The world is wild and bright
Shooting sparks into space
– Stephen Sondheim, 1956
My spellchecker keeps insisting there were Lyrics flying over Newfoundland instead of Lyrids, but I assure you these meteors are really called Lyrids. To be honest though, lyrics were flying left and right too, the above lyrics to be exact. I had somehow gotten this tune from West Side Story stuck in my head and I used it to good effect, warning moose of my approach as I was walking down the East Coast Trail in the pitch black of night.
Properly watching a meteor shower entails finding a suitably dark location, so that’s what I did. I was out all night halfway down Cape Spear Path, far from the city light of St. John’s. Ideally I should have been even further away but I didn’t feel like driving for hours and hours, plus I usually stick to familiar trails when hiking at night.
This particular night walk started out under sky packed with dense clouds, not so good. Luckily, the ‘mostly clear’ forecast eventually came true and I settled in for the night on a comfortable looking rock. It didn’t take long for the first sparks to shoot overhead and I greeted them enthusiastically whenever they streaked through the sky.
Again, this is not a sign of me going GaGa, I was just broadcasting my presence to any nearby moose.
The meteor shower continued at low volume as the hours progressed when an icy fog settled on the marsh I was occupying. I had chosen a low lying area in order to be shielded from the bright light coming off St. John’s and the rising moon. This shielding worked fine but being in a valley also meant the fog was here to stay, it froze onto the trail, onto my formerly comfortable rock and when I skidded over the frozen boardwalk to my camera, I found it had also frozen onto my lens… Too bad: ice on my lens meant fuzzy pictures… Dancing in the dark had kept me warm just fine but of course my camera needed to stay put in this freezing cold.
There was no sense in going on with a frozen lens, and I knew cleaning it off would not help, it would just come back three minutes later. Besides, the night was almost at an end. I packed up my stuff and started the return hike, now singing along to a mix of songs on my iPod, starting with ‘I should have known it’ by Tom Petty.
Walking back was easier than walking in, the muddy treadway was now frozen, crackling underneath me as I passed by. Cape Spear Path runs along the coast so I enjoyed a great view of the ocean in the bright moonlight. Dozens of small boats were navigating the water, from the trail they were just small pinpoints of light, moving like insects over the immense surface of this Atlantic Pond.
At 4:30AM, nautical dawn brought an end to this star party for one. For me, the arrival of a new day meant it was time to go home and get some sleep.
So, what about the meteor shower photos? They’re fuzzy I tell you, fuzzy!
Ok, so I’ll add one more picture… I took this shot with a lens that wasn’t all covered in frost:
This is my camera bag, when I go hiking at night I fill it up with a dollar worth of tiny glow sticks so I can find my way around it when I need something.