. In 1949 near San Francisco a dishwasher found a bottle with a note from a Daisy Alexander with her will. marquesas islands pictures

The record for oldest bottle found with a message so far is 150 years. A shipwrecked Japanese sailor threw a bottle into the sea. The bottle drifted ashore 150 years later in the seaside village where the sailor was born, a strange coincidence. However, the elapsed time ruined any hope for the sailor. I hope finding ours does not take so long.

More concidences
Speaking of coincidences, two have happened with the writing of these articles. First Bob and Susan, from the bottle story, decided to give Bob's mother a birthday present of a cruise down the coast of Mexico. On the Tucker's third night out, about two hundred miles from land, a huge cruse ship passed about a mile behind us heading south. It was multi decked, white and lit up the sea with its many lights. I don't know for sure if Bob and Susan were on that ship, but the dates and directions fit and we saw no other cruise ships. Regardless, I am convinced they were aboard.

this is a fabulous jugsaw design with all 4 cards forming the composite picture

'Moet' is a New Zealand designed and built boat and is 39ft in length. She was built in 1976 and although she had a few owners before us we were the first people to take her offshore.Sketch of layout


Tonight we are truly experiencing what it means to be smooth sailing. The moon is in the belly of Scorpio, straight above us, lighting the sails blue-white. There's enough wind to fill our 9 sails and keep us around 5 knots- no engine, just water-filled silence.
The passage to the Marquesas is meant to be a "downhill run" on the Trade winds. We're finally catching them, after a turn to the West, and our ship is like a painting from a storybook. She becomes the image she's been striving for these 2 weeks, with all the rugged elegance and grace she's meant to have; the reason we're all here is clear.


Our equator-crossing ceremony was hilarious. After a basketful of cold Pacifica beers with lemon- Yes! Beer! Cold!, and photos of the 00'00".00 NS on our GPS's (global positioning systems), King Neptune and two of his cohorts slandered our names, (Polywogs they call those who haven't crossed the equator by sea) one by one, and smeared us with eggs, broth, spice, and other nasty edibles that stuck in our hair and stained our undies funky colors.
Good times.


Examining my inner noise and tendency to be wrapped up by uneccessary chaos clouding my head. i reckon that out here, under smooth blue skies, must really be about as peaceful as this world gets.

My watch leader, Tom, weaves some great yarns of his adventures. He mentioned "us out here" referring to sailors of past and present, having their own code of morals, kind of "blaze our own trail" because they're transient and isolated- nothng's the same from port to port, and nothing leaves the ship that doesn't have to. Curious concept, and I see how it works.
The ship has several sailing movies on board, which we can watch if the skipper gives permission, on a laptop. Master and Commander, Pirates of the Caribbean- I understand in a new way. Pretty rad.


!!!!LAND HO!!!!!
Climbed the rigging and was one of the first to see land as we approached Hiva Oa, the first of the Marquesan Islands. Having had friction with my watch leader earlier, I was totally intolerant of fear or hesitation, and felt comfortable and at ease for the first time.


Today was an absolutely magical, amazing day in the islands.
We went to church and heard the vibrant, 3 and 4-part harmony the congregation automatically sings hymns in. We sat in the back with disinterested teenaged boys in Bob Marley t-shirts and crying babies. It seems, though it's a Catholic ceremony, the meeting still holds meaning to the pre-missionary Polynesian culture. The cathedral was built on an ancient holy ground, and the event is central to Taiohae life. (the small, but biggest on Nuku Hiva, town we're in)
A kind older woman and young Tahitian friend of hers drove a few of us to some archaelogical ruins and gave us a tour.
I missed the dingy back out to the boat and, stranded a few hours, made buddies with a gaggle of local kids playing in the surf. In my broken French, I taught them to salsa dance, they taught me a local dance and gave me a frangipani lei. We dove off the pier and played in the chocolate-brown, fine smooth sand.

Back on the boat, we took a group out a few hundred meters and swam with manta rays!!!! Huge, gorgeous, harmless creatures, we could swim right beside them, and so glorious it was!


Tonight a moment outside of time, when a magnificent rumble erupted from the shore. bellowing, gut-shaking rhythms with voices that layered themselves over it. A row of us, leaned out from under the rain cover, stars over our heads, craning to make out signs of dancing. here we were, on a European-style sailing vessel, a tradition that is familiar to us, witnessing a mystery, transfixed by it as those who colonized this land would have been. And the Polynesian people, recreating the traditions of their ancestors. I wonder how long the traditions will maintain, since both ours and theirs are only re-creations.

I feel I am where I want to be. But I don't feel I could possibly understand it all. I only hope am giving it the justice of recognition it deserves.


Finally setting sail today- hooray! We're a day behind schedule- more time to collect provisions, stow them

If you live on the Pacific side of Earth (California to Alaska, Hawaii, Japan
and Australia), you can see a partial eclipse of the Hunter's Moon.  The best
time to look is Monday morning at 5:00 a.m. PDT (Oct. 17, 1200 UT) when the edge
of the Moon dips into the darkest part of Earth's shadow. Only a little bit of
the Moon will be shaded. A casual observer might not even notice the eclipse;
but if you know what to look for, you'll definitely see it.

Leaving San Deigo The storm that started the problem has been reduced to a tropical low and has moved inland. This pleases the Captain very much. Now he says we can ride the west wind of the low directly westward into the Pacific, then go downhill to the Marquesas. (Don't I sound like a sailor?) The best to all, you will hear from me again when we reach land in 26 to 36 days. Everything was fine for the first few days. The wind was a consistant 20knots from the south west, basically perfect, and we rode the easy swells covering 160 miles a day plus. Life was good onboard and we laughed at how easy this business of ocean sailing was. However this gentleman's sailing was short lived. On the third day the winds started building till it was consistantly 35knots and gusting forty. We reduced our sail area right down and as we cleared the east coast on New Zealand the swells came to play too. 6m swells may not sound that big but let me tell you when you're in the trough and looking up at them coming it tests your nerves a wee bit. People started getting seasick and life onboard was difficult. Simply moving around was difficult as the ship rolled and crashed through the ocean. That night's weather fax was a somber occasion. A deep deep low had formed to the south of us and things were only going to get worse as a powerful front roared up from the bottom of the southern ocean. The sail trainees were banned from the deck, hatches were battened down, harnesses were required on deck at all times not just after dark like usual. The storm was comming.  The winds came first. Picking up to a consistant roaring of 45knots and gusting well over fifty. Making it a full gale force system. All we could do was hold tight and run down the face of the building swells, flying only a small stays'l (about 5% of our total sail area) and still moving at over 10 knots. Then the bullys showed up. The swells were an easy 10m and started breaking around us. Not fully but just the tops of them. We took several over the deck and crew were left scrambling to hold fast on whatever they could as we took a temporary soak. We were just holding our own and the mood was nervous and tense. None onboard had ever faced seas this big before and we were terrirfied by its power. The first mate and I were on watch at about 5.30pm and helming was exhausting. Using all my strength to hold her straight as we surfed down the faces. Then it happened. We were comming down the face of a monster, most likely 12-15 m, amd about 100m to port the swell jacked up and broke down its entire face.To our horror the whole swell starting peaking up right along to were we were and came a crashing down. "HOLD ON!" this time from the mate as I was wrapping my arms around the nearest steel staunchon I could find. The beast came down like thunder from the skys above and I was lifted horizontaly as it engulfed our entire ship. I held my breath and waited for the lifelong seconds to pass before we rose to the surface again and saw the mate lying on the decks next to the helm. Our good ship had taken the beating and shaken the water from her back, rising to fight the next swell. The Skipper came on deck straight away and gave the order to hove-too. We were no match for this fight so we had to sit it out it the safest way possible. We rounded up into the swells, sheeted the staysil flat and lashed the helm hard to weather. Retired down below and held fast. The night passed slowly. We sat like that for 12 hours before the swells finally eased enough for us to start making way again. Though they stayed at 6m for a few more days we got back on track and all took with us a strong belief in the ocean's power and dominance, and our own insignificance. The rest of the voyage never reached such climaxes but was filled with sunny days sailing, eating fresh Mahimahi, telling stories, reading books, and singing shanties (the cook's absolutely excellent, he knows a bundle ) Our first sight of Tahiti was a huge celebration. Its peaks that rise almost straight up to over 2000m are a sight to remember. We reached harbour at 3am on the 10th May and drank till well after sun up.

Tall Ship R Tucker Thompson left her home harbor in Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand for a 20,000-mile journey around the Pacific Ocean. She and her crew of sailors and trainees were to enter tall ship festivals and races in Korea, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angles, and San Diego before returning home across the South Pacific in December.

In August 2002 Bill Miller and his wife Susan left their home in Fulton, Missouri, USA to travel westward through the United States then around the world to visit Hawaii, the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Bangkok, Rome and return to the eastern United States and home in March of 2003. Susan planned to branch off during the first part of the journey to visit Hawaii and join Bill later in the South Pacific.

This is the journal of the intersection of the two journeys prepared by Bill with significant help from others who have sailed on the Tucker. It is the story of the people and the places of the ship and the sea as seen by people who had never ever seen anything like it before.

We start at the end, with the New Zealand Arrival:

We sailed into the Bay of Islands on the upper western coast of the North Island. The bay is guarded by rocky projections. Nine Pin on starboard and on the port side an even larger rock structure appropriately called Hole in the Rock. The Kiwi sailors were ecstatic; they were home after almost nine long months. Our Captain, Russell cut the motor needed in the open sea to counter the southeast headwinds that had plagued us for the last few days but were now in our favor. The sea was flat in the protected waters of the bay, the Tucker glided smoothly and silently between the green shores of the mainland.

The Bay of Islands is about fifteen miles long so at our speed we had some time to go, the blue waters were sprinkled with yachts and fishing boats. Many pulled within hailing distance with shouts of welcome to Russell and the Tucker. Russell responded in his hoarse accented voice to all that we had gone 20,000 miles, won races and generally boasted of the journey. To some he kidded about getting out of jail or some other good-natured banter. Quite obviously Russell and his ship were a fixture around here.

Further into the Bay small villages began to appear, the town of Russell on its peninsula nestled between foliage-covered hills. Paihia sloped down a hill on our right and Opua with its wharf, our destination, was straight ahead. We knew the wharf would be crowded with greeters and a formal greeting party of the native Maori. We had been practicing our songs and speeches for several days. Russell had told us some of what to expect, in the old days if you didn't pass the test of the greeting you might have ended in the cook pot and be their supper.

Russell with his flair for the dramatic skimmed by the pier under full sail executed a 360-degree turn while having us drop the sails in sequence and slid perfectly up to the dock. We were on land in New Zealand!

"I was on the pier at 12:00 we knew you would be in about 12:30 there was no breeze. I face the ocean suddenly a small breeze came up. Shortly the Tucker came around the point under full sail, she was magnificent. Russell sailed her full speed twenty feet from the pier made a circle turn while dropping the sails and docked – dramatic and executed perfectly. He could not have done it without the breeze."
Geoff Hindle

We climbed the ramp in a pairs behind Russell, at the top we were challenged by Maori warriors. After dancing around us making threatening motions and noises with hideous grimacing faces and tongues sticking out, a sacred plant was dropped in front of Russell who had to endure all without flinching. He picked up the plant as a symbol of our peaceful intentions. We were then escorted to chairs facing the warriors and the women of the Maori.

Two elders made speeches in Maori and English; the women sang several songs the beautiful melodies floating across the waters. They welcomed us to share with them this beautiful land. After the Maori finished, Russell led us in the song of the R Tucker T followed by his speech. He introduced each of the crewmembers with a little story on each; he concluded the introduction by calling us dreamers; his characterization "Dreamers, Dreamers all with the courage to live their dreams." His words directed at the young Maori were even more moving. He challenged them to be proud of their heritage.

My turn was next, Russell several days earlier had ask me to give a speech. In no way was I prepared for the seriousness of the occasion. These people were solemn, the occasion contained none of the frivolity I had in my prepared words, words that I had practiced for several days. I proceeded stumbling along, deleting whole sections as I went. I knew nothing of the history of the Maori and New Zealand Europeans and the troubles of their joining in this land. Below is what I said:

Bill's Speech On Docking:

Thank you on behalf of the men and the women of the Tucker's trainee crew.

We truly come in peace.

Many of us joined the crew of the Tucker in San Diego for the last third of her long journey.

On our trip we have seen many wondrous things.

We have seen on clear dark nights the heavens filled with stars and the Milky Way stretched from horizon to horizon.

We have sailed down paths of golden moonlight with phosphorescence breaking into thousands of little stars under the bow.

We have anchored in bays surrounded by cliffs three thousand feet high, picked mangoes from the jungle floor and bathed in a pool under a high waterfall.

We have been in bustling cities and small villages.

We have seen a king's mansion and been in the homes of ladies weaving straw mats.

We have experienced all of these things and more on our voyage on the R Tucker Thompson and it has changed us. Changed us each in our own way.

We wish to express our gratitude to Captain Russell Harris and the crew for sharing this experience with us.

Many thanks to all. Thank you and we are so proud to be in this enchanting land.

The final part of the ceremony was the Maori nose pressing, the elder explained nose pressing was not to be confused with the nose rubbing of the Eskimo. Each person from the ship pressed noses with each of the Maori thereby symbolizing the mixing of our breaths into one to share this land together peacefully.

Now we were in New Zealand and were "bona fide".

Lat: 43.7

Long: -79.9

Zip: L6X+2R4

Location: Brampton, Ontario


ISSISS june4/08

11:11:15 pm




-0.9 (very bright)


10:20:07 pm

W 6\6/08



-1.2 (very bright)

09:57:57 pm 5/6




W28: A Mixed Bag

When some stars die, they explode as supernovas and their debris fields (aka, "supernova remnants") expand into the surrounding environments. There are several different types, or categories, of supernova remnants. One of these is known as a mixed-morphology supernova remnant. This type gets its name because it shares several characteristics from other types of supernova remnants. Chandra Podcasts  Just Two Numbers Is All You Need (06-02-2008)

Black holes sound wildly complicated. After all, there are all sorts of bizarre things going on: intense gravity, the warping of the fabric of space, the distortion of time itself. But when it comes to describing black holes, it comes down to just two numbers: the mass of the black hole and its spin. Chandra Blog: Meet Me (Well, The AAS) In St. Louis

This week, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) holds its biannual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. The AAS is the largest professional organization in North America and their meetings are intended to give scientists a chance to share their latest results through talks and poster sessions. Chandra Chronicles:  Contrary to Belief

One of the primary goals of communicating science to the public is to capture the excitement of scientific discoveries while trying to follow the advice of Joseph Pulitizer. Writers and speakers often fall short of this goal and say too much, use too much jargon, or use picturesque language carelessly, as in saying that a neutron star is "incredibly dense," when in fact the data have shown that the density is credible. New Interactive Feature:  The Universe in a Jelly Bean Jar 

Most of the Universe is dark. The protons, neutrons and electrons that make up the stars, planets and us represent only a small fraction of the mass and energy of the Universe. The rest is dark and mysterious. How can X-rays help reveal the secrets of this darkness? Chandra is now available on Facebook. You requested Chandra on Facebook, and now it's here. Become a fan.

  Ten Earths could easily fit in the "claw" of this seemingly solar monster. The monster, though, visible on the lower left, is a huge eruptive prominence seen moving out from our Sun. The above dramatic image taken early in the year 2000 by the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite. This large prominence, though, is significant not only for its size, but its shape. The twisted figure eight shape indicates that a complex magnetic field threads through the emerging solar particles. Differential rotation inside the Sun might help account for the surface explosion. Although large prominences and energetic Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are relatively rare, they are occurred more frequently near Solar Maximum, the time of peak sunspot and solar activity in the eleven-year solar cycle.

p://chandra.harvard.edu/new.html Bathed in sunlight, the International Space Station (ISS) arced through the evening sky above the town of Lauffen in southern Germany on May 31st. The timing of the bright passage was about 10 minutes after the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-124 mission from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the southeastern US. Of course, Discovery was headed toward an orbital rendezvous with the ISS. In chasing after the space station, the shuttle also made a pass over Lauffen just 21 minutes after launch. With a camera fixed to a tripod, astronomer Jrgen Michelberger recorded both magnificent machines streaking overhead in two different time exposures, each about 2 minutes long, and merged them in this composite view. Parallax causes the paths of the ISS (right) and Discovery (near center) to seem to diverge as they were at very different altitudes. Stars (and bright planets) leave two, separated, short trails. The brief, flaring track of an Iridium satellite and faint dotted trail of a passing airplane are also visible. A close inspection will reveal a dim reddish track, the jettisoned external fuel tank, just left of Discovery. Connecting the Pipe Nebula to the bright star Antares is a flowing dark cloud nicknamed the Dark River. The murkiness of the Dark River is caused by absorption of background starlight by dust, although the nebula contains mostly hydrogen and molecular gas. Antares, the bright star that appears yellow just below the center of the frame, is embedded in the colorful Rho Ophiuchi nebula clouds. The Dark River, pictured above across the upper left, spans over 20 times the angular diameter of the Moon and lies about 500 light years distant. Other types of nebulas visible here include red emission nebula and the blue reflection nebula.



Just Two Numbers Is All You Need (06-02-2008)
Black holes sound wildly complicated. After all, there are all sorts of bizarre things going on: intense gravity, the warping of the fabric of space, the distortion of time itself. But when it comes to describing black holes, it comes down to just two numbers: the mass of the black hole and its spin.


Sombrero Galaxy in 60 Seconds (05-21-2008)
Like the Milky Way, Sombrero is a spiral galaxy. However, we see Sombrero edge-on from our vantage point from Earth, rather than the face-down perspective that is more familiar.


Kepler's Supernova Remnant in 60 Seconds (05-07-2008)
The supernova explosion that created this object was witnessed on Earth about 400 ago years by many skywatchers, including the astronomer Johannes Kepler. This object, which now bears Kepler's name, is the remains of a massive star's demise


M82 in 60 Seconds (04-14-2008)
When seen in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope, M82 looks like an ordinary spiral galaxy.


Exploring The Large Magellanic Cloud (04-02-2008)
The Large Magellanic Cloud, known as the LMC, is a nearby satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. At a distance of around 160,000 light-years, the LMC is the third closest galaxy to us. But the LMC is more than just a nice little sidekick.


The Crab Nebula in 60 Seconds (03-31-2008)
In 1054 A.D., a star's death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth. Now, almost a thousand years later, a superdense neutron star left behind by the explosion is spewing out a blizzard of extremely high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula.


M51 in 60 Seconds (03-18-2008)
Hubble's image of M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, shows the majestic spiral arms that are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. The infrared image from Spitzer also reveals stars and the glow from clouds of interstellar dust.


The Universe Darkly (02-29-2008)
When you look up at the night sky, you see a lot of things glowing like stars, planets, and galaxies. So it might sound strange to hear that most of the Universe is actually dark. The truth is the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up everything we can see, and that means everything with telescopes we've got, accounts for only about 4% of the mass and energy of the Universe. The rest is dark and mysterious. More specifically, about 70% of the Universe is what is known as dark energy; about 26% is so-called dark matter. Modern day astronomers have developed many tactics to explore the dark Universe, including using telescopes like Chandra.


Cassiopeia A in 60 Seconds (02-11-2008)
Cassiopeia A is the 300-year-old remnant created by the supernova explosion of a massive star. Each Great Observatory image highlights different characteristics of the remnant.


Chandra in the (Google) Sky (01-29-2008)
Astronomy is truly in a golden age. With a fleet of space-based observatories, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers now have a suite of amazing tools to study the Universe. Simultaneously to this bonanza in astronomy has been the growth and expansion of the Internet. Think back to before 1990. The Internet was barely a rumor and there were no Great Observatories! But now people are taking advantage of these two seemingly separate advances to do some amazing things

The Universe in a Jelly Bean Jar flash
Most of the Universe is dark. The protons, neutrons and electrons that make up the stars, planets and us represent only a small fraction of the mass and energy of the Universe. The rest is dark and mysterious. How can X-rays help reveal the secrets of this darkness?
See also: The Universe Darkly and The Universe.

Locating Historic Supernovas in the Milky Way flash
In this feature, explore the approximate positions and names (shown in orange) of historical supernovas in the Milky Way. These are stellar explosions that are thought to have occurred in the last 2,000 years and may have been seen by early astronomers.

The Truth and Lies about Black Holes flash
Black holes have a bad reputation. After all, something that could swallow you completely sounds pretty scary. They're invisible, so maybe there's one just around the corner and we dont know it! Also, arent they enormous vacuum cleaners capable of destroying anything that gets near them? Once the black hole starts pulling on something, isnt that just a one-way ticket to oblivion? Well, not all of these things are exactly true.
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See also: Video Podcast

Blasts From The Past: Historic Supernovas flash | pdf
Every 50 years or so, a star in our Galaxy blows itself apart in a supernova explosion, one of the most violent events in the Universe. The force of these explosions produces spectacular light shows. Explosions in past millennia have been bright enough to catch the attention of early astronomers hundreds of years before the telescope had been invented.
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See also: Historic Supernovas article

Interactive Guide to Stellar Evolution flash | pdf
This interactive guide illustrates the ongoing drama of stellar evolution, and how the rate of evolution and the ultimate fate of a star depends on its mass.
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See also: Stellar Evolution Field Guide

Chandra's Gallery of Galaxies flash
This interactive feature probes the characteristics of the galaxies Chandra has observed.
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Image of the Year: 1999 to 2006
We asked you which images you enjoyed the most for each year since Chandra launched in 1999. Here are the results.

Chandra Podcasts
Now you can take Chandra anywhere, be it school, work or play. Just download Chandra Podcasts to your portable MP3 player and go!

Supernova Remnants with Chandra (305 Kb requires flash)
The Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided spectacular examples of the remnants of one of the most dramatic events in the cosmos: supernovas that signal the end of massive stars.

The Solar System Through Chandra's Eyes flash | pdf
Chandra's specialty is probing the super-hot regions around exploding stars, galaxies, or black holes. But Chandra has also shown that the relatively peaceful realms of space, such as our Solar System, sometimes shine in X-ray light.
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See also: Solar System Field Guide

Highlights from Chandra flash
Discover the unique beauty of Chandra's latest images.
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Chandra Slideshow
Quickly navigate to the latest and greatest images from Chandra. Especially helpful for anyone who has trouble remembering the names of obscure images.

Exploring Black Holes with Chandra flash | pdf
With its unique properties, Chandra is peerless as a black hole probe - both near and far. Not even Chandra can "see" into black holes, but it can tackle many of their other mysteries.
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See also: Black Hole Field Guide

Virtual Tour of the Milky Way flash
Take a conceptual galactic tour from Chandra's orbit around the Earth to the outskirts of our galaxy and back again.
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Plain text description also available.
See also: Milky Way Field Guide

Chandra Puzzle:
Top 9 Chandra Images (August 2003-2004) flash
Explore some of the most stunning Chandra images from the past year. Click on a puzzle piece to explore that image.
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Chandra Image Features: Chandra's "X-ray Eyes" flash
Witness the Universe through the "X-ray eyes" of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Scroll through 20 of Chandra's most spectacular images in this flash piece.
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Chandra Image Features: Zoom in flash
Come fly with Chandra! Use this Flash tool to zoom in on the magnetic tornado around the neutron star at the center of the Crab Nebula, surf a supernova shock wave, venture close to a supermassive black hole, or cruise along a high-energy jet that is blasting out of a nearby galaxy.
See the latest Chandra Images with Zoom In feature.
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Top Ten for Chandra's Fourth flash | html
Among its array of revelations in 2002-2003, news about black holes pulled in most of the headlines with four of the top five stories from Chandra during its fourth year in operation.

Chandra's Top 10 of 2001 flash
Now in its third year of observation, Chandra has observed not only strange stars, but black holes, galaxies, and other cosmic phenomena. Taking a look back, here are some of the highlights of the past year with Chandra.

Chandra's 2nd Anniversary flash | html
For the 2nd anniversary of Chandra's launch and First Light, we bring you a look back at some of the spectacular observations that Chandra has taken.

$25,000 Reward for Japanese Whalers’ Coordinates

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is offering a reward to any one person or group that can provide the coordinates of the Japanese Whaling Fleet presently operating in the Ross Sea

This information will save us considerably in fuel costs," said Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson. "We know the Japanese whaling fleet is within 500 miles of us. We are willing to pay $25,000 for any information that successfully leads us to the fleet."Information can be relayed to our head office in Friday Harbor, Washington, at 360-370-5650 or faxed to 360-370-5651or e-mailed to rewards@seashepherd.org If desired, informant’s identity may remain confidential.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was formally incorporated in the United States in 1981 in the state of Oregon. Previous to this, the idea of Sea Shepherd was formed when Captain Paul Watson founded the Earth Force Society in 1977 in Vancouver BC, Canada. The original mandate of both organizations was marine mammal protection and conservation with an immediate goal of shutting down illegal whaling and sealing operations, but Sea Shepherd later expanded its mission to include all marine wildlife.

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 Sea Shepherd Events & Appearances 

June 4, 2008 – Captain Paul Watson speaking event - London, UK

Sea Shepherd UK will host a very special evening with Captain Paul Watson in London on Wednesday evening, June 4.  The evening will feature a speech by Captain Watson with a reception following where attendees will have a chance to meet local Sea Shepherd volunteers, learn about our latest campaigns and buy Sea Shepherd merchandise.


London, West end


Wednesday June 4, 2008 at 7:00 PM


Please RSVP in advance, seating is limited!




June 7, 2008 – Captain Paul Watson speaking event - Paris, France

Captain Paul Watson will be in Paris on Saturday June 7th, where he will hold a conference in a room of the Jussieu University downtown Paris.  Entrance is free, the French Sea Shepherds expect many! The details of this day will be listed on the Sea Shepherd France website http://www.seashepherd.fr/ and we’ll have more details available as the event gets closer.


Jussieu University, Amphitheatre 55, downtown Paris


Saturday June 7, 2008 at 2:30 PM


Subway line 7 & 10 - stop: Jussieu




June 13, 2008 – Festival Courant D'Ere – Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Captain Paul Watson has been invited by SOS Grand Bleu to speak at the Festival Courant D'Ere. Captain Watson will speak at a conference following a short video presentation on Friday June 13th at 8.30 pm.


Port of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat


Friday, June 13, 2008


Free entry


Events website


July 12, 2008 – Sea No Evil Art Show Benefit – Riverside, CA

Captain Paul Watson has once again been invited to speak at the 2nd annual Sea No Evil Art Show Benefit.  This year’s show will be held at the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, CA. The event will completely take over the entire art museum’s 3 floors, the night of the event, with live music on the roof (3rd floor). It promises to be an event to remember giving the opportunity to raise increased awareness and funding for Sea Shepherd.


Riverside Art Museum
3425 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside, CA 92501



Saturday July 12, 2008


RVCA clothing (www.RVCAclothing.com) will be sponsoring an entire room of artwork to be sold at the show, with a special 2 week preview at the art museum. A full list of participating artists will be released soon.




August 14 - 18, 2008 – Animal Rights National Conference 2008 – Washington, D.C.

Animal Rights 2008 is the U.S. animal rights movement's annual national conference. It is also the world's largest & oldest animal rights gathering, hailing back to 1981. Animal Rights 2008 is a forum for sharing knowledge, reporting on progress, discussing strategies and tactics, networking, and "recharging our batteries."   Sea Shepherd staff and volunteers will be in attendance with an exhibit table featuring photos from our recent campaigns, merchandise and more.


Hilton Mark Center, Washington, D.C.


August 14 - 18, 2008


Featured speakers from Sea Shepherd will include Executive Director Kim McCoy, Director of Events & Media Relations Kristine Vasic, and Director of Video & Film Projects Jonny Vasic who will also be showing the latest videos of Sea Shepherd in action.


FARM  http://www.arconference.org/index.htm


August 21 - 24, 2008 – Gatecon – Vancouver, Canada

Beautiful Vancouver, Canada is this year’s setting for Gatecon: The Family Reunion. Each year Gatecon selects a charity recipient and this year Sea Shepherd has been selected as the exclusive charity to benefit from the event. Stars from one of the most popular and longest running sci-fi television series, Stargate, will be in attendance including special guest, Sea Shepherd board of director, Richard Dean Anderson. There will be a full weekend of activities which includes a very special day dedicated to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Friday August 22.  Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd staff and crew will also attend.  The event will feature an entire room dedicated to Sea Shepherd’s direct action campaigns on the high seas, with merchandise, the latest photos and video from Sea Shepherd’s campaigns, and information about the Shark Angels alliance.



Sheraton Wall Centre - Vancouver


August 21 - 24, 2008


This event will raise funds for Sea Shepherd and create awareness of what is happening in the oceans.  Attendees of the conference will have an opportunity to purchase special merchandise only available at Gatecon.  There will also be book and photograph signing opportunities with Captain Watson and Richard Dean Anderson.



April 17, 2008 -- New York Times - USA  online/print newsA day after our post on Indonesia’s declaration of victory against pirates, environmentalists who cultivate their own pirate image were claiming a victory over Japan.The Japanese whaling fleet returned after a 5-month hunt with only half of what they hoped to catch, ostensibly in the name of science, though the meat ends up in the market. But this was no unlucky-fisherman tale, as a Japanese official told CNN. “This year’s mission was disrupted intensively by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, who use violent means for disturbance,” said Hajime Ishikawa, chief of Japan’s whaling mission.A day later, the head of Shepherd, Paul Watson, sounded trumphant. “I think it is safe to say that the Sea Shepherd crew seriously affected their profits this season,” he said in a news release. “My crew and I are elated that 484 whales are now swimming free that would otherwise have been viciously slaughtered. And we are especially pleased that not a single Fin or Humpback died, and that is a complete victory.”His deputy, Peter Hammarstedt, promised another round. “We hope to hurt them even harder next year,” he said. . .  

April 16, 2008 -- Canada.com - Canada  online news

Jailed sealing protesters to be deported back to Europe

Two European activists will be deported to their home countries Friday after being arrested earlier this week and jailed for allegedly getting too close to the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, one of the protesters said Wednesday.

"I'm still a bit shocked by the whole sort of ordeal," said Peter Hammarstedt, 23, the first officer of the anti-sealing vessel, the Farley Mowat. "Once again the thing we're being accused of doing is allegedly being within a half a nautical mile of someone skinning a seal alive and for that Canada deports us."

"Not only that but they storm our ship with pretty much SWAT team storm troopers on international waters, force us into this country at gunpoint, then force us back out."Society, Alexander Cornelissen (R), Captain of the Farley Mowat, and First Officer Peter Hammarstedt leave the Cape Breton correctional facility in Reserve Mines, Nova Scotia, April 14, 2008, after Cornelissen and Hammarstedt were released on bail.

Hammarstedt is a Swedish national and Alexander Cornelissen, of Amsterdam, is the captain of the Farley Mowat. Last week, the ship was carrying 17 members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The group, whose head office is in Washington, D.C., maintains it was in international waters legally observing Canada's seal hunt.

However, the two men were arrested and appeared in a Sydney, N.S., courtroom on Monday on charges of approaching within one-half nautical mile of a seal hunt without a permit. . . . more

April 14, 2008 -- CBC News - Canada  online/print news The head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Paul Watson, is in Cape Breton to post bail — in toonies — for the skipper and first officer of the group's ship, the Farley Mowat."I took out 5,000 $2 coins and that's what we're gonna pay the bail. They want cash, we'll give them cash. Doubloons. I think it's appropriate for their pirate action," Watson told CBC News."I figure since they're going to board our vessel at gunpoint on the high seas and take all our property, they are pirates and we will give them a pirate ransom."Watson said Canadian author Farley Mowat personally put up the money to bail them out

April 14, 2008 -- Globe and Mail - The war of words over the seizure of the anti-sealing vessel Farley Mowat continued Monday, with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson vowing that the end is near for the Canadian seal hunt.Mr. Watson, who is in Sydney to bail two crew members out of jail, told CTV News that his team has footage of seals screaming while being skinned alive that will be used to help end the hunt.“We haven't seen any evidence of a humane hunt here,” Mr. Watson said. “We're presenting this evidence to the European Parliament. They are going to pass a bill to ban seal products. That will end the Canadian seal hunt. We're looking at the end of days for the seal hunt.”Author Farley Mowat donated the $10,000 needed to bail the ship's captain and first officer out of jail, Mr. Watson said. .


Over 18,000 people posed for the US photographer Spencer Tunick on Mexico City's Zocalo Square

Tolkien's 'Final Book' Hits Store  Brampton Marijuana Grow Op...Busted!!

It's becoming a far too common occurrence, marijuana grow ops located in the middle of a neighborhood where no one suspected a thing.These kinds of stories are becoming all too common and now York Regional Police have found two more of the alleged drug gardens. Both are in Brampton and involve the combined seizure of nearly 250 plants and 95 pounds of freshly harvested pot. EVIL


Students and workers march and shout slogans in Lyon during weekend protests of a French youth law

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Q: Anticipating the world of knowledge that may be revealed when the LHC is in operation, what kinds of results do you think the LHC will provide (e.g., information on other dimensions or perhaps universes, the potential for new technologies, etc.)? Is what you expect to see different from what you hope to see?
Christopher Boss, Battle Creek, Michigan

A: Actually, I'm not sure what to expect to happen at the LHC. We could see evidence for new universes or new dimensions, or something we did not expect at all. As far as technology is concerned, just building the accelerator and big detectors have pushed magnet technology ahead a great deal, not to mention computing, microelectronics, and superconductors.

[Editor's note: To hear more about what physicists might find at the LHC, see The Big Deal.]

Q: I have a question, but first a prediction: I think that through the study of particle physics, we'll be able to see other dimensions and gain the ability to "experience" these dimensions. Do you think this will ever happen?
J.C. Rivera, Puerto Rico

A: At the LHC, we could experience other dimensions by seeing new particles pop out of them and through our input detector. As we learn more about new dimensions, we will be able to design better experiments to experience more of their properties. However, if there are new dimensions, they will most likely be very small, so I doubt we will be able to move about in them.

Q: As to why gravity is so weak compared to the other forces, I've heard something to the effect that it may result from interaction with a parallel universe. If true, this might be confirmed by observing the higher energy levels created at CERN. I've heard little about this line of reasoning. Can you shed light on this?
Bob Whalen, Vista, California

A: There are some ideas that allow for the interaction between two parallel universes or the three space dimensions and one time dimension we live in and other dimensions. The LHC could detect particles that could explain a parallel universe or extra dimensions, but it would only be the very first step toward experimentally studying such a theory.

Q: Do you think the studies at CERN or elsewhere will be able to tell us more about space and time, or potentially make time travel possible?
Antonio Carlos Motta, Sao Paulo, Brazil

A: Perhaps: Several of the theoretical ideas relate our theory of gravity, which incorporates our ideas of space and time, with particle physics. So if we see certain kinds of new particles, we could learn more about the structure of space and time. Regarding time travel, it is very hard to say. Most of the ideas of time travel rely on your getting very close to incredibly massive objects (called "cosmic strings"). While it could be that the LHC tells us something about cosmic strings, actually using them to travel in time would be very difficult from a practical standpoint.

Q: Will the results of the subatomic particles that come out of the proton collisions give any evidence of dark matter in space? What specific subatomic particles has mathematics theorized we could expect to discover?
Jan DeMeerleer, Spokane, Washington

A: There is a very well-developed theory called "supersymmetry" that predicts dark matter is massive particles. There is no experimental evidence for this theory yet, and one of the main goals of the LHC is to see if supersymmetry is the correct theory or not.

Q: How do the experiments at CERN and the LHC relate to string theory? Could they potentially prove or disprove the theory?
Francisco Pedroso, Havana, Cuba

A: String theory is very abstract and has not really connected with what we can measure in a strong way. To really probe most ideas of string theory, we would need much larger accelerators than we have now. However, string theory does make some predictions we may be able to test at the LHC.

Q: Good luck with the LHC. I hope you find out how heavy Higgs is doing and get him to lighten up so I can float to work on an antigravity device or fold the space of my closet and "appear" inside my cubicle. These things always seem to cause as many problems as they solve, however, so that's my question: What, if anything, do we feel we are headed towards and what are we trying to achieve? I know this is a broad question, but I'm assuming this is an infinite endeavor. Am I right?
Chris, Austin, Texas

A: Man's nature is to pursue things we do not understand; in that sense, the LHC is part of an infinite quest. More specifically, what we are really after is first a list of all the different kinds of particles there are and second, how they interact with each other. It may be possible that this is achieved in our lifetime.

Q: When the accelerator is completed, how soon after do you expect confirmation of particles like the Higgs boson? Seconds? Minutes? Years?
Wes, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

A: How long depends mainly on the mass of the Higgs boson. A very light Higgs could take a long time, several years. A more massive Higgs boson could be seen in a few weeks. But remember, these are very complex experiments that will be operating for the very first time, and we have to be very careful we do not fool ourselves. My best guess it that it will take at least one year and not more than three years to observe the results.

Q: If the Higgs particle does not exist, what is the next step to answering the mystery of mass?
Rez, Houston, Texas

A: There are several theories that do not involve Higgs particles. These theories make specific predictions that may be tested at the LHC, so if we do not see the Higgs, we will have to look for evidence that one of the alternate theories is correct. But if we do not find evidence for an alternate theory, theoretical physics will have to come up with something new.

Q: Enough about what the LHC will tell us—what won't the LHC be able to tell us about particle physics?
Nicole Ackerman, Stanford, California

A: Most likely, the LHC won't tell us much about neutrinos. Neutrinos are very light, and the effects of their mass will not show up well at the LHC. There are several very important experiments studying neutrinos. One, called EXO, will even tell us if the neutrino is its own antiparticle. (Particles and their corresponding antiparticles have the same mass, but their other properties are opposite.)

Q: Is there a limit to particle size, large or small?
Cornelius Kleisma, Grand Rapids, Michigan

A: The range is very large: neutrinos weigh less than a billionth of a proton and light particles, photons, weight nothing at all. On the other end, the heaviest particles people think about have a mass 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times the proton. The heaviest particle we know about, the top quark, weighs about 200 times as much as a proton.As far as size, electrons really seem to have no size at all. The largest fundamental particle we know about is the proton, and it is about one 1,000,000,000,000,000th of an inch across.

Q: How "elementary" do you think you can go in particle detection? Could a bigger machine tell you more and if so, how much bigger would it need to be? Why does bigger, in the case of the LHC, seem to mean better?A: The higher the energy of the particles, the stronger the magnets you need to bend them within a circle (the LHC exists in a circular underground tunnel). Since we can only make magnets of a certain maximum strength, we have to make our circles bigger to reach higher energies. In the early 1990s, the United States started building a machine three times more powerful than the LHC, and it was 80 kilometers (50 miles) around. But the project was cancelled.  A new project is starting to build the next accelerator called the International Linear Collider (ILC). The ILC will not be circular, but rather two linear accelerators 15 miles long pointed at each other. But the ILC won't start for another 10 years or so. Thank you, and have fun in the rabbit hole!
NOVA: What about in the study of gamma-ray bursts? What's the next big discovery to be made?

Groot: I think the next question that needs to be answered is, What is the nature of gamma-ray bursts? What causes the explosions? We know now, through the work we've been doing over the last few years, that they are at cosmological distances of a billion light-years or more. But we still don't know what is exploding. There are all kinds of indirect evidences for what is going on, but there's nothing that really points to any one of several scenarios that astronomers have proposed.

The amount of energy involved in these gamma-ray bursts is so large that we have to come up with something exotic. There must be something strange, which is not common in our own galaxy, that must be exploding. Again, that gives you a new window onto extreme circumstances in the universe. It's an opportunity to study some new kinds of physics, and that's very interesting.

Gamma ray burst An estimated 12 billion light-years away, the galaxy indicated in this Hubble image is thought to be the source of a huge gamma-ray burst that was recorded on December 14th, 1997. Some estimates hold that the burst released the energy of several hundred supernovae within a few seconds.
NOVA: The film mentions a theory that if a gamma-ray burst occurred in our galactic neighborhood, life on Earth would essentially end, except for those lucky creatures that live deep within the ground or oceans. Could this happen?

Groot: I guess it could happen, but it has to happen very, very close by. I'd say it would have to be within 100 light-years if it is really to affect the Earth so drastically. And we have to ask the question, What causes gamma-ray bursts? That's still an unsolved puzzle, and it now looks that at least a certain class of gamma-ray bursts are caused by very, very massive stars exploding. If such a star were present within 100 light-years, we would know it, because it would be the brightest star in the sky. And we've seen no such thing. So if that's the cause of gamma-ray bursts, I think that the Earth is in no danger.

NOVA: That's a relief.

Groot: Well, there is another theory which says that gamma-ray bursts might be caused by two neutron stars -- very small, very compact stars -- circling around each other, and at one point they bump into each other. If that's the case, it is possible that a binary neutron star system like that is present within 100 parsecs of Earth. [A parsec is 3.26 light-years.]

"My own personal feeling is that we're not alone."

If such stars do merge, there's nothing we can do about it until the moment it happens. We could only say, "Hey, something went off, and it's very close by." But I think chances of that are very small. If it happens somewhere else in our galaxy, it will certainly affect us, though I don't think it will affect us to the extent that life will be wiped out. [For more on this subject, see A Bad Day in the Milky Way.]

NOVA: Speaking of life, how do you feel about the possibilities for life elsewhere, and would most astronomers agree with you?

Groot: My own personal feeling is that we're not alone -- life exists somewhere besides Earth. I think most astronomers would agree with me there.

Why? Well, if you look at our sun, you realize how common a star it is. There's nothing special about it, except for the fact, of course, that it's very close by, and we're circling around it. And we now know that extrasolar planets exist, with more and more being found all the time. I think the total count is now up to 80 or so, and it's just a matter of time before more are identified. The ones they've found so far are giant gas planets like Jupiter or Saturn, but someday we'll be able to find Earth-like planets out there, and some of them will orbit in the right range around their star for life to potentially exist.Opportunities arise very quickly in astronomy, because things can happen all of a sudden, like the work I did with gamma-ray bursts. One week I was doing my own science, which is not really in the limelight, and the next week I discovered, with Titus Galama, the first optical counterpart of a gamma-ray burst. The whole astronomy world fell over us, because that's what they've been aiming for for 30 years. It is still one of the hottest topics in astronomy even now, five years later.

That's four. The fifth one.... Well, "fun" again, if that's allowed, to put fun in twice.- In a galaxy far, far away, a massive star suffered a nasty double whammy.

On Oct. 20, 2004, Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki saw the star let loose an outburst so bright that it was initially mistaken for a supernova. The star survived, but for only two years. On Oct. 11, 2006, professional and amateur astronomers witnessed the star actually blowing itself to smithereens as Supernova 2006jc.

Swift UVOT Image
(Credit: NASA/Swift/S.Immler)
"We have never observed a stellar outburst and then later seen the star explode," says University of California, Berkeley, astronomer Ryan Foley. His group studied the event with ground-based telescopes, including the 10-meter (32.8-foot) W. M. Keck telescopes in Hawaii. Narrow helium spectral lines showed that the supernova's blast wave ran into a slow-moving shell of material, presumably the progenitor's outer layers ejected just two years earlier. If the spectral lines had been caused by the supernova's fast-moving blast wave, the lines would have been much broader
By observing how the supernova brightened in X-rays, a result of the blast wave slamming into the outburst ejecta, they could measure the amount of gas blown off in the 2004 outburst: about 0.01 solar mass, the equivalent of about 10 Jupiters.

"The beautiful aspect of our SN 2006jc observations is that although they were obtained in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, in the optical and in X-rays, they lead to the same conclusions," says Immler.

"This event was a complete surprise," added Alex Filippenko, leader of the UC Berkeley/Keck supernova group and a member of NASA'S Swift team. "It opens up a fascinating new window on how some kinds of stars die."

All the observations suggest that the supernova's blast wave took only a few weeks to reach the shell of material ejected two years earlier, which did not have time to drift very far from the star. As the wave smashed into the ejecta, it heated the gas to millions of degrees, hot enough to emit copious X-rays. The Swift satellite saw the supernova continue to brighten in X-rays for 100 days, something that has never been seen before in a supernova. All supernovae previously observed in X-rays have started off bright and then quickly faded to invisibility.

"You don't need a lot of mass in the ejecta to produce a lot of X-rays," notes Immler. Swift's ability to monitor the supernova's X-ray rise and decline over six months was crucial to his team's mass determination. But he adds that Chandra's sharp resolution enabled his group to resolve the supernova from a bright X-ray source that appears in the field of view of Swift's X-ray Telescope.

"We could not have made this measurement without Chandra," says Immler, who will submit his team's paper next week to the Astrophysical Journal. "The synergy between Swift's fast response and its ability to observe a supernova every day for a long period, and Chandra's high spatial resolution, is leading to a lot of interesting results."
Similar to the 2004 eruption, LBVs are prone to blow off large amounts of mass in outbursts so extreme that they are frequently mistaken for supernovae, events dubbed "supernova impostors." Wolf-Rayet stars are hot, highly evolved stars that have shed their outer envelopes.

Swift XRT Image
(Credit: NASA/GSFC/CXC/S.Immler)
Most astronomers did not expect that a massive star would explode so soon after a major outburst, or that a Wolf-Rayet star would produce such a luminous eruption, so SN 2006jc represents a puzzle for theorists.

"It challenges some aspects of our current model of stellar evolution," says Foley. "We really don't know what caused this star to have such a large eruption so soon before it went supernova."

"SN 2006jc provides us with an important clue that LBV-style eruptions may be related to the deaths of massive stars, perhaps more closely than we used to think," adds coauthor and UC Berkeley astronomer Nathan Smith. "The fact that we have no well-established theory for what actually causes these outbursts is the elephant in the living room that nobody is talking about."