I’d only seen one prior solar eclipse in my life and that was long ago when I was a university student. That one occurred on a cold winter day in February 1979, in my home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. So when I heard of the proximity of the American solar eclipse of 2017, I knew it was definitely time to view another.
There’s no question that this week’s eclipse was a popular event and thousands of people planned on visiting the areas of totality well in advance. In fact, I couldn’t find a hotel room for less than $1000/night (which I refuse to pay) within the thousand mile stretch across the Northwestern USA that was of interest to me when I checked into this about 9 months ago. Everything seemed booked.
Rumors of potential doom and gloom surrounding the eclipse dominated the media. There would be horrific traffic jams. There would be untold throngs of people overwhelming everything. The local communities would not be able to support these millions of visitors with food, gasoline and other services, etc. etc. I was skeptical, but admittedly you never know beforehand how something will turn out, so best to be prepared and cautious. We packed several days of food and water and 15 gallons of spare fuel the day before the event just in case.
It was important to us that we reach the zone of totality in Oregon from our home in Eastern Washington state with time to spare so as not to miss those precious few moments of totality — when the moon completely covers and blocks the sun’s light. We left in the wee hours of the morning and drove our chosen route into Oregon. Many options were available to us but I decided to head to Baker City because it avoided the busy corridor south of Portland and was approachable by 4 lane freeway the entire way, rather than 2 lane routes that bad traffic might more easily obstruct.
The drive into Oregon was busier than usual but far from heavy and easily moving at posted speeds. We enjoyed a nice sunrise along the way on this perfectly clear and beautiful morning and arrived in Baker City with 3 hours to spare before the moment of totality. We used the time to set up our chairs and such, and to exercise and feed our dogs, whom you see below….
We somewhat randomly picked a community baseball field in Baker City from which to view the eclipse as it provided wide open spaces and had ample parking. Slowly people trickled in but I don’t believe more than 100 people in total were viewing the eclipse from our site. That said, I suspect tens of thousands of people were watching the event around Baker City. As forewarned, everyone used proper solar goggles or solar viewers to watch the event.
The enthusiasts had arrived early and set up their telescopes, all of course with solar filters (which allows only 0.000001% of normal light through and as such does not damage the retina).
I had purchased a solar filter for my camera which I attached to the end of my telephoto lens and mounted the contraption on a tripod. I clicked the following shots of moon as it moved in front of the solar light, the first photo of the sun taken just before the eclipse started….
The period of the eclipse before totality lasted a good hour, but within about 5 minutes of totality we began to notice that it was getting significantly cooler. The wind picked up slightly and the light began to fade — difficult to describe but I would liken it to slowly dimming the lights at a baseball game. As totality was on it, the shadow of the moon quickly moved across the landscape which I only partially caught in one photo (below). You’ll note that the left side of the photo is significantly darker than the right and that the background mountains are in shadow.
Then a minute and a half of totality was upon us. During this time we could take off our solar goggles and could look directly at the sun. The photo of the sun at the top of this post was taken with a hand-held pocket camera, with no filter on it, showing the disc of the moon obscuring the sun, with a corona of light around the periphery. It was a magical moment!
I took only a single photo of the baseball field during totality. It was quite dark all around Baker City, although you can see sunlight in the distant sky.
The moon then moved past total blockage and continued across the face of the sun for the next hour, with the sun becoming ever more evident until the eclipse was over.
Traffic back home that day was slower than it had been in the morning as everyone was leaving at more or less the same time. Traffic moved very slowly in 2 construction zones, where the two lanes of the freeway merged into one. We were delayed perhaps a total of an hour in our return trip by construction-related traffic but otherwise everything flowed smoothly. As you can see from our truck’s side mirror, there’s a lot of cars behind us in one of the freeway construction zone bottlenecks.
It was a very memorable and enjoyable experience and if the opportunity ever presents itself again, I’d be happy to view another solar eclipse! I recommend you do, too!
And I’ve some photos to share of the historic center of Baker City taken when I’d visited in June which I’ll share soon. It is a pretty small city.