Astronomer onboard QE II enriches cruise experience
The cruise ship Queen Elizabeth which called into port on Tuesday, Feb 18 brought with it some 2,000 visitors to our shores. Many of the people onboard were from Europe, with several hundred from Great Britain, and as often happens, one of those passengers stopped in to visit Samoa News to say hello.
This particular visitor hailed from the Isle of Man, located in the North Irish Sea between England and Ireland, and he introduced himself as Howard L.G. Parkin, Astronomy Consultant and Guest Lecturer onboard the ship.
Parkin said that he was traveling on the Queen Elizabeth between Honolulu and Auckland, while lecturing on the subject of astronomy and space flight. (As part of an Enrichment Program, there are several guest lecturers onboard, according to Parkin.)
While researching his trip, he discovered American Samoa’s connection to the Apollo moon landings — something he hadn’t realized before — and was thrilled to stop by Samoa News, where he received a calendar which had been donated to the News by the Historic Preservation Office. He was thrilled when he saw the picture of the Apollo 13 Astronauts gracing the month of February.
(It was February 9, 1971 when Apollo 14 splashed down near American Samoa and astronauts from the spacecraft passed through Pago Pago enroute to the States.)
Parkin lectures and teaches on astronomy throughout the world, mainly in Europe and on cruise ships. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in astronomy and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He lectures at the Isle of Man College and Liverpool University and after retiring in January, 2012, he has been busy lecturing onboard a number of ships throughout the world.
Upon returning to England, he will board another ship bound for Norway and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
He found American Samoa “brilliant” and called it “surreal” … “it’s just breathtaking” he said and pronounced the morning island tour “wonderful.” He said the tour guide was “a credit to your people and your country.”
He visited the Jean P. Haydon Museum, where they have tiny pieces of the moon rocks on display. “I had to get a picture of that!” he told Samoa News.
His next lecture onboard the Queen Elizabeth will be on meteors and meteor showers around the world. He said the next shower will be Lyrids Meteor Shower, which will occur around the 21st of April, near midnight, and here in the South Pacific, we should be able to see ‘shooting stars’ on that night —“once your eyes are attuned to the dark”.
Since 2004, Parkin has been chairman of the Isle of Man Astronomical Society, a non-profit organization which promotes the science of astronomy through lectures and visits, and which also maintains their local Observatory.
Parkin said the best meteor shower of the year will be in August, which is winter south of the Equator. “If I get asked to come back, I’ll certainly jump on it!” he said.
Asked for any last words about his visit to Tutuila before heading back through the main gate at the Port of Pago Pago, Parkin said without hesitation, “this place is “laid back, friendly — and fascinating.”
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