Chasing Comet NEOWISE

July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020

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Comet NEOWISE won’t be around for another 6800 years, so I thought I would have a go at it. The attempts leading up to this video were comical looking back at it now! ?

I went out locally here in Central Connecticut a few times. My favorite was a failed attempt at capturing my wife and her friend on top of Castle Craig in Meriden while I shot with an 800mm equivalent telephoto lens from a few miles away. I calculated all the angles and timing using several tools with my goal of getting the girls, and Comet NEOWISE in the same shot. It was much harder than I thought, I could barely see NEOWISE, and I was way off! ?

I found the local skies were just too light polluted to be able to see much, and of course, like most astrological events, there was plenty of overcast and cloudy nights. I was waiting for the perfect night to make my move, and had this crazy thought in my head, festering. A week earlier, I was in Wanalancet, NH on a trip with friends. We hiked some 4000 footers, stayed in this amazing old cabin, and had a great time! 

On the way to the Saco River for some tubing, we drove right through Chocorua Lake. I saw the bridge and the view, and I knew I was coming back. I just didn’t think it was going to be in a couple of weeks! 

I checked out Google Earth the morning I shot this, and using my “updated” calculations, realized that NEOWISE would fall NNW right behind the White Mountains. The best part is, that the White Mountain National Forest is protected land, and there is VERY little light pollution from this location facing NNW because of it. ?  Bonus!

I had NO IDEA what to expect when I got there, but I wasn’t the only one with this idea. There were probably 30 other photographers scattered all over this section of the lake. I didn’t know anyone beforehand, but quickly made some friends, and realized that I’m already following a couple of these Pro Astrophotographers on Instagram!

It was like I found a party under the stars! ? I know that sounds corny, but that’s exactly what it felt like. It was surreal, and welcoming after the 3.5 hour drive away from home! These were people of all different skill levels using all types of gear from just phones, to dusting off that DSLR they got at the yard sale, to the Astrophotographers using equatorial mounts, alignment scopes guided with computers, and a variety of star trackers. Fancy Schmancy.

I was really nervous about blowing my one really good chance at capturing this moment and had prepared myself as best as possible. It was really cool to have these other photographers, many of whom were much more experienced to talk to. It seemed everyone was casually giving great tips and tricks to anyone who needed it. 

I came back to Chocorua Lake for some more the next night, and there weren’t nearly as many people. I was able to capture NEOWISE from other angles and when it had set behind the White Mountains, I posted up in a different area of the lake to focus on the Milky Way. No other nights made sense with the weather and seeing conditions of this event becoming less and less. I’m really happy it introduced me to Chocorua Lake though!

Ok NEOWISE, it’s been real.

Something about this area feels magical to me, and after researching its history, am even more excited to climb Mt Chocorua and explore these lands even further! 

The Chocorua legend tells of a Native American prophet or chief, Chocorua, who is supposed to have lived near the mountain at the dawn of white settlement, although no authentic records of his life are known to exist. The usual story—much of it drawn from a short work of fiction by Lydia Maria Child is that in about 1720 Chocorua was on friendly terms with settlers and in particular the Campbell family that had a home in the valley now called Tamworth. Chocorua was called away and left his son in the care of the Campbell family. The boy found and drank a poison that Mr. Campbell had made to eliminate troublesome foxes, and Chocorua returned to find his son had died. Chocorua, distraught with grief, pledged revenge on the family. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Campbell returned home one afternoon to find his wife and children had been slain. Campbell suspected Chocorua and pursued him up the mountain. Chocorua was wounded by a shot from Campbell’s rifle and, uttering a curse upon the white settlers, he leaped from the summit to his death.

There are at least three other versions of the legend of Chocorua. One is that Chocorua simply fell from a high rock on the mountain while hunting. A second is the white settlers pursued Chocorua up the mountain after an Indian massacre, and he leaped to his death. The third is that all the white settlers pursued him with guns, pitchforks, and torches. As Chocorua reached the top, the settlers decided to torch the remaining trees and in doing so they burned and exposed the topsoil of the last 1,270 feet (390 m). As the flames drew closer to Chocorua, he cursed the white men and leaped to his death.

Although the exact words of Chocorua’s curse (or even if there was a curse) are not known, it has been reported (Mudge, page 34) to be as follows.

“May the Great Spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds and his words are fire! Lightning blast your crops! Wind and fire destroy your homes! The Evil One breathe death on your cattle! Panthers howl and wolves fatten on your bones!”

Another version appears in the story “Chocorua’s Curse”, by Lydia Maria Child, contained in The Token (1830):

“A curse upon ye, white men! May the Great Spirit curse ye when he speaks in the clouds, and his words are fire! Chocorua had a son — and ye killed him while the sky looked bright! Lightning, blast your crops! Wind and fire destroy your dwellings! The Evil Spirit breathe death upon your cattle! Your graves lie in the war path of the Indian! Panthers howl, and wolves fatten over your bones! Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit — his curse stays with the white men!”

The Chocorua legend is featured on a New Hampshire historical marker along New Hampshire Route 16 in Tamworth.

Oh, cool. Do you mean like this one?

I sometimes wonder if one of my ancestors knew of, or maybe even spoke with Chief Chocorua. Maybe there is a deeper connection. Darby Field was a known translator to the Native Americans just before the estimated time of this legend. Seems like a longshot, but it sure is fun to think about!

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Comet NEOWISE won’t be around for another 6800 years, so I thought I would have a go at it. The attempts leading up to this video were comical looking back at it now! ?

I went out locally here in Central Connecticut a few times. My favorite was a failed attempt at capturing my wife and her friend on top of Castle Craig in Meriden while I shot with an 800mm equivalent telephoto lens from a few miles away. I calculated all the angles and timing using several tools with my goal of getting the girls, and Comet NEOWISE in the same shot. It was much harder than I thought, I could barely see NEOWISE, and I was way off! ?

I found the local skies were just too light polluted to be able to see much, and of course, like most astrological events, there was plenty of overcast and cloudy nights. I was waiting for the perfect night to make my move, and had this crazy thought in my head, festering. A week earlier, I was in Wanalancet, NH on a trip with friends. We hiked some 4000 footers, stayed in this amazing old cabin, and had a great time! 

On the way to the Saco River for some tubing, we drove right through Chocorua Lake. I saw the bridge and the view, and I knew I was coming back. I just didn’t think it was going to be in a couple of weeks! 

I checked out Google Earth the morning I shot this, and using my “updated” calculations, realized that NEOWISE would fall NNW right behind the White Mountains. The best part is, that the White Mountain National Forest is protected land, and there is VERY little light pollution from this location facing NNW because of it. ?  Bonus!

I had NO IDEA what to expect when I got there, but I wasn’t the only one with this idea. There were probably 30 other photographers scattered all over this section of the lake. I didn’t know anyone beforehand, but quickly made some friends, and realized that I’m already following a couple of these Pro Astrophotographers on Instagram!

It was like I found a party under the stars! ? I know that sounds corny, but that’s exactly what it felt like. It was surreal, and welcoming after the 3.5 hour drive away from home! These were people of all different skill levels using all types of gear from just phones, to dusting off that DSLR they got at the yard sale, to the Astrophotographers using equatorial mounts, alignment scopes guided with computers, and a variety of star trackers. Fancy Schmancy.

I was really nervous about blowing my one really good chance at capturing this moment and had prepared myself as best as possible. It was really cool to have these other photographers, many of whom were much more experienced to talk to. It seemed everyone was casually giving great tips and tricks to anyone who needed it. 

I came back to Chocorua Lake for some more the next night, and there weren’t nearly as many people. I was able to capture NEOWISE from other angles and when it had set behind the White Mountains, I posted up in a different area of the lake to focus on the Milky Way. No other nights made sense with the weather and seeing conditions of this event becoming less and less. I’m really happy it introduced me to Chocorua Lake though!

Ok NEOWISE, it’s been real.

Something about this area feels magical to me, and after researching its history, am even more excited to climb Mt Chocorua and explore these lands even further! 

The Chocorua legend tells of a Native American prophet or chief, Chocorua, who is supposed to have lived near the mountain at the dawn of white settlement, although no authentic records of his life are known to exist. The usual story—much of it drawn from a short work of fiction by Lydia Maria Child is that in about 1720 Chocorua was on friendly terms with settlers and in particular the Campbell family that had a home in the valley now called Tamworth. Chocorua was called away and left his son in the care of the Campbell family. The boy found and drank a poison that Mr. Campbell had made to eliminate troublesome foxes, and Chocorua returned to find his son had died. Chocorua, distraught with grief, pledged revenge on the family. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Campbell returned home one afternoon to find his wife and children had been slain. Campbell suspected Chocorua and pursued him up the mountain. Chocorua was wounded by a shot from Campbell’s rifle and, uttering a curse upon the white settlers, he leaped from the summit to his death.

There are at least three other versions of the legend of Chocorua. One is that Chocorua simply fell from a high rock on the mountain while hunting. A second is the white settlers pursued Chocorua up the mountain after an Indian massacre, and he leaped to his death. The third is that all the white settlers pursued him with guns, pitchforks, and torches. As Chocorua reached the top, the settlers decided to torch the remaining trees and in doing so they burned and exposed the topsoil of the last 1,270 feet (390 m). As the flames drew closer to Chocorua, he cursed the white men and leaped to his death.

Although the exact words of Chocorua’s curse (or even if there was a curse) are not known, it has been reported (Mudge, page 34) to be as follows.

“May the Great Spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds and his words are fire! Lightning blast your crops! Wind and fire destroy your homes! The Evil One breathe death on your cattle! Panthers howl and wolves fatten on your bones!”

Another version appears in the story “Chocorua’s Curse”, by Lydia Maria Child, contained in The Token (1830):

“A curse upon ye, white men! May the Great Spirit curse ye when he speaks in the clouds, and his words are fire! Chocorua had a son — and ye killed him while the sky looked bright! Lightning, blast your crops! Wind and fire destroy your dwellings! The Evil Spirit breathe death upon your cattle! Your graves lie in the war path of the Indian! Panthers howl, and wolves fatten over your bones! Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit — his curse stays with the white men!”

The Chocorua legend is featured on a New Hampshire historical marker along New Hampshire Route 16 in Tamworth.

Oh, cool. Do you mean like this one?

 
I sometimes wonder if one of my ancestors knew of, or maybe even spoke with Chief Chocorua. Maybe there is a deeper connection. Darby Field was a known translator to the Native Americans just before the estimated time of this legend. Seems like a longshot, but it sure is fun to think about!

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