Category: Uncategorized

04 Jun 2021

Number 13 – lucky for some? An Antarctica flight into totality


Some say the number 13 is unlucky.  I’m not one to believe in superstition, but I must say there feels as if something has been stopping me from successfully chasing my 13th total solar eclipse.

Travel restrictions stopped me and most of my international eclipse community from chasing totality in December 2020 in Argentina / Chile.  Despite renewed optimism for international travel in 2021, the options for traveling to Antarctica for totality in December 2021 remain limited.   Even if South American borders remain open to allow travelers to connect with their cruise ships to Antarctica, COVID uncertainties may still prevent some travelers from boarding.    Once successfully on board, one then has to hope the high chance of clouds from the remote Weddell Sea will not impede the view.   This is why many of my past eclipse tour community and personal chasing friends have opted out of any attempts to chase totality 2021 – there are too many unknowns and potential issues that are outside of our control.

But …..  there is now hope for us Aussie eclipse chasers. For those not in the know, Australians have been prevented from travelling internationally for over a year, and will continue to be restricted until 2022.

Most in the travel industry within Australia have had to ‘pivot’ and find new solutions to work around COVID limitations.  Chimu Expeditions are based in Australia, and have an extensive history of offering interesting tours to Antarctica and other worldwide destinations.   With COVID restrictions impacting upon Australian travel, they have recently opened up interesting domestic flight options which are of great appeal, including sightseeing flights south to view the Aurora Australis, and over Antarctica.   These new options have been extremely popular.

Over the past few months interesting conversations have taken place regarding the possibility and viability of a flight from Australia being able to get into the path of totality.  After much plotting and planning, Chimu are now going ahead with their planned charter flight with Qantas.  Boom!

The plan is to fly from Melbourne, doing a scenic flight over Antarctica and then intersecting the path of totality to allow those on board to experience totality from above the cloud.  To meet COVID requirements, this is a domestic flight, and open to anyone within Australia.

I’m excited beyond belief.

The flight is an incredible opportunity to view two wonders – the immense vastness of the Great White Continent;  as well as seeing a total solar eclipse from the plane.  It is likely to appeal not just to eclipse chasers, but to the traveling public of Australia who have been cooped up for so long and may decide that this is the perfect post-COVID lockdown experience.  Just imagine the vibe on board!

I’m encouraging all chasers to get in early.   Expressions of interest and the flight brochure can be viewed via this exclusive eclipse chaser link here:   https://forms.gle/1Resa9Cs3XC6Fr796

It may just be that my 13th total solar eclipse chase is going to be the luckiest by far!

30 Mar 2021

Community Eclipse Planning – Zoom workshop 9-10 April 2021

 

I’ve been chasing total eclipses for over 20 years.  While waiting for each chase, I usually channel my energies into community eclipse planning and working behind-the-scenes on projects for future eclipses.

Despite living in Australia, I am a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force, which is the key supporting organization for solar eclipse planning across the US.  We have been meeting via Zoom regularly and are working towards future eclipse coordination in the US.

Plans are now ramping up in preparation for the next total solar eclipse visible across the US, including Mexico and Canada, on 8 April 2024.   If you thought the ‘Great American Eclipse of 2017’ was huge, then be aware that was just the warm-up.  With so much more awareness, the ‘Greater North American Total Solar Eclipse of 2024’ is going to be huge!   And an added bonus – an annular (‘ring’) solar eclipse will be visible across the US and parts of Mexico the year before, on 14 October 2023.   Make sure to mark these dates in your diary.

This means community eclipse planning needs to start NOW for all communities who find themselves in the Moon’s shadow in 2023 and/or 2024.

To help you with this, the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force is hosting the next planning weekend workshop via Zoom on Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 April 2021, to coincide with the three-year countdown to the total eclipse in 2024.   This online workshop will be of interest to anyone who needs to be involved in preparations for these two solar eclipses, and there is a great line-up of experienced presenters who are keen to support you.  Day 1 of the workshop will provide a detailed overview of these solar eclipse opportunities across the US, and guidance about eye safety.  Day 2 of the workshop is dedicated to eclipse planning.  I will be delivering a presentation on community eclipse planning on Day 2, and then taking part in a panel discussion on the topic that will also feature others who will be sharing their planning experience from 2017.

There is a low fee of $20 to take part in the weekend workshop. Please CLICK HERE for more detailed information, any questions, and to register your attendance.  If you cannot attend this workshop, then make sure to still link in with the Eclipse Task Force to be kept informed of future planning workshops.

I’ve been guiding and researching community eclipse planning for many years now, and my top three nuggets of advice based upon my own direct experience and the many, many hindsight interviews I have done after each eclipse:   start planning early;  focus on the community; and consult with eclipse experts.   This workshop will help you get started – you will be warmly welcomed by the Solar Eclipse Task Force, and you will have an opportunity to connect with others who are also starting out with their planning too.   I look forward to seeing you there.

08 Dec 2020

2020 – The one we had to learn to let go

As an eclipse chaser, I spend my time counting down the days, hours and minutes to the next time I can be in the Moon’s shadow.  It is an incredibly important part of my life, and in many ways eclipses have become a more meaningful marker of time for me than calendar years.   I know where I will be for each of the eclipse years of totality.

Like all eclipse chasers, I had planned big things for the total eclipse of December 14, 2020. This was to be the eclipse with clear skies, broad landscapes, and cultural delights viewed from Chile or Argentina, and I had set my sights, yet again, on Argentina.

Not chasing this eclipse was difficult for me personally, as it meant that I had to miss my 13th total eclipse.  However, this is not really about me at all – there is a much bigger picture here.  The tour I was leading was not able to proceed, and as a result 65 people had their plans canceled; and very sadly the tour company I worked with was forced to cease trading due to the situation in Argentina.  These circumstances were all outside of my control, and were consequences of this pandemic.  This was the impact only in my immediate circle related to eclipse travel – every one of you will have your own story of how this pandemic has affected your life and the loss you have faced.

Now with less than a week to go for the next total eclipse, I feel at peace knowing that I am not chasing this eclipse.  Not traveling is a sacrifice I am willing to make for the greater good, and most eclipse chasers have grounded themselves for 2020.  However, a few hardy international chasers remain committed to the cause – desperately seeking updates and guidance on how to get into the path of totality in South America despite the many remaining obstacles of quarantine, closed borders, test requirements, and traveler restrictions.

If I can slip into my alternate role as a psychologist here… what we are currently experiencing more than any time in my life is a complete lack of control.  If we try to gain control over things we have no control over, we are just left with anxiety.  So we have a choice – those who can be flexible in our thinking know that when we have no control, it is better to roll with it, and focus on the things we DO have control over.

Some, however, will find it difficult to see they have a choice, and will do all they can to stay in control.  In this situation, without any control, all they can do is arm themselves with information and continue to plan.   Unfortunately, the pandemic response varies considerably worldwide, and even within each country, state, and region information changes almost by the hour.  Keeping up-to-date for chasing this eclipse in South America is exhausting – what is promised on one day can be easily overridden on a different day by some other authority.  And when we become so focused on the end goal, we lose sight of the fact that when we travel in such an environment we expose not only ourselves, but others – our eclipse chaser friends, other travelers, locals we meet, officials on the ground, our hosts, and then our loved ones when we return – to greater risks.   And ultimately – we still have no control.

If you are still outside of South America, then it is ok to give yourself permission to not travel and chase this eclipse.   This is not a sign of failure or defeat, but a sign of strength as you are making a choice. With this comes a sense of peace and acceptance.

If you are already within South America – then do enjoy the eclipse safely, knowing that chasers around the world will be with you, watching from afar and sharing the sense of wonder and awe with you.  Those already living within the path of totality are considered the lucky ones, where all they have to do on eclipse day is go outside and look up.  I will be watching online, and plan to be part of a Slooh live broadcast from Chile, talking about how this year’s world events have affected us eclipse chasers.

Post-pandemic eclipse chasing will be with a renewed sense of gratitude for having the freedom and flexibility to travel in the future. Until then, 2020 will be remembered by the eclipse chasing community as the one we had to learn to let go.

11 Mar 2018

Totality 2020: Tour Announcement

Join me in the path of totality in 2020. (c) Kieron Circuit

 

I have some exciting news!

My 2020 tour in collaboration with The Independent Traveller is now finalised.

This will be my third eclipse tour with The Independent Traveller.  After our incredible experience of totality in Wyoming in August 2017, we are again offering something special and unique in astronomy travel, suitable for both new and experienced chasers. 

The tour will be led by me, and will be of appeal to those who want to have a great eclipse experience with a beautiful scenic outlook.  Clear skies, glacial lakes, and volcanos anyone??

Rosemary, the owner of The Independent Traveller, has been running tours in South America for many years, and has extensive contacts on the ground.  During her visit in January, she was able to secure exclusive use of a really beautiful viewing location in an area with excellent weather prospects, and some quite exclusive accommodation too.  A difficult mix to achieve in this part of Patagonia.

Here are the bare details:

  • Six night tour, commencing and ending in Buenos Aires
  • Viewing from the Argentinian side of the Andes, giving us excellent weather prospects
  • Very comfortable hotel options, ensuring a quality experience
  • Pre- and post-eclipse briefings
  • Exclusive eclipse viewing site
  • Transport options in the unlikely event of poor weather at our primary viewing location
  • Estimated maximum numbers of 60

 

For more details of this tour, including pricing options, please register your interest here  – and mention our special code word:  OPTIMISM.   Rosemary will answer all of your questions, and will be delighted to help you with the tour and some pretty incredible add-ons as well.

Interest is high, and there is no doubt that this tour will sell out.

We will not be offering a tour for 2019, although I will of course be traveling independently.

I look forward to welcoming you on this tour in 2020.

 

 

 

 

14 Nov 2016

4 years ago – totality in Far North Queensland

Four years ago today, on the morning of November 14 2012, the total solar eclipse was visible over Far North Queensland. As an eclipse chaser, for the first time in my life, all I had to do to get into the path of totality was to go home.

I spent the first 17 years of my life in this region – just outside of the path of totality. I may live far away, but North Queensland is my home, where my family still live, and it is in my blood. I return home as often as I can, often staying months at a time.

North Queensland is an amazing destination of world-heritage and very unique nature experiences – it truly is a tropical paradise. The perfect location to host the most incredible nature show there is – a total solar eclipse.

The locals were quite slow to warm up to the idea that the eclipse was going to be a big thing, and relevant to them. Us North Queenslanders’ are known for out laid-back outlook on life, and resilience and strong community connection in the face of adversity. We are shaped by our environment, and in this beautiful part of the world, nature can be harsh.

The year before the eclipse, the region was hit with a record-breaking category five cyclone – Yasi – that threatened Cairns but devastated smaller communities to the south. The impact of Cyclone Yasi was felt across the north, up and down the coast, as homes were devastated, people were displaced, farming and tourism infrastructure damaged, and livelihoods lost. The 2012 total eclipse could not have come at a better time. This was to be a positive nature event, one that could again unite the community in celebration, as well as draw in tens of thousands of tourists from around the world. It was time to showcase the region again. The eclipse was estimated to bring in 30,000 people, with an estimated $75 million for the local economy. Things were looking up.

Path of totality for 2012 total eclipse
Path of totality 2012. (c) Michael Zeiler

The path of totality for the total eclipse in 2012 was 179km wide, from Bloomfield in the north, to Innisfail to the south. Within the path were the coastal towns including Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove; and the inland remote communities of Mareeba, Mt Carbine, Palmer River and Lakeland. Those viewing from inland locations were promised clear skies, and coastal locations were forecast to have patchy cloud.

As the crowds began to pour into the region, the reality and scale of the event was obvious. In the final week, eclipse mania prevailed, and it was all anyone could talk about.

And then the day arrived. It was a double dawn like no other – tens of thousands of people woke up early to experience the total eclipse with their family, friends and loved ones.

Waiting for totality in Palm Cove. 2012.
Waiting for totality in Palm Cove. © 2012 TTNQ

Sunrise occurred at around 5.38am on this special day, with the Moon starting its show across the Sun less than ten minutes later. Nature arose, to only be confused again moments later. The main event – totality – occurred at round 6.40am. At that time, the ever-present noise of nature in this tropical paradise was suddenly silenced, replaced by the delighted screams of the locals and visitors seeing this natural wonder for the first time in this location in over one thousand years.

Totality 2012 near Palm Cove
Experiencing totality in 2012 near Palm Cove, North Queensland. (c) 2012, Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Some were luckier than others. Those of us viewing from inland were indeed greeted with clear skies. Those viewing from the coast, however, had a mixed experience; with cloud patches spoiling the view for people even just hundreds of meters apart. Clouds may have spoiled the view for some, but it certainly did not spoil the mood, the excitement and the buzz.

The buzz was fever-pitched for about a week afterwards. Everyone wanted to know – “where were you? What did you see?” People shared their stories, their photos, their memories, and their renewed ideas.

But soon, life started to slowly return to normal. Tourists began to leave, and the slow pace of life returned. Yet life seemed different.

The benefit to the region was significant. Visitor numbers were over double what was initially estimated. The economic boost to the region was estimated to be at least $130 million, with a longer-term benefit for the regional tourism sector. But for every person there on that day, standing in the shadow of the Moon – no value that can be placed on that experience. To witness a total solar eclipse in your own community is unique, intense, profound, and will be with you for a lifetime.

Smile if you have seen totality.
The totality experience stays with you for a lifetime. (c) 2013, Seawalker

My book Totality: The total solar eclipse of 2012 in Far North Queensland tells the story of this eclipse, from the perspectives of many locals and visitors observing all across the north. And the images are gorgeous!! Order the ebook for just US$12.

 

17 Mar 2016

Totality 9 March 2016 from Wayu Village, Palu, Central Sulawesi

The total solar eclipse – what can I say.  WOW!!

It was the clearest total eclipse I have seen since Mongolia in 2008.  That’s a long time to wait.

We saw totality from Wayu Village, high up in the mountains above Palu city, with sweeping views of the whole bay to the north, and down the valley to the centreline towards the south.  You could not have picked a better vantage point.

Filming from our vantage point up in Wayu Village, overlooking Palu. (c) 2016, Kate Russo
Filming from our vantage point up in Wayu Village, overlooking Palu. (c) 2016, Kate Russo

The skies were clear, the Sun was high up, and the atmosphere electric.  At first contact, a traditional music song was played, sounding like a single didgeridoo, which echoed down the valley.  It was tremendous.  There were further cultural performances – eclipse dances, chanting.  We were high above the festivities though, it was difficult to fully see what was happening.  but the music drifted upwards.

It was hot – why do I always forget to wear sunscreen?? The temperature at first contact was 31.5 Celsius, and over time it dropped slowly until after totality when it registered 24.5 degrees.  The light went weird, birds were confused, and it was thrilling.

The shadow was not as pronounced as other eclipses, but the moment of second contact was incredible.  The diamond ring hung there beautifully and seemed to last a lifetime.  And then – totality.  I screamed with delight as that familiar shadow fully covered all on that sacred mountain.  We whooped, cheered, hugged, and stood in silence at the wonder before us.  It felt like forever. Two planets were clearly visible, although the sky did not darken too much. I had a quick glance through binoculars and saw an incomplete but beautiful corona  and prominences at 9 o’clock, both of which were clearly visible without binoculars.   The shadow was much more pronounced from behind.  The light on the horizon was beautiful.  I was so grateful that the clouds stayed away.

And then third contact – always over too soon.

Totality from Eclipse Festival.  (c) 2016, unknown
Totality from Eclipse Festival. (c) 2016, unknown

I was incredibly lucky to have this eclipse experience documented by MetroTV.  I must say that spending days with the crew really added to the whole experience, and it was such a privilege to share that with them.

There is so much more to say.  This eclipse will always be very special because of how we shared it – amongst the local population, our experience to be shared with the local community.  What a wonderful, bonding and precious time that was.

eclipse day group 1

Afterwards, I did a post-eclipse research workshop at the Sulawesi Eclipse Festival, where we shared the eclipse experience.  It was a very special time.

Researching the eclipse experience at the Sulawesi Eclipse Festival the day after the total solar eclipse. (c) 2016, Kate Russo
Researching the eclipse experience at the Sulawesi Eclipse Festival the day after the total solar eclipse. (c) 2016, Kate Russo

The documentary featuring this eclipse experience, the research I have done, the pre- and post-eclipse workshops I did at the Eclipse Festival, and interviews – all will be aired across Indonesia to millions.  What a wonderful way of sharing this amazing natural phenomena.   The below clip is the promotional video for the full show.

21 Aug 2015

Eclipse chasers and Countdowns

Astronomical Clock, PragueAs an eclipse chaser, I plan ahead and know where I will be on specific dates a few years in advance. This means that I am always on ‘eclipse countdown’, using eclipse maps as a scaffold for my future. This may seem rather geeky, but I think it’s rather cool and it also is quite typical eclipse chaser behavior.

Today just happens to be a significant eclipse countdown day. In exactly two years time, on August 21 2017, the path of totality will start in the North Pacific Ocean, make landfall on the Oregon coast, cross the whole of the US to South Carolina and then continue on into the North Atlantic. This is a significant eclipse as it will be easily accessible for tens of millions of people, and is the first to cross the mainland US since 1979.

At this very moment I am in Portland, Oregon not far from where this path of totality makes landfall. I am taking part in an eclipse outreach planning meeting, along with other astronomers, researchers, science educators and involved eclipse chasers. The meeting is held to coincide with this eclipse countdown day, and I will be doing a talk open to the general public along with some key eclipse gurus. Today, Americans across the path of totality will be encouraged to look towards the sky at eclipse time. Key things are to see the exact location of the Sun at first contact and totality time; to observe the weather, and to start considering plans for viewing in 2017. How lucky they are to have this occur in their home territory – something I know well from the eclipse of 2012 that went across North Queensland in Australia, where I am from.

Of course, in two years time on August 21 I know exactly where I will be – viewing this amazing event from within the stunning Grand Teton National Park with my fellow Independent Travellers. Rosemary and Natalie have cleverly secured arrangements in one of the most in-demand locations in the US for the eclipse. Our base is in Jackson Hole near to the centerline. This location really is amazing – both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks can be easily explored, and both have been on my travel wish list for many years. I’m excited about this trip and I cannot wait, although I know from my countdown that there are two full years to go.

But that’s not all. There is another eclipse countdown also occurring this weekend. There are now only 200 days to go for the next total solar eclipse on March 9 2016. The path of totality for this next eclipse crosses Indonesia. I will be in Palu and will be quite involved with the Sulawesi Eclipse Festival. Happily, I will be able to use the opportunity to do more of my psychological research, delving further into the eclipse experience from the perspective of younger travellers.

As well as keeping an eye on future eclipse countdowns, us eclipse chasers often reminisce about past eclipses. Every total eclipse remains special, and marks these awe-inspiring and life-enhancing moments we have in memorable locations across the world. This month marks an especially significant eclipse moment for me – my very first total solar eclipse on August 11 1999, which I saw in Fecamp, France. Those of you who have read my account of this in my first book Total Addiction will know how special it was, and how it marked my transition from an ‘eclipse virgin’ to ‘eclipse chaser’. It really did transform my life, and I had no idea that it would do so. August also marks the 2008 total eclipse that I saw from outer Mongolia – what an incredible and unique experience that was.

Being an eclipse chaser is so rewarding – we look forward to and remember these moments, savoring the awe and beauty of each and every eclipse. I know from my research and personal experience that this makes us appreciate life and the experiences we have, for which we are humbly grateful. How wonderful it is to be an eclipse chaser.

11 Jan 2015

Top 10 madness that is the new year

 

Eclipse chasing isn't just about the eclipse.  Mongolia 2008 © Kate Russo
Eclipse chasing isn’t just about the eclipse. Mongolia 2008 © Kate Russo

You cannot open a newspaper, read a magazine or go online lately without seeing a list of ‘top 10’ things to do or places to go this year.

What was especially noticeable this year was the presence of ‘seeing a total solar eclipse’ on most of these lists.   I can’t recall any other time when eclipse chasing appeared to be so high on the agenda. I suspect the main driver for this is the fact that in 2017 the path of totality makes its way across North America from west to east coast, and as a result public interest is at an all time high.

I absolutely agree that seeing a total solar eclipse is worthy of being on everyone’s aspiration list. The experience is other-worldly and beyond expectation. If you have not seen one, then you will not truly understand the buzz and experience until you are standing in the shadow of the Moon, mouth agog and the hair on the back of your neck standing up at sublime beauty of totality.   It is at this moment that you will ask yourself why you took so long to see one.

If seeing these ‘top 10’ lists have whetted your appetite for eclipse chasing, then you would have noticed that your 2015 options for land based eclipse viewing is limited – either the remote Faroe Islands, or rugged Svalbard. The eclipse in March is a little off-season for visiting both of these arctic locations. Despite this, many intrepid and die-hard chasers, and those seeking out-of-the-way adventures, have already planned their trips and soon will be packing their warm clothing. I’ve been banging on about the Faroe Islands now for two years!

But what if you feel the locations on offer are too challenging to get to, too expensive, or if you are not interested in cold weather viewing? Then you may like to know that 2016 might be a better year for you to have your eclipse experience. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, the path of totality for the total solar eclipse of March 2016 goes right across Indonesia. There are some fabulous travel opportunities with tours being arranged on land and sea. Whatever your preference – exotic, luxury, adventure, or completely off-the-beaten track, you will find interesting options. I will be heading to Sulawesi to see this (my 10th) total eclipse, and attending an Eclipse Festival where I will be able to do further research about the eclipse experience, while experiencing this amazingly diverse country.

Secondly, there is a second eclipse option – an annular solar eclipse takes place in September 2016. An annular eclipse is not as dramatic as a total eclipse (see my article here for the difference), but it is still an amazing sight to see the ‘ring of fire’ as the Moon almost covers the Sun. As in a total eclipse, you have to be within the path of annularity to see the ring of fire, which passes across central Africa, Madagascar and beyond. Top of the pick is Tanzania, where the eclipse coincides with the wildebeest migration, so it will be all about nature and wildlife.

So, if you have already ruled out an arctic total solar eclipse for this year, then make sure to explore options for chasing eclipses for 2016. But get in before those ‘top 10’ lists are published next year – I suspect if you wait for these lists to appear you may well miss the boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Dec 2014

Researching eclipse weather using Citizen Science

One of the concerns about the up-and-coming total solar eclipse is the weather experienced along the path of totality during the month of March.  Existing weather statistics for the Faroe Islands taken from Vagar Airport collected over the past 20 years show that there is a high occurrence of cloud in March, and a high occurrence of precipitation.

However, there are two main problems with using this historical data for eclipse planning.  Firstly, the average weather statistics at one location in the Faroe Islands tell us nothing about the circumstances at locations across the islands.  And secondly, the average monthly weather statistics tell us little about weather at ‘eclipse time’ – from 8.40-10.40am.

Dr Geoff Sims and Dr Kate Russo in the Faroe Islands, March 2013
Dr Geoff Sims and Dr Kate Russo in the Faroe Islands, March 2014

For these reasons, I participated in a Citizen Science weather project in March 2014, exactly one year before the eclipse. Dr Geoff Sims – Australian Astrophysicist, Eclipse Photographer and fellow chaser – led the project.

Citizen science is where researchers involve the community to collect data to answer a specific question. In this case, we wanted to know what the weather was like at eclipse time, for the month of March, at various locations across the islands.  A number of locals took photographs of the Sun every morning at 9.40am (the time of totality) from their home or work location.  These photographs were then rated using a 5 point scale, from clear skies to completely overcast. The observations were also compared with the six-hour forecast to determine accuracy of predictions.

Sample of images captured in March 2013 for each coded category
Sample of images captured in March 2014 for each coded category

The following generalisations could be made:

  • As predicted, there was a lot of cloud.  However, on most days the Sun could be seen in at least one location at eclipse time;
  • There were several days where the weather was clear over most of the archipelago at eclipse time;
  • Some locations in the islands were more frequently cloudier than others at eclipse time, giving worse viewing odds;
  • The six-hour weather forecasts were not entirely accurate, with cloud appearing when clear skies were forecast, and some visibility where full cloud was forecast.
Frequency of cloud at eclipse time (darker regions represent more cloud)
Spatial map capturing the frequency of days in March 2014 where the cloud covered the Sun at 9.40am – totality time.  Note that darker regions denote more cloud.

A full report of this citizen science project was published in the December 2014 edition of The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.  An overview was also published by Geoff for Astronomers Without Borders.

The results of this citizen science project confirmed my own direct observations of where to focus eclipse viewing in the Faroe Islands. It also confirmed the anecdotal views of local people.

Citizen science projects do have some limitations. However, this project allowed us to gather information about a practical problem in a way that was quick, inexpensive and which involved the local community one year in advance of the total eclipse.

Despite all this, we will still be very much at the whim of Mother Nature on 20th March 2015.  We can explore historical climate patterns, but as the saying goes, climate is what we expect, and weather is what we get. 

16 Oct 2013

Planning for 2015 – Part One

 

Me in the incredibly beautiful Faroe Islands.  It's quite hard to take a bad photo. (c) Kate Russo
Me in the incredibly beautiful Faroe Islands. It’s quite hard to take a bad photo. (c) Kate Russo

I recently have partnered with The Independent Traveller and am now leading the Eclipse Tour to the Faroe Islands in 2015.  We went recently to explore the islands, to identify several potential eclipse viewing sites, and the many other logistical things that are required when finalising a tour.  I find the islands a fascinating place – so remote yet very connected to the outside world.  The islands are dramatic – you cannot escape nature here.  The people are warm and welcoming, and I love the ‘land of maybe’ attitude – things may or may not happen, all depending upon the weather.

What is interesting about the islands is that people were not really aware of what was going to happen in 2015.  We spoke to a lot of people, and I did an evening presentation about the eclipse and the locals are very keen to be involved.  The media were very interested in interviewing us.  The interest is there, but there is this interesting parallel perhaps related to the ‘land of maybe’ attitude that little has yet been centrally coordinated.  This is changing, however. In the meantime, I’m still going to come across as that crazy lady who gets excited about something that is happening quite a long time in the future.

Another interesting thing about the Faroe Islands is that they experienced a Total Solar Eclipse in 1954 – within living memory.  Many people we spoke to recalled their parents talking about the eclipse, or else experienced it for themselves.  Our tour guide, Olaf, described how he was playing football outside with a few friends when it suddenly went dark. He recalled being terrified and running into the house.  Others seemed to be aware that the eclipse was happening.  It is certainly an amazingly beautiful place to observe a total eclipse. The weather is going to be a little bit of a challenge – the islands are renowned for unstable weather.  You cannot predict the weather, nor can you control what happens.  But what you can do is to obtain local guidance and plan what you can and have back up plans.  Having been there, I am more confident about seeing the eclipse.  Transport and communication networks are excellent, meaning you can easily relocate the night before / early morning based on the weather.

I can’t wait to return to these lovely islands.  If it wasn’t for the eclipse, I probably would never have visited. Eclipse chasing certainly allows you to experience so much more in life and opens up to many rich experiences.