23 April 2012

Polar Star and Pico Ruívo

The Polar Star has been a faithful companion for generations of mariners. In a world dominated nowadays by the omnipresent high-tech of the modern equipments of electronic navigation, it's easy to forget the roots, the basics and the basis of our seamanship. To me, every time I look at her, she represents a voyage to the past. To my own. And also to our common one.
Since I was a student, in the Nautical School, during the early nineties, I've always felt that I was part of a tradition, of a science and a brotherhood that started thousands of years ago with the first navigators. This knowledge never knew any borders. We were already global before globalization was cool.
When I went to the sea for the first time (it was not long ago, but things changed quite a bit in almost twenty years) the satellite navigation equipments were giving their first steps in the Merchant Marine. My first vessel had the Transit. It was, so to speak, a primitive version of the GPS. It would give us a fix every thirty or forty-five minutes, meaning that it would be useless for restricted waters navigation but would be OK for the high seas. Later came the GPS. The system evolved so much that today the positioning is continuous and with errors of a couple of meters. Not affected by atmospheric conditions, this system is almost perfect. Nevertheless, and regardless the fact that the vessel where I served as a Cadet had already the system installed, I dedicated myself to put in practice the astronomy navigation that I've learn in theory at the school.
I was lucky. I had a somehow traditional Captain that considered it as important. And he taught me. So everyday, in high seas, you'd see me, at dawn, noon and dusk, in the bridge wings, sextant in one hand and seconds counter on the other, shooting at the stars and the Sun. The Polar Star was, therefore, a faithful companion that more often than not was an active participant in my nautical calculations.
So, once started that relationship never ends. And even that we come to work ashore, our beloved Polar Star is always there to lead us the way.
So one night I've decided to meet her again and since I wanted to be closer to her, I had to spend the night in Madeira highest peak: the Pico Ruívo. Backpack on the shoulders, a few snacks for the dinner time, camping mattress and sleeping bag for the night and there I was at 2100 mounting the photo equipment and aligning it to the North at 1862 mts.
After that, it was easy. I stayed awake a couple of hours more, appreciating my old cosmic friend and afterwards hit the sac. This was the timid attempt of that night. But I guess I can do better. So I'm planning already a new night in the mountains.
Star trails and Polar Star between the geodesic marks of Pico Ruívo at night time.
Photo taken with Nikon FM3A and Sigma 24mm f:1.8D EX DG Macro
Manfrotto tripod and ball-head
Exposure: 8 hours
Aperture: f8
Film: Fujichrome Velvia ASA 50
Scanned in Nikon Coolscan V ED
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3