Preparing for the Solar Eclipse

2017-08-04 16_56_01-Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Postcard _ Zazzle.jpg

Carly Simon sings … “Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun”  

BUT I think our version will go something like  ...

We drove big Blue to Sumter, SC (Ess-see) ... to see the total eclipse of the sun.

Yup, we’re planning to watch the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21st, barring clouds or inclement weather. We’ve seen several lunar eclipses over the years, but we’ve never witnessed a total eclipse of the sun, have you? I remember a partial eclipse when I was a kid. We made special viewing screens with a pinpoint pricked into a piece of cardboard. I’m sure I peeked, but did not burn out my retinas, thank goodness.

 The USPS has even issued special total eclipse stamps ... don't worry, they're forever stamps.

The USPS has even issued special total eclipse stamps ... don't worry, they're forever stamps.

I made reservations a couple of months ago at a hotel in Sumter, SC, a small South Carolina city which is scheduling a Total Eclipse Party in their local park. The nearby capital city of Columbia, SC has touted itself as the “the total solar eclipse capital of the East Coast” with an entire weekend of events leading up to Monday afternoon. Sounds like too much hubbub to us, so we’re sticking with something smaller. We anticipate that the main event will be the solar eclipse, not the commercial stuff associated with it.

I’ve read all sorts of articles and done an inordinate amount of research (much better than scraping and sanding teak). There are several eclipse apps available for your smart phone and lots of paraphernalia, from eclipse viewing glasses (yes, I ordered ours on Amazon) to t-shirts to coffee mugs. The glasses are deemed necessary and I had thought to get a solar filter for my camera and then thought … why not just watch the eclipse and let others take the photos? The urge to photograph such an event is nearly overwhelming, but not as overwhelming as the impact of the filter purchase on my budget.

I’m most interested in the phenomenon itself and how the solar event is described by so-called eclipse chasers. There are several phases to be aware of and many websites have outlined what to look for (and not look at). There are several “contact” points, shadow bands, the corona, totality, Baily’s Beads, the diamond ring … we want to make sure we take it all in. In Sumter, the totality will last about two minutes, but there’s lots leading up to totality and then the reverse as the moon makes its way across the sun’s path.

We’re told to be aware of not only the eclipse, but what’s going on around us. Understandably, the temperature will drop several degrees in just a few minutes as darkness descends. The wind will pick up and/or change direction. The stars and planets will shine. Animals might react strangely though I think the only animals around might be the human variety. I can understand why ancient folks might have been frightened. I already think it will be unsettling … in an awesome way, but then I’m anticipating it. If it happened without warning and could not be easily explained, it would definitely be terrifying.

 South Carolina's Lizard Man

South Carolina's Lizard Man

Authorities have warned that highways will be crowded, cellular data access may be limited and phone lines might be jammed. I’ve downloaded Maps With Me for offline access and, if worse comes to worse, we might even resort to paper maps. Raise your hand if you remember those?

And, lest I forget, there’s a possibility of paranormal activity during the eclipse which might include a visit from Carolina’s Lizard Man. That might be a bit overwhelming, don’t you think?

I know there’s so much hype about it and probably some folks are sick to death of hearing “eclipse, eclipse, eclipse”. I read one cynic’s commentary who pretty much summed it up as “it’s gonna get dark … so what’s the big deal?” Bah … humbug! I feel differently. Yeah, there’s lots of media, social and commercial hype. So what? Ignore it if you want. Some folks are having fun with it … check out Chiquita’s Banana Sun page!

After nearly two decades on Cups, my heart still races every time I see dolphins playing in our bow wake or whales spouting nearby. When the full moon rises and I’m on night watch, it’s a thrill. A total eclipse is a natural, not man-made, spectacle that happens rarely and we have the opportunity to witness it firsthand. How awesome is that? That’s the fabric of adventure and experience we get to weave into our lives and all I can say is “Give me more!”

Can’t be there? NASA is doing a live stream video of the event. Watch it and you won't even need those special glasses!  I’ll be back next week to report on being there.

P.S. Eclipse glasses .... GRRRR! 

I specifically bought ISO/CE marked "total eclipse viewing glasses" a couple of months ago on Amazon. Just got a note from Amazon which coincided with the media blitz about bogus glasses. Amazon is not sure our vendor is actually a valid supplier of eclipse glasses, so they refunded us our $$. We can keep the glasses ... great! This is certainly not Amazon's fault and they are doing a good job of taking care of their customers and warning us, but it certainly left us in the lurch. It seems there's really no way to check the glasses we purchased. They are totally opaque and when we looked at the sun with them, all we could see is a muted sun ... a dot of light. However, further reading confirmed that the retina has no pain cells, therefore even if there doesn't seem to be a problem with viewing the sun, the radiation/UV could be toasting your retinas while you watch. We spent several hours trying to find determine if our manufacturer's glasses were the real McCoy ... no dice, of course. Then we tried buying more glasses from approved vendors, but none available locally or at the usual retailers. We finally found some at a telescope company in California for which we paid quadruple the original price plus 2-day delivery.