Small Island Prepares For Big Challenge
The Royal Astronomical Society willL be holding its National Astronomy
First contact (Eclipse starts) 09.59 amThe track passes over Devon and Cornwall, but the best site - unless you want to go to Germany, or perhaps the Black Sea - is Alderney where the track passes right over the Island. Skies there are in general very clear at that time of the year, and so the outlook is set fair. Go there and you will be able to sample the charm of Alderney itself as well as seeing the eclipse. Make the most of it as far as the Channel Islands are concerned - if you miss out, you will have to wait until the year 2081 for another chance". - Patrick Moore CBE
Alderney, one of just four locations in the British Isles, where a total eclipse of the sun can be witnessed on August 11, 1999, is bracing itself for a mass invasion - although clearly not on the same scale as Devon and Cornwall. (The fourth location being the Scilly Isles.)
The 2,400 strong population of this third largest of the Channel Islands (just 1.1/2 miles x 3.1/2 miles) virtually doubles during August when the island celebrates its week-long carnival, Alderney Week. Next year, the total eclipse of the sun follows hot on the heels of Alderney Week - just three days later.
On Wednesday 11th August 99, some 400 members of the Royal Astronomical Society, and their guests ,who are attending their annual conference in Guernsey the previous day, are expected to travel to Alderney, the only Channel Island where a total eclipse of the sun can be seen, as are thousands of other visitors.
In all, the island could brace itself for a total population nearing 8,000 on the day. But will Alderney cope?
This double influx of visitors could have become a signficant cause for concern: most of the island's hotels, guesthouses and holidays homes are already reported fully booked, and the number of eclipse visitors heading for Alderney will be limited by the the number of air and sea passengers able to land before the beginning of the eclipse at 09.59am.
"We have been inundated with enquiries but unlike Cornwall, we have kept a low profile until such time as we were able to offer transport and catering arrangements and alternative accommodation", said Tourist Marketing Manager Ilona Soane-Sands who is also in charge of overall coordination.
"Compared with Devon and Cornwall, Alderney - like the Scilly Isles - will only be able to cater for a relatively small number of visitors. For the people of Alderney and for everyone who is able to get to Alderney for this once-in-a-lifetime happening, the total eclipse of the sun will be a very special and almost exclusive event."
The entertainment and celebration programme of Eclipse Day will be finalised and published within the next three months.
ACCOMMODATIONAnybody wanting to be in Alderney for the eclipse, is advised to seek accommodation in Guernsey or Jersey and to take advantage of a day trip to Alderney on 11th August 99. Nobody should attempt to visit Alderney during the first two weeks of August, unless they have secured accommodation or are in possession of a day return ticket.
To assist with accommodation, a number of private residents are offering bed and breakfast hospitality and there are still vacancies at some guest houses as well as Saye camp site. Jersey-based ferry operators Channel Hoppers have come up with a novel idea and are promoting a package which includes transport from Portsmouth and accommodation at their own self-contained eclipse camping village in Alderney, for 3 or 7 nights.
GETTING TO ALDERNEYAlderney airport will open early on that day and Aurigny Air Services will operate the maximum number of flights to Alderney before the start ot the eclipse. The harbour will also open early in order to allow the turnaround of the maximum number of passenger ferries and arrivals of private yachts and motor boats.
Jersey ferry company Channel Hoppers will operate a special passenger service from Guernsey, Jersey and the UK to Alderney on Eclipse Day.
With several rotations involving their newly commissioned 350-seater high speed passenger ferry - due to be delivered in March 1999 - and their current 208-passenger Varangerfjord, plus two additional chartered catamarans, Channel Hoppers intend to bring some 1500 day visitors to Alderney on eclipse day: 350 from Portsmouth, approx. 1,000 from Guernsey and some 170 from Jersey. Ferry company Emeraude Lines hope to carry a further 200 day visitors from Jersey.
The mass catering challenge - too big for Alderney¹s own pubs, hotels and restaurants alone, has been taken on by UK contractors Ambassador Catering who will cater throughout the day for a large number of visitors. Hospitality facilities and portaloos will be supplied by Guernsey contractor Ray Lowe.
PRIME VIEWINGThe island of Alderney offers virtually unrestricted and unlimited viewing with public access to all prime sites except for Fort Albert which is reserved exclusively for members of the Royal Astronomical Society and members of the media, who are here especially for this event. Other excellent viewing sites, open to all, include The Butes, Braye Beach, Braye Common, Corblets, Saye Beach and Longis Bay.
More details will shortly be released on the Alderney Eclipse website http://www.alderney.gov.gg
Note to the Editor: If you would like to report about the eclipse from Alderney on 11 August 1999, please ask for a press request form. On receipt, and we shall do our best to assist you with travel arrangements. However, for the above reasons we recommend you seek overnight accommodation in Guernsey or Jersey.
Alderney's Butes Youth and Community Centre, located in a prominent position, will be set up as press centre and Alderney company London House, in conjunction with Fujifilm, will provide digital film processing facilities allowing for instant image processing or image transmission.