04/19/2009, Chicago, IL
I am returning to the boat in the morning on a 6:00 am flight. I have a great crew of 3 coming with me. Old and dear friends, Eric Hart, David Crawford, and Mike Abt are coming along for what promises to be a great ride. Most important is the camaraderie and I expect the best. I think the world of all these guys and am uncertain what I have done to have such great company for my delivery. I expect about 2 weeks Most Likely we will put in at Luperon and somewhere on the southern Bahamas. It is about 1000 miles and probably all downwind and down-current. Stay tuned!
04/08/2009, Chicago, IL
OK, I have been quite remiss in writing. I ran into a sailor that I know on the street in Chicago and he mentioned that I haven't posted in over a month!
Some family issues have called our trip short. I we are all in Chicago now. Wanderlust is lonely in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I will have to return there to sail her to Florida where she will go up for sale. Anybody out there want to take a sailboat trip from Puerto Rico to Florida. I figure it will take about 10 days on the water.
Only I (Bill) Will return to the boat and clean our stuff out and head back. So for the family the trip is over. I think the kids are all happy to be back. It has been hard on them in some ways and life on shore is easier for them. The teenagers have missed the social interactions that come with being in Chicago, and attending school. Judy and I miss the boat and the traveling life.
I saw Lake Michigan again. It was in an angry mood. Muddied waters with large waves crashing up on the shore, and whitecaps everywhere. One of the wonders of the world. And I saw snow for the first time in over 2 years. Snow in April!
We went to Madison Wisconsin and visited Judy's mom and sister. We also saw our close friends Zaccai and Tamar and their 2 daughters. I have seen some friends in Chicago too. It is easy to slip back into life in the "Real World" We very unclucky to have come at the worst possible time regarding the economy.
I went to play "Airsoft" with a friend of mine and his son. It is basically paintball but with air gun powered rubber bb's. The guns are replicas of real ones and the people wear full camo. Other than the weapons everything is real. There were setup so various battle situations and each one was a "game". I snuck up on two guys who were behind cover. When I 'shot' them, I saw surprise and even fear on one of their faces. I do not feel comfortable pointing a weapon, even a toy one, at people and am not likely to make this a hobby.
Anyway I am back for a while, and will write again from Puerto Rico when I get there.
03/06/2009, Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Yesterday we visited the Arecibo Observatory. This is the site of the world's largest radio telescope. A radio telescope is a lot like a regular telescope, except that it "looks" for radio waves instead of "looking" at light that we can see.
The radio telescope that we can see is like a giant antenna in the shape of a dish that is set into the ground. It is located where it is for several reasons. It was originally built by the United States Department of Defense to be used as military communications. It has been modified over the years to be used as a scientific tool. Since it was a military installation, it had to be in the United States, and Puerto Rico is a part of the US. They also wanted to use it to look at the planets in the Solar System and so it needed to be near the Equator where the planets are directly overhead. The mountain where it is built had a lot of the natural shape of the dome, so there would be less ground to dig up. The rocks that it is built on are very stable and strong so they could support the enormous structure. The valley that it is in protects it from stray radio signals and from wind because this area gets hurricanes sometimes.
A radio telescope is just like a large satellite dish that many people use to get TV. Instead up picking up satellites with television though it picks up radio frequencies from stars and other objects in the universe. It has helped discover many interesting things in space. One of the most interesting objects that has been discovered at Arecibo is the existence of planets that orbit stars outside of our own solar system. Though it is only a small part of astronomy, many people are interested in whether there is any other intelligent life in the universe. The scientists at Arecibo are among the people who may be able to answer that question one day.
Another important use of the radio telescope is to look at a part of our atmosphere called the ionosphere. That helps them understand more about how weather occurs on Earth. It also can look at the other planets and the asteroids in the solar system. These are objects much closer to home, the Earth, than stars and other galaxies.
The dish is just huge. It is 1000 feet across. It is perfectly in the shape of a section of a sphere. A ball is a sphere. Hanging over it in a very precise location is a triangular shape that holds the receivers. The information is fed to computers that are in buildings nearby. There the scientists gather and interpret the information that they get from the telescope. There is a visitor's center, dormitories for the scientists, lunchrooms, shops, maintenance , laundry facilities, and much more. It is a small city.
Many important scientific discoveries have been made at the Observatory, and new ones are being made all the time. Astronomers and Cosmologists run experiments on the radio telescope to help us learn about the nature of the universe and how it all began. These are questions that people have been asking since the first person looked up into the sky and wondered what the sun, moon, and stars were.