Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Total Solar Eclipse!

About 6 years ago, I attended a lecture of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The lecturer, Craig Prater, was a friend, and he gave a talk and slideshow about taking his family (including 2 young children) to see a total solar eclipse in Egypt. At the end of the talk, he encouraged everyone to see a total solar eclipse at least once in their lives. Then he showed a map of all the eclipse sites for the next 20 years.
When I noticed a flag over the Great Barrier Reef, I knew that this was my best chance to convince Kevin. I went home and pitched the idea. He went for it. We started saving a little every month for our trip to Queensland to see a total solar eclipse over the Great Barrier Reef. We mentioned it to lots of people and invited them along. You, dear reader, may have been one of them!
For years we talked about it, and it seemed so far away and so unreal. But eventually is was 2012 and we realized we were really going to make it happen. My moms had decided early on to join us, and they were game. With the invaluable help of my globetrotting Auntie Beeb, we made plans, paid deposits, purchased airline tickets and couldn't believe it was really happening.
Well, it did happen. We went. We saw the eclipse. You may have heard that it was overcast in many parts of Queensland that day, including very near us. We scouted several viewing locations the day before so we could pick the one with the best weather the next day. At 3 AM, we decided that the best spot was probably going to be at the beach a block and a half away from our vacation home. Kevin left at 4 AM to get a spot, and it was a plum spot: right in front of the playground, on the beach. The kids and I got there at 4:45 and Stellan and Rachelle immediately made themselves at home. There were already around a hundred people gathered there on the esplanade, many with fancy cameras and telescopes.
By 5:45 when the eclipse started, the beach and street were full of people from all over the world. Languages and accents everywhere, but all of us there for the same unique experience. There was some cloud cover and we all worried. But about 40 minutes into the eclipse, the sky was mostly clear.
We watched the moon pass in front of the sun with our eclipse glasses on, seeing the sliver of sunlight get slimmer and slimmer. Then, totality. The beach went silent for a heartbeat and then erupted in cheers and applause. For almost two full minutes, it was as dark as dusk; stars were visible in the sky, as well Venus right next to the sun. There was a strange blue glow to the light around us, and the reflection off the sea was otherworldly.
Eventually the moon passed the sun completely and we saw the "diamond ring," which lasts for a moment and which we did not capture on film. But trust me, it was breathtaking. The sun slowly returned to its normal glow and size, and people slowly filtered away.
Was it worth it? Was it worth all the expense, all the time, all the planning, all the trouble, to get 7 people halfway around the world for 2 minutes of a total solar eclipse? Yes.


Anonymous said...

Not as dramatic, but the same rush happened when my husband and I flew to Florida for that last shuttle launch. Pretty amazing stuff when all the planning comes together and you check biggies off your to-do list. Thanks for the reminder to find our "what next"

Jeannie said...

I am so impressed that you took this trip. Way to go, Super Mom! Glad it was so awesome for you all!