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Total Eclipse Close Calls, Fails, and Adventures (I have a few...)

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#1 kfiscus

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Posted 26 March 2023 - 04:56 PM

I wanted to have us share eclipse stories that can serve as cautionary tales and inspirations.  I'll start with a longer story from 1990.

 

My wife and I were in still in college when my July 1990 Astronomy magazine arrived promoting the Great 1991 Eclipse in Hawaii.  I have a cruel streak and knew that she had always wanted to go to Hawaii.  I showed her the magazine cover and asked her if she wanted to go.  There was NO way we could afford to go and I knew it.  She laughed with me, knowing that I was just being a jerk.  Later, she sneaked the magazine and photocopied its travel recommendations with several tour companies' contact info.  Remember, this is pre-internet.

She contacted several companies without me knowing and found a bargain-basement, no-frills eclipse package that we could afford if we saved money for a year.  She surprised me w/ this info and we excitedly sent off our deposit checks for $300.  We waited and waited to hear back from the travel company, seeing that the checks had never cleared.  When my wife finally called, the company told us that the checks must have been lost in the mail but that we could be on their waiting list of over 100 people.  We sadly declined and stopped payment on the checks at our bank, ending up paying $30 to NOT go to Hawaii and to NOT see a total.

My wife is awesome and is not a quitter.  She went back to the travel info that she had copied and found a cruise down the Baja Peninsula that would include viewing the total from Mazatlan, Mexico.  We had to borrow to get the extra funds required but got to see the eclipse in its entirety (6m43s of totality!).  Most of you know that Hawaii was clouded out.  Best $30 ever spent...


Edited by kfiscus, 26 March 2023 - 10:06 PM.

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#2 kfiscus

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Posted 30 March 2023 - 01:09 PM

I thought this topic would stir up some good stories.  No one wants to share?  I'm 3 for 3 on seeing totals and all 3 were close calls with the weather.


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#3 Diana N

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Posted 30 March 2023 - 03:40 PM

I was the Eclipse Expert for the Crane Trust in Grand Island, NE when they discovered (to their horror) that it was going to be harder than they had anticipated to get an amateur astronomer to commit to being at one spot for a total solar eclipse.  They had rented cabins on their property to raise money for their organization, and they desperately needed a speaker.  I agreed to go because I support the Crane Trust's conservation mission and I had seen my first total solar eclipse the year before, in Indonesia.  So I was willing to take a chance on missing this one.  Clouds kept threatening to close in all through the partial phase, but mercifully a hole opened right before totality, so I and the Crane Trust guests got a wonderful view!  

 

I have a friend who went to see an eclipse in Libya.  Eclipse day was spectacular, but the very next day was a complete cloud-out, in a desert that almost never sees cloudy weather.  If the eclipse had been just 24 hours later, he'd have missed the whole thing!

 

My policy now is to combine eclipse travel with something else interesting, so if the weather doesn't cooperate the trip isn't a total bust.


Edited by Diana N, 30 March 2023 - 03:41 PM.

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#4 bunyon

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Posted 30 March 2023 - 03:47 PM

I was in Grand Island and we got up early to drive west. Ended up about an hour away in Ravenna and had great skies. Fortunately, we learned when we got back that the hotel had cleared off just before totality.

 

I was in San Juan, Argentina in 2019. We'd rented a room just inside the path of totality in case something went wrong and we couldn't get to the centerline. We were meeting friends and, after meeting them and driving out in the mountains, we all decided to fill our tanks. After filling the tank, our car wouldn't start. Worse, the gas station was just outside the path of totality. Fortunately, the rental was a standard transmission (as most are in Argentina) and we were able to start the car by popping the clutch. We had a nearly two hour drive after and the battery charged up and I had no further issues. But I really thought we might end up stranded a few hundred meters away from totality (we would/could have walked back to the room, of course).


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#5 kfiscus

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Posted 30 March 2023 - 06:27 PM

I was in Grand Island and we got up early to drive west. Ended up about an hour away in Ravenna and had great skies. Fortunately, we learned when we got back that the hotel had cleared off just before totality.

 

I was in San Juan, Argentina in 2019. We'd rented a room just inside the path of totality in case something went wrong and we couldn't get to the centerline. We were meeting friends and, after meeting them and driving out in the mountains, we all decided to fill our tanks. After filling the tank, our car wouldn't start. Worse, the gas station was just outside the path of totality. Fortunately, the rental was a standard transmission (as most are in Argentina) and we were able to start the car by popping the clutch. We had a nearly two hour drive after and the battery charged up and I had no further issues. But I really thought we might end up stranded a few hundred meters away from totality (we would/could have walked back to the room, of course).

Almost having to walk into totality = CLOSE call.


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#6 Bob W4

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 02:58 PM

I drove from the Minneapolis burbs to Bow Bells, North Dakota for the Feb, 1979 total eclipse.  I was using a borrowed Japanese made equatorial mount along with my 60mm refractor.  Took it out of the backseat and propped it up without tightening the wing nuts to secure the legs.  As soon as I turned my back to get the OTA out of the car, smack ... the mount tipped over, bending the bracket and shaft where the RA slow motion cable attaches, making them useless.  Imagine how humbled I was when I got home and returned the mount.  I called a newly formed telescope company that sold similar scopes (Meade) and they were more than happy to sell me the replacement part needed.


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#7 kfiscus

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 03:11 PM

I drove from the Minneapolis burbs to Bow Bells, North Dakota for the Feb, 1979 total eclipse.  I was using a borrowed Japanese made equatorial mount along with my 60mm refractor.  Took it out of the backseat and propped it up without tightening the wing nuts to secure the legs.  As soon as I turned my back to get the OTA out of the car, smack ... the mount tipped over, bending the bracket and shaft where the RA slow motion cable attaches, making them useless.  Imagine how humbled I was when I got home and returned the mount.  I called a newly formed telescope company that sold similar scopes (Meade) and they were more than happy to sell me the replacement part needed.

Did you get to see the eclipse from there, Bob?  That gravity experiment w/ borrowed gear would be a downer.


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#8 Bob W4

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 04:12 PM

Resizer_16700332453370.jpg Sure did Ken.  There was a very thin layer of high altitude icy haze, but not enough to spoil the view.  It was an exciting event.  Not just the "gravity experiment", but the trip started as a comedy of errors.  The night before leaving  for ND, I was at a local bar to watch a friend's band perform.  The only time I ever smoked cigarettes was when I was in a bar.  I lit up a smoke, (smoking was allowed anywhere back then, even on an airplane) and shook the match to put it out.  Well, not being an experienced smoker, I ended up shaking it too close to my head, and lit my hair on fire!!!  Got the fire on my head extinguished, but the overwhelming stench of burnt hair had the place buzzing.  Hit the road the next morning with shoulder length hair on my left side, and singed ear length hair on the right.  I looked like some ridiculous punk rocker before punk rock was even invented!!!  The carefree joys of being a young 24 year old.  I did get some pics with the 60mm scope though.


Edited by Bob W4, 02 April 2023 - 04:27 PM.

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#9 kfiscus

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 07:37 PM

^^^Close call in a much different sense.  gaah.gif



#10 Look at the sky 101

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 07:46 PM

I just love this thread,  thanks. 



#11 kfiscus

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Posted 02 April 2023 - 09:02 PM

Well, in that case, here's another close call, also from 1991.

 

As I shared earlier, my wife and I had to change our plans from flying to Hawaii to cruising to Mazatlan.  The 7-11-91 total was on a Thursday and as soon as we boarded the cruise ship in Los Angeles on Sunday, worried chatter began to focus on a tropical storm approaching the west coast of Mexico to arrive you-know-when...

 

Mazatlan had a 90% chance of clear skies based on yearly averages- it didn't matter to that storm.  The captain announced on Wednesday night that there was to be a change in the itinerary.  We would be arriving in Mazatlan early Thursday morning and staying long enough to allow anyone choosing to risk clouds on land to disembark.  The captain would sail the rest of us back out into the Pacific to look for a hole in the clouds.  I was on deck that morning as we approached the dock.  Off to the south, we watched a water spout- not what you want to see on eclipse day.

 

We sailed back out to sea and the captain found us a large hole in the clouds.  We saw the entire eclipse from 1st contact on, surrounded by impressive thunderstorms.  Imagine all of the spectacles that a total eclipse offers with the added splendor of golden cloud-to-cloud lightning visible during totality.

 

When we got back to Mazatlan to pick up our shipmates, we learned that most who had chosen to stay on land in the area had been clouded out.


Edited by kfiscus, 02 April 2023 - 09:41 PM.

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#12 bunyon

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 01:37 AM

I wouldn’t have gotten back on board

#13 MEE

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 01:38 PM

Mazatlan had a 90% chance of clear skies based on yearly averages- it didn't matter to that storm.


I don’t know where that data comes from, but

https://eclipsophile...07/July-day.jpg

and

https://weatherspark...Mazatlán-Mexico

seem to suggest otherwise.

Clearer skies (on average) that time of year over the water.

Either way, I’m glad you had a great, memorable view.
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#14 kfiscus

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 03:05 PM

That 'data' came from my vague recollections of excited, worried conversation 32 years ago...

We didn't have the cool resources available like that shared by MEE above.


Edited by kfiscus, 03 April 2023 - 03:06 PM.


#15 kfiscus

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Posted 04 April 2023 - 06:58 PM

Time to stir the pot again, this time w/ a close call for the 8-21-17 total eclipse.  This close call was human-caused, not weather-caused.

I had begun getting my hometown ready for the eclipse 6 years in advance.  I'm a teacher and would still be on vacation, easily able to help the Table Rock, Nebraska area host thousands of visitors.

During the intervening years, my school district began modifying the school calendar, starting the school years earlier each year.  Late in the spring of 2017 (the eclipse year), the school board began debating which of 2 different dates to start in the fall.  I saw that either option that they were considering would work, one starting a few days before the eclipse with a staff development day on Eclipse Day, the other starting a few days after Eclipse Day.  The morning after the calendar decision was made, I learned to my horror that neither option had been chosen.  You know which day they picked...Day #1 was to be Eclipse Day.

I had to tell my principal that there was NO way that I could be in school on Day #1.  I had committed to help in Nebraska (and been paid) years earlier.  I got special permission to be gone for the eclipse and was able to get back home in time for school the next day.


Edited by kfiscus, 04 April 2023 - 07:04 PM.

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#16 bunyon

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Posted 05 April 2023 - 08:01 AM

We had required activities ahead of the school year on the 21st. We don't have quite the command and control structure of a public school so most of us just planned to not show. Evidently the brass got wind that attendance would be very low (and/or some of them realized they wouldn't be there). A number of the planned activities were canceled or moved. 


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#17 SteveInNZ

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Posted 05 April 2023 - 08:24 PM

We had been booked in Mazatlan with an established eclipse tour operator since February last year. Unfortunately, the owner passed away in December. His family aren't able to continue the business so the tours have been cancelled.

I have managed to find alternative accommodation in Mazatlan but it's not quite as flash and it's just a single booking, making us susceptible to the disappearing reservation. Fingers crossed that it doesn't become a fail.

 

Steve.


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#18 kfiscus

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Posted 05 April 2023 - 09:06 PM

We had been booked in Mazatlan with an established eclipse tour operator since February last year. Unfortunately, the owner passed away in December. His family aren't able to continue the business so the tours have been cancelled.

I have managed to find alternative accommodation in Mazatlan but it's not quite as flash and it's just a single booking, making us susceptible to the disappearing reservation. Fingers crossed that it doesn't become a fail.

 

Steve.

Eek!


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#19 Cajundaddy

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Posted 06 April 2023 - 12:34 AM

Partial fail- Aug 11,1999 total eclipse in Europe.  

We had been exploring the idea of a grand international trip with our teen daughters and news of the eclipse sealed the deal.  It was set to run through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, eastern Europe and Turkey.  Europe is well known for cloudy skies in August.  The weather predictions suggested the west coast would most likely be in clouds with gradual clearing as it traveled east and the best chance of clear skies in Turkey.  We were not prepared to visit Turkey so we chose Munich as our viewing destination with a 60% chance of clear skies.

My wife is a planner and arranged the entire adventure starting in Paris, traveling through Switzerland and Austria, returning to Munich a few days before the eclipse.  We figured to watch the weather closely and take a train in whatever direction promised the best viewing on the day of.  August 11 arrived and we had partial clouds with a few rain showers around.  No obvious escape to open skies so we chose nearby Englisher Garden as our observing site, got there early and waited.

I set up a video camera to document the event and with a 2 hr tape I figured I might get something worthwhile.  The eclipse began and the crowds filled in.  We counted as many as 6 different languages being spoken all around us that day and we were in awe.  Just as the sun slipped behind the moon completely, a dark cloud moved in and it began to rain AAAK!  In spite of getting very little direct viewing the eerie light and changing scene all around was breathtaking!  Soon the cloud moved on just as the sun was breaking out of totality.  The video camera got pretty soaked but some of the pre-rain views and many conversations that were recorded were precious.

Afterwards the entire crowd headed to the pubs it seemed and we all celebrated a grand celestial event even if we missed most direct viewing of totality.  Lesson learned- find clear skies!


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#20 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 06 April 2023 - 11:25 AM

Total eclipse of June 30, 1992 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

That was a tough one cause totality was starting 5 minutes after sunrise.

Weather forecast was 95% probability of clear skies.

Guess what ? The sky was almost clear, except for a thick cloud right where the Sun was rising.

Couldn't see the totality, looks like the 5% cloudy sky was sitting in the middle !

 

Total eclipse of November 3, 1994 at 9:45 AM in Iguazu, Argentina.

30% clear sky chances in the Amazonian basin shared by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay

90% clear sky chances in the Bolivian plateau

Some of my friends went to Bolivia and had terrible showers for the whole duration of the eclipse !

At that time, I was living in Argentina (my birth country) so went to Iguazu (with very low expectations)

There was a massive storm from 6 to 8 AM, lost all hope there...

By some divine intervention, the sky quickly cleared up by 9 AM and could see most of the eclipse (including totality).

What a sight !


Edited by Sebastian_Sajaroff, 06 April 2023 - 12:08 PM.

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#21 kfiscus

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Posted 21 April 2023 - 06:51 PM

This is goes under the "Adventure" category.

 

The coach bus that I rented and filled w/ Minnesotans for the trip to Pawnee County, Nebraska in 2017 ran into the bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-80 between Omaha and Des Moines on the way home.  The driver bravely exited the interstate somewhere in Iowa and encountered more back roads traffic trying to get home that night.  The bus ended up driving through a country cemetery to take a short cut that saved more than an hour of stop-and-go.


Edited by kfiscus, 22 April 2023 - 03:30 PM.

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#22 Mark9473

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 05:30 PM

My close call was the total solar eclipse in August 1999, uniquely well positioned within driving distance from my home.

This was The Big One for us here in western Europe. This event had been on my agenda for close to two decades (along with the '99 Leonids).

 

August weather can be very variable here, and weather predictions weren't as accurate as today, not to mention getting reliable internet access to them while on the road.

We decided to stay home until the day before the eclipse to follow the weather satellites, then drive to the best spot within reach and spend the night in the car.

And so it was that we ended up in the north of France, somewhere between Reims and Metz, the night before.

 

Contrary to predictions, we woke up to a solid overcast and light drizzle. The sort of weather that was more typical for October, but certainly not August.

Trying to get an updated weather forecast cost us valuable time and resulted in nothing - we had no idea whether to go east or west or just stay put.

By now it was mid-morning and there was no sign of the solid cloud deck above us breaking open for even a glimpse of the Sun.

Things were not looking good.

 

At that point I spotted a discrepancy in the solid grey cloud deck above us.

Very low on the western horizon, there was a small patch of clouds that looked bright white. Just a small cloud, very low, and no clear sky in view.

But I knew that we were looking at a cloud that was in direct sunlight, so some clearing should be next to it.

That's when the race began to get there in time.

 

By that time, traffic on all the main roads had been interrupted for safety reasons, so getting anywhere quickly was going to be a challenge.

And as we soon found out, every town in the area of totality had also either blocked traffic or the roads were completely congested from the huge amounts of eclipse tourists. We didn't stop to ask what exactly was going on.

 

So that left us racing across the smallest roads of northern France that didn't get near the towns or the main roads, with nothing but a paper road map to try and stay within the area of totality, and an occasionally visible patch of white cloud as the direction to aim for.

We drove for more than an hour at high speed.

 

With about 20 minutes to spare before totality, we reached that clearing in the middle of a ring of clouds in all directions, with a really clear sky above us and not even a wisp of haze between us and the eclipsing Sun. The light got darker, birds fell silent, we saw the shadow race towards us and then to our delight we found out we had managed to stay within the zone of totality and the eclipse was upon us!

 

Solar Eclipse 99 b 400x600.jpg


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#23 kfiscus

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Posted 22 April 2023 - 06:17 PM

^^^BRAVO!^^^


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#24 bladerunner6

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Posted 23 April 2023 - 04:39 PM

My fail was for the annular in May of 1984.  A whole bunch of us from our astronomy club in Michigan drove down to Richmond, Virginia.

 

We were literally rained on.   At a club meeting later there was a slide of me with an expression that that showed how all of us felt that day!

 

That experience made me decide on a cruise for 1991.  Not surprisingly many of my friends from the Virginia trip were onboard the Viking Serenade with me.  As many of you might know that was a huge success.

 

And in 1998 we all ended up on the Veendam even though we didn’t plan it.  We all just saw each other at the cruise terminal and we did parties, enjoyed the eclipse together and hung out and had an awesome time on a great 10 day cruise.

Weather wise 2024 is a tougher one than 2017 and 2027.  I hope our mobility on the Discovery Princess will pay off.  I guess we will all know in a bit less than a year.

 

Clear skies everyone!


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#25 kfiscus

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Posted 18 June 2023 - 06:48 PM

Bump, hoping for new readers that will share.





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