Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Your Basic Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun

It was your typical lead-sky coastal overcast. No hope of seeing the Total Eclipse. Our little cabin is in San Marine, a kind of suburb/designated plot/with State Park north of tiny Yachats, OR. We had the choice of standing on the beach about 400 yards down the hill and missing the predicted 99.99% of the Total Eclipse due to weather, or driving 7 miles in the fog to the eclipse totality’s southern edge in Waldport to get the 100%. M wanted to see the corona if possible so we gambled and ventured out onto 2-lane Hwy 1 in the mist. It wasn’t all that crowded in the municipal beach parking lot at the entrance to Alsea Bay. We found a parking spot right in front of the tidal flats area and joined the about 30 other early birds standing on the sidewalk and awaiting the event. The traffic had been advertised as nightmarish and sometimes it was, but at 8:00am when we left it was negligible. 

It wasn’t promising. The fog persisted – wouldn’t lift - and besides, the mist was thick and so were the clouds. We got a breakfast burrito and some coffee from the Subway up on the main street, then came back and stood near Leona, a pretty JW who even had her JW signboard out.  The sun was barely visible as a disc.  After a bit we went to the van and sat in the back under the hatch and listened to the local radio station (Newport) count down the Totality in between country music songs while we drank our coffee.

Everybody on the sidewalk already had their cardboard eclipse glasses, so the extras we brought weren’t needed. Turns out the fog and the mist were Good Things: as the eclipse began you could look up and with your naked eyes see a blurry round sun disk peeking through the overcast, with an equally blurry crescent-shaped bite being munched out of it.  (Billman nailed it with his Pac Man comment.) If you put regular sunglasses on you could watch the whole deal with some clarity. We decided that it was okay, we didn’t actually NEED to see the corona, just seeing the sun-disc covered up would be fine.

BUT: As the Totality moments arrived, we experienced a wonderful break in the weather (see ‘microclimate’ associated with eclipses in your local Google.) Right on time! The clouds parted, the fog went away and we were in a little ‘sunbreak’ area that made us have to put our cardboard eclipse glasses on. It got darker and darker as the sun was covered. The streetlights in the parking lot came on. The temperature dropped about ten degrees (it wasn’t all that warm to begin with). The crows and gulls quit flying and perched on the Bank’s rooftops or out on the sand of the beach. Then boom the whole sun went out and Molly&I got to see the corona, albeit a bit filtered by residual fog, ... and the Diamond Ring. I looked on the ground around the Torrey pine behind the sea wall, but there were no funny little crescents or anything in the shadows.  I managed to get one pic of the eclipse thru my eclipse glasses but I screwed up and had the camera set on "wide angle" so it's kinda small:

As the sun began to return, the crowd – now about 100 folks along the sidewalk – cheered and applauded. I quipped something about Ra, the sun god, but nobody got it.  The streetlights went out. M&I hugged and kissed each other and grinned with the crowd around, including the lady who had shown up without eclipse glasses and was appreciative of the pair we gave her.

The fog and the overcast returned.

We watched the lot empty out and decided to brave the traffic for the trip back to our cabin. It took about ten minutes to make a turn onto the Highway. But then the cars thinned to the normal congestion and we got home in no time.

A good time was had by all. Thanks, Solar System!