Last night, at the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, we were on the beach. Yeah, it was midnight, and there was work to be done today. But there we were none the less, staring up into the night sky.
In any event, it had been cloudy and foggy most of the day. The beach gets like that in the wintertime. Cool air riding across the still-relatively-warm water of the ocean, picking up water vapor and starting to squeeze it out in the from of fog. as we walked down to the beach, the fog bank was hanging just offshore, and we were treated to an hour of near-perfect meteor viewing.
Meteors are teases, really. I was spending time setting up the camera, and occasionally I’d see a little streak of light from the corner of my eye. The Geminids are one of the year’s best meteor showers, and Sunday night didn’t disappoint. We hadn’t been on the beach more than a couple of minutes that we’d seen a couple of shooting stars … small particles of rock burning themselves out in the Earth’s atmosphere. I opened up the camera lens hoping to catch a random streak across the frame … no such luck.
I eventually gave up on shooting the sky and just lay back on the sand to watch it. Getting on towards 0100, the clouds that had been hanging in through the entire day started to push back to the east, obscuring our view. Just before we lost it entirely, we had our night’s grand finale. Almost due east, and relatively low on the horizon, the brightest meteor of our night fell on a what appeared to be a nearly vertical trajectory towards the ocean. It went from white to bright white to blue-white before vanishing. And then the clouds made further viewing impossible.
Because I was on the beach in the middle of the night with my camera, a tripod, and a remote shutter release, I had to get a couple of my favorite shots. The low clouds and fog gave the beach an almost eerie feeling. As the clouds moved overhead, they reflected more and more light from the town just over the dune, giving us an almost-twilight feeling in the wee hours of the morning.
So many people enjoy the beach during the day, and I do as well. But one of the privileges of living at the continent’s edge is the chance to experience the beach in all seasons, in all her moods, at all times of the day. At night, when it’s quiet but for the dull crash and hiss of the surf, with the spectacle of a meteor shower, it is a very, very special place.