Am finally home. (Spent the day after the eclipse in Hood River, then drove the rest of the way back to Bellingham). Here are a few quick photos to share from the trip, and a more detailed reflection of the experience.The Day Before:Dawn of Eclipse Day:The Main Event:
It was the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.I think watching from within a large crowd was also more enjoyable than if I had been alone or with a small group. There was a strong sense of camaraderie and shared experience.
First contact came right on schedule and those with solar telescopes noticed almost instantly. The rest of us with eclipse glasses could see it within about a minute, a tiny gouge in the side of the Sun. But after this initial recognition that the eclipse was underway, things proceeded leisurely and the crowd watched with calm anticipation. It was even a bit boring. It takes over an hour for the Moon to fully cover the Sun, and for the first half hour nothing really interesting happened. Every now and then we simply checked the Sun and observed that the gouge was a little bit bigger.
Then at around 50% coverage or so, I started noticing the sunlight losing its warmth. It had been heating up quickly all morning, but now the temperature stopped rising. By 80% it was comfortably cool on what should have been a hot August day. The color of the sky had also changed -- no longer the bright blue of daylight but a darker shade like indigo. As the Sun's crescent grew thinner, so did our shadows. My friend and I played with them, noting the unusual sharpness in some directions but not others. I could also curl up my fingers to let only a point of sunlight through, projecting a vivid crescent onto the ground.
Finally, with less than 5 minutes left before totality, everything became weird. Everywhere, the light and colors just looked wrong.
Like some alien kind of twilight, yet with the Sun still shining brightly overhead. Through the solar filters it was just a sliver. I could not believe how such a tiny fragment of Sun could be so bright. I began preparing the camera to photograph the coming diamond ring, and was able to see a ghostly band of corona all the way around the Moon on the display. The blazing sliver on the edge was shrinking rapidly.
The mood of the crowd also changed suddenly at this point. It was increasingly clear that something incredible was about to happen. Then the mountain to our west vanished. The Moon's shadow had eaten it, and was sweeping towards us. It was huge... ominous... almost terrifying. It looked like something that didn't belong in this world. A darkness with no obvious cause. Perhaps a demon out of fiction. It ate the landscape. It ate the sky. It ate the Sun
. The Sun shrank in its grip and became a tiny jewel. Diamond Ring.
I quickly snapped a few photos. Then the jewel winked out."Oh My God!!!"Where the Sun had been just moments ago, there was now the most insane apparition that ever graced the heavens. A perfect black void, ringed with a white ethereal wreath, throwing brilliant streamers out into an ashen sky. In every direction, a band of fiery sunset glowed on the horizon, enclosing us in this otherworldly space.I had seen so many photos, so many videos, and yet I was utterly unprepared for what it was like to actually see that sky.
Understanding the astronomy didn't matter. I knew intellectually that it was simply the Moon blocking out the Sun, but it did not matter. What I saw defied all prior experience. I instantly understood the hyperbole of descriptions of eclipses from others. Like standing on an alien planet. Like staring into the Eye of God. Like beholding the end of the world.
It was beautiful.
And all too soon it was over. I wasn't keeping accurate time, and the second diamond ring caught me by surprise. I had been looking at the colors in the sky and around the horizon, and at the mountain brightening in the west, thinking I still had about a minute to go, when suddenly the crowd exclaimed again, the world became bright, and I looked up to see the Sun reappearing, the Moon's shadow racing away to the east. My two minutes and four seconds inside of totality went by like it was nothing.
Later that evening, I felt physically and emotionally spent. And my friend and I made a final observation -- the weirdest thing about the whole experience was that nature went back to its usual business with no indication whatsoever of what had just transpired. Of course it would. But it made the memory of totality feel as if it was from a dream, or that we had stepped into some alternate reality for a couple of minutes. Totality was so strange that it seemed absurd that it could have happened at all given how normal
the rest of the day was.
I would not say this experience turned me into full blown eclipse chaser -- I'm not willing to spend the money or cope with the risks and anxieties of travelling anywhere in the world to see every single one. But I'll tell you this -- if it is even remotely possible to travel to one sometime in your life, I cannot recommend it highly enough.