Our Excellent Solar Eclipse 98 Adventure

... by Mel Bartels

Part III - The Eclipse

The Big Question in most everyone's mind: stay on land in Aruba where solid ground meant steady photographs, or hop on the boat for a few more seconds of totality at the center line plus the opportunity to dodge clouds. An info-snippet would sway us one way, then another would sway us in the opposite direction. Eventually, we opted to stay on the boat. We guess that roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the serious eclipse viewers made the same choice. Traveling through the icy cold rain shower a couple of hours before the eclipse validated our choice, and left us concerned for the landlubbers on Aruba - the direction the rain showers were headed. 

We had enough room on the boat, with a clear view of the onrushing shadow. I must compliment our Captain. He headed for the center line at top speed, and once there, unlike the other boats to either side of us maneuvering for breaks in the clouds, stayed put and waiting for the clouds to clear our position. Throughout the eclipse, the Captain kept us pointed into the wind, with the stabilizers so effective that one second exposures were successful. People on other boats did not always have such a happy experience.

At first, we are all kewl, joking and re-aligning equipment for the nth time, as the Moon first bites the Sun. More than an hour later, the Sun shows serious signs of distress, fading to a narrow crescent. Our surroundings dim to a ghostly yellow, the wind calms, the temperature plummets, and shivers go up and down our spines. Last frantic equipment checks are done in hushed excited voices. Then the southwestern horizon dims to a darker gray. The oncoming shadow, approaching at 2,000 miles per hour! With perfectly clear horizons to to the water in all directions, we are helplessly exposed to it. People point and shout, "Here it comes! Here it comes!"

We are transformed by the speed of the events and the tide of emotions. The shadow leaps to up the sky to the eclipse, everything darkens totally, the planets Mercury and Jupiter come out from hiding to escort the Sun, aome out from hiding to escort the Sun, and then the Diamond Ring! And what a beautiful long lasting diamond ring - a number of seconds. Now words fail, some are shouting unbelief, others crying, others concentrating on their cameras and telescopes. The corona flairs into view, loooking like incredibly fine angel hair, and beautiful though small prominences pop into view in our telescopes.

I think we experience time in a relative sort of way, certainly the 3 minutes and 43 seconds of totality that we experienced felt compressed into two minutes. When Cynthia shouted 30 seconds to go, I was stunned. No way was I ready for the eclipse to end. But we were rewarded with a similar long lasting diamond ring effect to end totality.

little partial eclipses by Mel Bartels and Barbara Drake

partial phases by Greg Babcock, 70mm Televue Pronto at f/6.8, using Kodak Elite II 200 iso Ektachrome film 1/500 sec through filter

diamond ring by Nancy Kupersmith

diamond ring by Greg Babcock, 70mm Televue Pronto at f/6.8, using Kodak Elite II 200 iso Ektachrome film 1/2000 sec

Bailey's Beads by Greg Babcock

Chromosphere by Greg Babcock

by Greg Babcock, 70mm Televue Pronto at f/6.8, using Kodak Elite II 200 iso Ektachrome film 1/2000 sec

by Greg Babcock, 70mm Televue Pronto at f/6.8, using Kodak Elite II 200 iso Ektachrome film 1/4 sec

outer corona by Greg Babcock

Mel, Barbara, and Greg viewing the partial phases; picture by Cynthia Hiller

the happy eclipse chasers at dinner after the eclipse: Doug, Nancy, Chris, Debbie, Mel, Barbara, Eric, Greg, Cynthia, Steve, and Wilson, our waiter

It was hours before we docked in Aruba and heard to our relief that nine minutes before totality, skies cleared.

Care to join us for the August '99 eclipse across Europe? You can bet we will be there!