2015 – FAROE ISLANDS
“The total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015 only made landfall from the remote Faroe Islands and Svalbard. It occurred in March – a time known for unsettled weather across the arctic. This was a pretty challenging total eclipse weather-wise to prepare for, but also one of my favourites.”
In mid-2013 I decided that I would be viewing the total solar eclipse from the Faroe Islands, and leading my first eclipse tour there as well with The Independent Traveller. I visited the islands in September 2013 and arranged to talk with key organisations about their plans for the eclipse. At that time, plans were in the very early stages, and there was no-one who was the dedicated eclipse coordinator.
It was, however, the topic that the media were interested in, and during that first visit, we featured in the local newspapers, on the radio, and in a podcast. Generally, the feeling was the eclipse was far away, but people were keen to hear about it.
I returned in March 2014 – exactly one year before the eclipse. This time, there was much more focus on the eclipse. I was a speaker at a major tourism dinner by the Faroese Tourism Trade Association, attended by around 300 tourism and business representatives. Following this, another eclipse-chasing colleague and I delivered a workshop to tour operators to inform them of the eclipse. I was also able to identify a few older local people who saw the last total eclipse visible from the Faroe Islands in 1954 – something I knew was important for the local community to hear.
As eclipse chasers, we were treated like rock stars when we went into schools. It was soon after this visit that a dedicated eclipse coordinator was appointed, working half time to prepare for the eclipse. I was in regular contact, providing guidance on all sorts of aspects in preparation for the eclipse. I was also in regular contact with a community development officer of the small village of Eidi, where together we were planning a whole-community eclipse viewing celebration event based at the local school.
As the months went by, there was still so much to do! Five weeks before the eclipse, I relocated to my new home to work full time as an Eclipse Consultant in helping with the final eclipse preparations. I knew what needed to be done, how to approach it, and worked supporting and advising the eclipse coordinator and other key staff in their roles.
Every morning when I took the free bus into work on the very short commute I pinched myself at where I was – a girl from the tropics of Far North Queensland, normally working as a Psychologist in hospital settings now working in a frozen winter wonderland, helping to prepare yet another community for an eclipse. It was magical. It was extremely busy. But it was like I was home.
Addressing the whole community of Eidi, along with our international group of eclipse chasers, on the morning of the total eclipse. (c) The Independent Traveller.
Leading an eclipse seminar for tour leaders in the Faroe Islands, one year before the eclipse. (c) Dr Kate Russo
Together, the key tourism and government organisations worked to ensure that key tasks were achieved. Drawing from the excellent resources from the eclipse in 2012, we established the safety standards of the eclipse filters for sale and coordinated the official government advice for this. There were materials to write, brochures to produce, planning and coordination for the local media regarding stories for their community, helping the development of the eclipse exhibition at the National Museum.
In the midst of this, there were requests for presentations to all sorts of groups and events. Regular interactive slots in the media helped to share the excitement in those final weeks, and also to share crucial information about places to view. We drove around the islands, identifying key places for public viewing and identifying problem areas related to parking and traffic flow.
We met with government departments regarding safety, parking, crowd control; and organised turning off all automatic lights and rescheduling services to allow for the eclipse. There were many eclipse-related tasks to organise, materials to prepare, presentations to deliver, media to talk to. Again, we were inundated with requests to speak, engaged fully with the very interested local media, and we did what we could to share information and resources.
As an eclipse chaser, I was almost treated like a rock star whenever I would go into schools, with children screaming and waving paper for me to sign. Those who recalled the 1954 total eclipse also were featured in the media, sharing their memories of the last eclipse as if it were yesterday. There was even a debate as to whether eclipse day should be a public holiday. It was non-stop. And the media requests kept coming. And coming.
We coordinated media panels for the final two days, and when the eclipse chasers finally began to pour into the country, we facilitated special media panel interviews for us all. Media packs were distributed, eclipse events were happening – and eclipse fever was everywhere.
My own eclipse tour group arrived, and I then became busy with pre-eclipse briefings, many media interviews, and running the community event for 500 people along with my tour group – which included a community breakfast, pre-eclipse briefings, eclipse viewing, post eclipse presentations, chain dancing celebrations and other interactive cultural offerings.
Somehow, the Faroe Islands with a community of 50,000 people, a hotel capacity of 800 beds, were able to facilitate an additional 11,400 people who came to experience the eclipse. It was wonderful. (For those above the clouds).
The event generated an estimated income of DKK 114 million. The estimated value of the PR due to the 62 international media who travelled to the Faroes for the eclipse was DKK 150 million.
Some months after the eclipse, I took time out to again interview key people involved in eclipse preparations and included these learnings in the White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning. These lessons we learned from planning in the Faroe Islands, that were built upon the planning in Australia in 2012, were important and should be shared.
Being a key part of the eclipse for this community was an incredible experience, and I will feel connected to this wonderful place for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to go back.
TESTIMONIAL FROM THE COMMUNITY
“Dr. Russo has a unique blend of skills, experiences and enthusiasm that was invaluable for the success of the preparations prior to the eclipse. She showed unfailing motivation and passion for eclipses, and for helping us in our preparations. She was an inspiring leader, and got us all excited about what was to come.”