Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse report from William “Totality” Thornton

I’m about 45 minutes from the edge of totality so I had a strategy for prime viewing. Rather than get mixed up in a million or so of America’s worst and most aggressive drivers, the metro Atlanta crowd, I took some familiar secondary roads to make a push deep into the totality zone, at least deep enough to get two or more minutes viewing of totality. This is serious business and one shouldn’t be too casual about the natural event of a lifetime.

My support staff included my wonderful wife and daughter – who understood that this was likely to be similar to airline flights we have taken over the years which was to get to the airport ridiculously early, embarrassingly early, because old Dad insists on planning for contingencies – along with a brother and sister who wanted to go along. We were well stocked with eclipse food – Moon Pies, Sun Chips, Milky Way candy bars, Capri Sun juice and some homemade pimiento cheese as token regular food.

The traffic was just slightly above normal on our route east. When we hit Royston, GA, home of Ty Cobb, and were in the totality zone, I was more relaxed. At one of the big Corps of Engineers reservoirs on the Savannah River, we passed what was obviously a planned eclipse viewing event where there were hundreds of people, tents, and the like who were setting up on the reservoir’s dam. We went just a little farther to a small park below the dam, a very nice grassy spot by the river, where there were only three people present. We were two hours before totality and a dozen or so others arrived before peak viewing.

There is an electrical generating plant below the dam and when the Corps starts the water flowing it comes from the bottom of the lake, very cool which made for some very nice cool breezes off the river. Perfect.

We all were prepared with eclipse viewers. I got several for free at a July 4th celebration in my town. My brother had a pair that he had picked up somewhere. His came with, no joke, eight standard-sized pages of instructions. “Don’t put the glasses on pets” it read, as if any dog anywhere looked directly at the sun.

Viewing advice included watching for unusual animal behavior. There were two kids present, one eight years old and five years old. They behaved normally, annoyingly. Years of training and discipline enabled me to avoid difficulty with them. It helped that one of our group tossed them a couple of bags of Sun Chips to distract them. About a minute before totality an armidillo, one of the world’s ugliest animals, slunk out of a small patch of trees and brush between our picnic area and the river. Nocturnal animals, guess the eclipse fooled it.

Totality, about two and one half minutes where we were, was spectacular in the clear blue sky around the sun. Viewing without the glasses, seeing the sun’s corona and the deep twilight over the river was remarkable. I had binoculars which made the corona much more visible along with Mercury which was close by. Baily’s beads were barely visible with the naked eye, much more so with binoculars and the viewing glasses. The diamond ring effect was striking. The entire experience was splendid, dazzling, and unforgettable.

The last week or so has been difficult. God is in the timing here, I think. The heavens, indeed, declare the glory of God. Maybe I’ll make the next one in 2024 but I don’t plan that far ahead.


If you viewed the eclipse, share a few words about it.

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