Solar Eclipse


Eclipse Path
Eclipse Photos
Eclipse of the Earth

Total Solar Eclipse, 11 August 1999

Observation Point

I took the photos from a temporary campsite set up at the Gara Rock Hotel, which is at the southernmost tip of Devon in the UK. The location is shown in the map (obtained by searching for the post code TQ8 8PH on The UK Street Map Page - remember to select the "Post Code" radio button). This location is to the south of Kingsbridge, as marked on the Southern England maps above. The OS coordinates of the location of my tent in the campsite were SX 753 377, and its altitude was 125 metre.


bulletIn the final few seconds before totality it appeared to me that the light level fell rapidly in a stepwise fashion to a very low level. My guess is that this was Baily's beads winking out one by one, but I can't be sure of that. I did not observe an equivalent stepwise increase in the light level at the end of totality.
bulletDuring totality I could hear a low hum. Surely, I must have been imagining that? Well, it turned out that someone was playing a didgereedoo lower down the campsite. In the meantime, I had the very strong sensation that an express train was racing through above me. What else could switch the light off so quickly, and make a humming sort of noise?
bulletThe stories told recently on TV by people (who saw the 1927 eclipse) that it goes as dark as the dead of night are rubbish. To my eyes, the light level was comparable with what it would be like an hour after sunset in midsummer in the southern UK - you couldn't read a book, but you wouldn't stumble into things if you walked around.
bulletAt the end of totality the light level appeared to me to rise much faster than it had fallen in the run into totality, even though one would expect things to be symmetrical before and after. My guess is that, because my eyes were fully dark adapted during totality, they responded better to the return of light.
bulletPeople then looked at each other as if to say "Was that as good for you as it was for me?" or "Did that really happen, or was I dreaming?".
bulletAbout 30% of people made a dash for their cars to get ahead of the traffic jams that would inevitably form as people exited Devon and Cornwall. The wiser ones stayed behind to plot a more cunning exit .

What Now?

I had hoped that this eclipse would satisfy me, after all I have been looking forward to it for around 35 years, but all it's done is to whet my appetite. I've done "cloudy eclipse", and it wasn't as bad as might have been thought. Now I have to do "cloudless eclipse". The best information source I have found on future eclipses is Espenak's Home Page.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, 15 September 1999.