Tag: totality 2012

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.

 

24 Jul 2013

The Far North Queensland Eclipse of 2012

The community bonds together at Port Douglas on Nov 14 2012. Image Credit: Tourism Queensland, Simon Furlong.
The community bonds together at Port Douglas on Nov 14 2012. Image Credit: Tourism Queensland, Simon Furlong.

 

The total eclipse of November 14 2012 was my 8th total eclipse.  Yet it was still as magical, amazing, and wondrous as ever.  This eclipse seemed particularly beautiful – the diamond ring seemed to hang suspended in time; and the eclipsed Sun appeared to be larger than I recall from previous total eclipses.

Every total eclipse seems different to the last.  This is because there are so many things that vary during each eclipse, and this produces a different experience each time.  The position of the Sun in the sky, the landscape before you, the time of day, the company you are with, and the country you are in all influence the eclipse experience.  As many in North Queensland will also tell you, the presence of clouds also influences the experience of totality.

For me, the country and customs of people around contribute very strongly to the eclipse experience I have.  I was delighted to have experienced this eclipse on my home turf.  This made it very special indeed, and has made me want to do all I can to share the experience with my fellow North Queenslanders.  It has also made me want to ensure other communities who are in the path of the eclipse in the future realise the importance of this unique event.

24 Oct 2012

Cultural observations within the path of totality

Taking a more relaxed approach to life at Mission Beach, south of Cairns

I have now returned to Cairns, the largest city within the path of totality for the November 14 total eclipse.  I like learning a little about the local culture when I travel to see an eclipse.   I am a North Queenslander myself,  so there is a lot that I already am aware of.  However, living away for more than 20 years has given me a unique opportunity to reconnect with an outsider’s perspective.

Firstly, the people of NQ are really friendly.  You are greeted like a long-lost friend, and you can’t help but respond in the same way. North Queenslanders are also extremely helpful, and nothing seems too much bother.  

Then there is the more laid-back mindset—you feel like you are going at warp speed compared to locals, and so it forces you to slow down and take things at a slower pace.  Even the pace of speech is slower which allows you to slow down.

And generally, people here are more connected with nature.  They have experienced directly and repeatedly the power of nature, and they seem to have tolerance and acceptance for what happens.  (I wonder whether this is why they are a little bemused at all the fuss about the eclipse).

I feel really proud to be a North Queenslander. I am glad I have this opportunity to reconnect with the local way of life in the region that is my home.