I've arrived home in California so I thought I'd
give a quick report from our eclipse expedition to Cornwall,
England. With the prospects of clear weather not being in
our favor, myself, my wife Jennifer and two friends Dave Churchill
and Jim Janusz ventured to the small village of Looe on the
southern coast of Cornwall to witness the last total solar
eclipse of the millennium. While this region did not offer
the chances of clear skies like Turkey and Iran, we decided
it would still make for a great vacation even if we did not
see the eclipse. Which it did!
On the morning of August 11th, I awoke
at 6:30am local time to a sky that was about 70% clear. Some
nice large blue patches filed the sky with a beautiful orange
sun rising in the east. At this point I became quite excited
because each of the previous six mornings in England that
week dawned cloudy and rainy. I thought "we're going to see
it!!!" But unfortunately the clear weather did not last long.
A front from the North Atlantic was moving in quickly. By
9:00am we were setting up our equipment under dull grey skies
with periodic small blue breaks. We were able to view first
contact through roughly a 50-60% partial before the clouds
became to thick to view the solar disk. By about five minutes
before totality, the light became noticeably strange and the
temp was considerably cooler. With one minute to totality,
the grey sky became eerily dark with the western horizon a
very, very dark grey. Like severe thunderstorm but no thunder.
Totality came as we were enveloped by the moon's shadow. The
local village lights came on. The hill side in the distance
became dotted by hundreds of reddish-orange points of lights,
with the distant horizon being a dark yellowish color. The
local seagull's became very confused with hundreds of birds
flying in random directions. Almost hitting each other in
mid flight. The roughly 1min 45sec of totality ended as the
western horizon brightened and the moon's shadow raced onward
across the English Channel.
With this being my first trip to a
total solar eclipse, I was disappointed that totality itself
had eluded us, but on the other hand the experience of still
being engulfed in the moon's shadow and seeing day turn to
night was something I will never forget. This experience will
always have a special place in my memory. Perhaps a saying
from a local (Cripple Cock) special "Eclipse '99" bottle of
Scrumpy says it all from Cornwall, England. It says... "Has
night just ended-or has day just begun? 'Who cares', crows
Cripple Cock', I'll have another one."
BTW, I'm hooked... see ya in Africa
on Jun 21, 2001!!!
-- Chris Cook