Tag: eclipse chasing

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.

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.

19 May 2012

My first blog…and on missing the Annular eclipse TOMORROW

I have finally taken the plunge and created my website. I’m not known for my technical abilities, so I am hoping that you will be forgiving especially in the first few months of this site.

The timing of my website going live is a little disappointing – I have been working all weekend in a rather cold Belfast when on the other side of the world an annular eclipse is about to begin.  The path of this annular eclipse starts in China, goes through northern Taiwan, the south of Japan, and then continues across the Pacific and over to North America.  It will be the first eclipse that can be seen from North America for many years, and as a result there is quite a lot of excitement.  And I am here, in cold Belfast, setting up my website on eclipse chasing.  So wrong!  If it was a total eclipse, then nothing would have stopped me from jumping on a plane to be there.  Annular eclipses are fascinating and awesome in their own right, but do not involve some of the most dramatic features as seen in a total eclipse. So I shall just have to make do with watching webcasts.  :(