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Sun-Earth Day Presents: Eclipse, In a Different Light


Bolivian EclipseBy Robert S. Gadbois

Sometimes we can become so involved with recording a total eclipse, we miss the overall experience. This almost happened to my wife Claire and me. We were first-time observers when we and many others traveled to the altiplano region of Bolivia in 1994. Exhausted and cold from an overnight train ride, we waited through dawn and an hour and a half wait while the moon slowly swallowed the sun. Just before totality, my wife started taking still pictures and I did a video. Both of us became so involved with our cameras, we never took our eyes off the viewfinders. We were witnessing interesting phenomena through our lenses and filters but missing the overall experience. Then Claire realized she couldn’t change her camera settings due to the darkness, and she abruptly asked for my pocket flashlight. I quickly grabbed for it and handed it to her, and just then, before I returned to my video camera, I looked up. For a brief moment my jaw dropped and time stood still. I stood there transfixed. For the first time my eyes took in the entire sky. There was the brilliant halo of light surrounding the darkest disk I had ever seen, the night sky illuminated by planets and stars and the glow of the distant horizon. It was a site no camera could record or any expert could completely describe. Instantly I understood why ancients and primitives made myths and legends over it, why the Bolivian government spent so much effort reassuring their rural people and why many in our own group broke into tears and wept. We were hooked on the most dramatic phenomena we will ever experience in our lives. Like many others we had to repeat the experience. We have seen two others and soon will see a fourth, but none will ever compare to that moment of discovery in 1994.


Eclipse Fact

Eclipse shadows travel at 1,100 miles per hour at the equator and up to 5,000 miles per hour near the poles.

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