Tag: total solar eclipse

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 Jun 2017

Press Release – New Eclipse Book Describes the First-Time Eclipse Experience

book launch, eclipse experience, totality, eclipse, author, Dr Kate Russo, eclipse 2017, total eclipse

An eclipse-chasing psychologist is coming to the US to launch her book and share personal stories of what it is like to experience a total eclipse. And her message is clear – don’t miss this.

Talk to any eclipse chaser, and they will tell you that the total eclipse is one of the world’s most fascinating and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Yet it is very hard to convey what it is like to those who have never seen one before. How does one describe the indescribable?

“During a total solar eclipse, you experience the impossible. It is an exhilarating, eerie and moving experience. Changes occur above you, around you, and within you”, explains Dr Kate Russo, an Australian eclipse-chasing psychologist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Dr Kate Russo is unique as an eclipse chaser as she has a background not in astronomy – but in psychology.

Since seeing her first total eclipse in 1999, she has traveled the world and has now seen 10 total eclipses. She researches and shares different aspects of the total eclipse – from how communities prepare, the motivations of eclipse chasers, to what it is like to experience the total eclipse for the first time.

She is a regular in the media before every eclipse, and has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of people before and after a total eclipse. No one understands more about the human experience of totality.

“Many people think that a total eclipse is only of relevance to geeks or bearded men with telescopes. They do not realise it is an emotional and other-worldly experience for everyone. People are quick to turn off at facts and figures, and stories of traffic Armageddon. Personal stories convey WHY people are so excited by the eclipse on August 21st. You will feel a primitive and eerie fear; it will suddenly go dark, you are likely to feel goosebumps and then cry out in surprise as you experience the beauty of the Universe before you. You will feel insignificant, and connected as you witness the impossible. You may even then become an eclipse chaser yourself. It is a profound experience for many people. But you MUST get into the path of totality.”

To help share personal stories, Russo has just launched her third book, Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Total Eclipse Experience. This non-fiction book features stories from six ordinary people, and is aimed at ‘eclipse virgins’ – those who have never experienced a total eclipse. This includes all Americans under the age of 40, and most above. This is not your typical ‘how to see an eclipse’ book.

Russo is known for being a passionate and inspiring speaker, making the eclipse experience come alive and leaving her audiences wanting more. She is soon traveling to Nebraska from 17-28 June to deliver public lectures and to promote her new book. Signed copies will be available at all of her events.

She will be viewing the total eclipse on August 21 from Teton Village, Wyoming, where she will again be leading a small group of international eclipse chasers with her tour group The Independent Traveller.

Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Eclipse Experience can be purchased on Amazon.com for $16.99 for paperback, and $8.99 for the ebook, which can also be downloaded directly from the author website.

Email for bulk orders and journalist review copies.

Email:  Kate@beingintheshadow.com

FB: @Beingintheshadow

Twitter: @DrKateRusso

08 Jun 2017

On becoming an author

Dr Kate Russo, Author, Psychologist, Eclipse Chaser, Being in the Shadow
Being an author. @ Kieron Circuit

Today is a very special day.  Being in the Shadow:  Stories of the First-Time Eclipse Experience – my third book – has just been published.  It has been quite the journey, and I wanted to share a little personal back story into how I switched from being an academic to becoming an author.

I will rewind to just before the launch of my first book Total Addiction:  The Life of an Eclipse Chaser.  It is September 2012.  At that time, I was Assistant Course Director of a doctoral training programme in clinical psychology.   I had, by then, completed honors, masters and doctoral research theses – huge academic volumes requiring seven years of work in total between them.  I had also published research articles and contributed to book chapters as a psychologist and academic.  After 14 years or so of clinical work, I was fully immersed in the academic world, and spent many hours per day writing.  Total Addiction was a passion-project – something I did on the side.

Two days before the launch of Total Addiction, I walked through the Botanic Gardens to the Queen’s University main library to meet Julie.  She was sent from Springer – the publisher – to sell books at my Belfast book launch event.  She was waiting for me, sitting on an outdoor bench with a trolley bag full of books – my books.  We connected instantly.  We talked about what I had planned for the launch, and how she would take care of the book sales.  She was asking probing questions about how I was marketing myself as an author.

I found the word ‘author’ jarring – I didn’t feel like an author.   I must have frozen, as Julie had stopped talking, cocked her head to one side, and said very matter-of-factly:  “Dude, why is this so difficult.  Of course you are an author.”

After our meeting, I went home and googled the definition of an author, to see whether I was indeed one. (In case you are wondering:  a writer of a book, article, or document).  Technically, I was already an author and had been one for many years. Yet I had never called myself one, nor had I considered I was one.  Even though I was about to launch my first book, I was not convinced that I was worthy of the title of author.

It took a few months before I was more comfortable with the role.  By then, I had engaged in enough ‘author behaviors’ to feel like I could call myself an author.   I had been doing book launch activities, had regular discussions with my publisher, was signing my books, giving author talks, and had even run author workshops.   But it was all on the side of my main academic job.  I was not an author when I was engaged in my academic work.

After publishing Total Addiction, I wanted to take things even further.  I wanted to bridge the gap between psychology and astronomy, and translate that for a general audience in a more engaging way.  I wanted to use personal stories to share the power of the total eclipse with others.  I wanted to be an author who wrote about eclipses; rather than a researcher who studied them.   This is where the idea for Being in the Shadow was born.

I used the 2012 total eclipse in my home region as an opportunity gather research for this next project.   Following the eclipse, everyone wanted to share their stories, and I wanted to give people a place for their stories to be told.  I put  Being in the Shadow on hold, and I diverted my focus to publish my second book Totality:  The Total Eclipse of 2012 in Far North Queensland.  This was more of a souvenir book written from a community perspective.  It was my way of giving back to the community, to ensure that there was a lasting record for everyone who had experienced the total eclipse.  Again, I worked during the day while writing this project in the evenings.  I wasn’t an author – I was simply writing another passion project on the side.  The problem was that I associated being an author with the things that happen after publication, rather than the writing itself.

But after the publication of Totality in late 2013, my life fell apart.  I became seriously ill.  I had already started to look forward to all the author things – a launch party, promoting my talk, speaking events, author workshops.  Yet I was physically not well enough to do anything, and  I could no longer even function.  There was nothing to mark launch day, just collapsing in an exhausted heap.  My proposed launch party had to be cancelled.  My new book just sat there, in boxes.  To this day, Totality is a little like a ghost book to me – I wasn’t an author writing it; and I could do the author things after publication.

Anyone who has ever experienced changes in neurological functioning will know the fear of not being able to return to your former self.  For a while, I thought I was never going to be able to return to a working life at all.    It has actually taken me a good few years to get properly back on my feet again.  Whereas in the past I could complete multiple projects while also working full time, I had to slowly build up focusing only on one thing at a time.  And that one thing was eclipses.  It was my passion for sharing the eclipse experience that really got me through some dark days.  Now that I’m cognitively back up to speed (physically there is still some issues), I’ve been able to again work on multiple projects.  Instead of writing on the side, writing became my main focus.  I had finally learned that to write is to be an author.  Writing about eclipses was no longer something I did on the side – I wanted it to become my main focus.

In the year it has taken me to write Being in the Shadow, I have been able to embrace the fact that I am an author.

I love the process of writing, and now I love calling myself an author.  I have joined writer groups, have run more author workshops, and engage in what I consider to be author behavior.  And now I have just published my third book.  Today.  It is a great achievement for me, on so many levels.  Today, I am an author.  I feel proud that I have been able to write a book that is written for a general audience – and is not academic in nature.  Narrative non-fiction is a new style of writing for me, and I have a lot to learn. Having my psychology background, and using a phenomenological approach, are the reasons why this book is so unique.  I can go deep into people’s experiences, and help to share their stories.   It is through personal stories that we truly understand.

This time, I am going to make sure that I enjoy the achievement of publishing my third book.  There will be a launch party – not today, but soon.  There will be events, and author activities.  There will be book promotions, and signings.  All the things I was not ready to do with book one; and not able to do after publishing book two.   Today, I am an author who writes about eclipses.

 

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.