- St Ives, Cornwall
'It was a ten-tenths cloud cover day. Beautiful weather on the days before and after and I have a tan to prove it. Beautiful sunrise on the morning of the 11th, but then it just deteriorated... However, the experience was quite something... In the half hour before totality we saw perhaps a couple of thousand people climbing onto the promontory just north of St Ives harbour. As the clouds began to look more and more like they had a lighting contract with Steven Spielberg, seagulls flew in to roost. Streetlights came on. Cheers and whoops were heard from the promontory, and flashguns began to go off. The temperature was dropping fast, although with the rain and cloud we were not sure how much of this was meteorological rather than astronomical in origin...
We had a good view of the western sea horizon from our campsite on a hill and we saw that direction getting very dark. Then at 11:11, darkness descended, and we could hear those mad people on the promontory yelling and cheering and whooping... although we couldn't see anything of the spectacle overhead we saw the shape of the promontory, and indeed the whole north Cornish coast, outlined by thousands of flashguns going off. Out to the north, we could see an orange sky, the northern edge of the shadow. To the west, all too soon, the sky was already brightening. Then, suddenly, it got light again. It was really very sudden, like a dimmer switch being turned on; fireworks were set off, the flashguns stopped, the streetlights went off, we looked at each other and promised ourselves a trip to Africa for June 21st 2001...' -- Mark Bailey
'We never saw any part of the Sun over the whole period of the eclipse. Nevertheless the suddenness and completeness with which darkness arrived and departed was quite awesome, and indeed a little frightening.' -- John Moore
- Roseland, Cornwall
'I have three overriding memories of my first total eclipse... Firstly, my amazement at how dark it went at our Roseland, Cornwall clifftop site, and the speed with which it happened.
Secondly, my overwhelming emotion during totality. I think this had twin reasons -- a supreme awe at the unique event I was participating in with a crowd of others; but also utter despondency that the moment had come, and the clouds had not cleared.
Finally, we were privileged to have chosen the same location as Patrick Moore and his Sky at Night team. To discuss with them throughout, and watch them film was something special. Two minutes after totality had ended, Patrick sat saying 'Fiddle... fiddle...!' but then put a brave face on it for TV. I could not have agreed more...' -- Neil Shaw
Partial eclipse from Truro: Val & Andrew White.
- Goonhavern, near Perranporth, Cornwall
'The approach to totality was a time of extreme frustration. Apart from occasional veiled glimpses of the Sun while low in the East, nothing else was seen of it at all -- not even enough to permit aligning the cameras. The whole sky was completely covered by thick dark cloud layers and it looked like all the travel and preparation would be in vain...
The surrounding countyside became progressively darker -- the combined effect of the thickening cloud and the reduction in solar illumination. It definitely became much colder and once or twice even started to rain. Then as if out of nowhere, and with only a couple of minutes to the onset of totality, a partial clearing emerged from the southwest. We discerned a brightening of the landscape towards St Agnes Beacon which was, miracle of miracles, coming our way. Both of us quickly took up our previously-abandoned stations by our un-ready equipment and looked anxiously towards where the Sun ought to be, eager to get an early glimpse and set the cameras on the target. With just about a minute to go before totality the thin crescent of the Sun, heavily obscured by cloud, was gratefully seen. Attempts to find the Sun with mylar filters in place were quickly abandoned and the cameras aligned and clamped with the lenses uncovered... For a heart-rending few seconds the Sun disappeared but a look at the sky confirmed that the main part of the clearing was still to come and that it was heading in the right direction. Around the almost-eclipsed Sun an extended yellow refraction halo was seen and was recorded on both the video and the colour photographs taken using the 180mm lens.
Despite our secluded location, shrieks and shouts from groups of people across the neighbouring fields heralded our view of the last seconds of the partial phase -- then the racing darkness of the moon's shadow confirmed that totality had begun and we were witnessing it against all the odds.
In a flurry of excitement tinged with panic, exposure settings on the cameras were altered and shutters fired. Video camera zoom settings were optimised and binoculars brought to bear on a magnificent spectacle that was as amazing as it was sudden. DGB was observing early with binoculars and witnessed Baily's Beads at the onset of totality and was soon commenting on the structure of the corona as well as the number of prominences seen. GM resisted persistent binocular observing until the last of the photosphere had disappeared and had a magnificent, stabilised view of the vivid pink prominences which were later described as the most striking feature of the event.
Looking around at the landscape, others of our group commented on the eerie yellowish tinge to the dark scene and were amazed at the hundreds of camera flashes visible up to several miles from what must have been small gatherings of thousands of people dotted on every open space or viewing point, all looking at the circular black object in the sky surrounded by a distinctive pink circle and extended bright halo which merged with the surrounding cloud...
As suddenly as it had begun, it ended, and light flooded the landscape. The viewers and the mylar were back protecting the eyes and the cameras. The end of totality was greeted with a sense of disbelief that almost two minutes of time had passed -- but there was no doubting that it was over. The relieved and happy expressions on our faces told the whole story -- we could hardly believe ourselves what we had just seen.' -- Glyn Marsh & Denis Buczynski
Prominences at third contact: Glyn Marsh & Denis Buczynski.
- Dieppe, Normandy
'Dieppe was busy but traffic easy-flowing and our main party viewed from the beach promenade with thousands of relaxed French day-trippers. Cloud persisted over Dieppe town with a clearish horizon out to sea and inland. From a layby south of the town totality was amazing. The black moon in a grey sky and the pearly corona reaching outwards through a cloud break. Venus below the Sun was seen but no other stars. A shaky video was captured... all too much for any science. Again (as in India in 1995) I forgot to use a grating to view the Sun's chromospheric emission lines... until after totality...' -- Maurice Gavin
- Louvicamp, Normandy
'The sky was mostly cloudy, with some large blue patches... As first contact came and went, the sky grew progressively less cloudy. The ambient light gradually took on a yellowish, dull quality from about 20 minutes before 2nd contact, which was to be at 10.21 UT (12.21 French time). By 10.06 UT the air was noticeably cooler, and at 10.08 UT conditions resembled the onset of twilight... By 10.18 UT, conditions were very dim indeed, and we now saw the approaching shadow, looking like an enormous thunderstorm rushing up from the west, drawing gasps from the assembled mass of observers. My 11-year-old daughter burst into tears at the sight, and I must confess to a certain weakness in the knees. Both diamond rings were spectacular, and the eclipsed Sun assumed the form of a black disk surrounded by a thin ring of what I can only describe as burnished gold. Curving coronal streamers were extensive, with two resembling enormous horns atop the Sun, and others distributed all around the disk. Most of our party had covered one eye with eye-patches for at least ten minutes before totality, and I am sure that this was very effective in preparing our vision for the eclipsed Sun, as the corona looked very extensive and was visible in some detail. A quick glance through 7×50 binoculars confirmed several large streamers extending from the general corona to at least one solar radius. There were three noticeable pink prominences, visible to the naked eye, at the '1 o'clock, 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock' positions. It did not go as completely dark as I had expected, and it was easy for me to make a rapid pencil sketch of the total eclipse without extra illumination. The whole horizon was glowing brownish-orange.
The main comment after it was over was that the 2 minutes and 10 seconds of totality seemed to have lasted only about half a minute... We thought that nobody, in the excitement, had bothered to look at the white sheet we had spread out for shadow bands; but later, my 8-year old son John, when asked what he had enjoyed most, talked about the 'wiggly streaks running across the sheet'. He was the only one who had remembered to look.' -- Bob Mizon
- Les Cornets, Normandy
'As a first timer for a total eclipse I was astonished by the rapidity of the end of partiality -- the weird light effects with a thin crescent Sun providing sharp shadows and yet dimness especially indoors -- and then the sudden realisation that the crescent was breaking up, the corona was visible and we were into totality. Our eyes were transfixed by the sight of the Sun transformed: the corona was brightly visible to several solar radii... an astonishing experience which we all felt was far more remarkable than we were expecting.' -- Andrew Paterson
- Etain, near Verdun, France
'We just caught totality in a perfectly clear patch of blue sky, surrounded by clouds, after driving 110km through cloudy and mostly rainy weather! We stopped outside Etain about 10 min before totality, as a gap in the clouds approached, and it exposed the Sun for the whole event. Doves cooed, cocks crowed, and then shadow bands rippled across the car bonnet, and we saw the diamond ring and then the amazing jagged bright white ring of corona, with Venus nearby, in a deep blue sky, surrounded by clouds.
I was struck by how symmetrical but spiky the corona was, truly like a crown or sunflower, but with the spikes tilted at various angles. I was also struck by the large number of bright orange prominences seen in the camera viewfinder. Then chromosphere and diamond ring and a rapid return to the eerie daylight -- and within a few seconds, the Sun went behind the big cloud that had been threatening throughout the event.' -- John H. Rogers
Crescents under trees in Switzerland: Paul Derbyshire
- Ingolstadt, Germany
'During the hour up to totality we had two heavy downpours, including hail, and had to pack up the camera twice... As totality approached the cloud which and been moving from the north-west started swirling around above us and it looked like we would be clouded out. Just as totality arrived the clouds cleared and we had a stunning view. We had about a minute and a half of totality and could easily see the prominences and coronal detail. Also Venus and Mercury were clearly visible. It was an incredible experience. Ten minutes after totality the clouds reappeared and we had a torrential downpour.' -- Julian James
- Munich, Germany
'The weather condition was a mixture of sunshine and showers. In the moments leading to totality, ducks grouped and took off to roost. Swifts grouped together and were circling above us. The gulls grouped together and stayed in the middle of the large pond. As darkness fell, it became cold and there was a distinct breeze. Unfortunately we must have missed the first minute of the eclipse as very grey rain clouds obstructed our view... With a stroke of luck a very thin gap within the rain clouds revealed to us the full eclipse. We all instantly cheered. Solar prominences appeared firstly around the 4/6 o'clock position, then secondly around the 12 o'clock position. We then observed the brilliant diamond ring effect which was magical. Then within seconds, as if the 'dimmer light switch' was turned, the light returned to full. The sunshine and blue sky returned. Everyone was walking around with a permanent smile.' -- Eileen Houghton
Multiple exposure photo from Turkey: Nigel Evans
- Kamen Briag, Bulgaria
'I brought with me a recently acquired Helios 1 telescope which is a 70mm f/5.6 refractor with a built in H-alpha filter. I had not much experience with this instrument but it did show prominences as well as disk features although not as clearly as my regular narrow band filter with the C8. The purpose of bringing the Helios was to see the prominences before totality and mainly to enable me to time first contact. If this would occur at a point where there is a prominence, this would be obscured by the moon before 1st contact, enabling me to time it precisely... I was also ready to record any shadow bands and 4 minutes before second contact I started my video camera pointing to the shadow band screen. I used my binoculars to time second contact by giving a vocal command which was recorded on tape. The tape was synchronised with the GPS time. We saw the approaching shadow of the moon which was ill-defined but black. The darkness descended and my family was in awe and wonderment at the spectacle of the moon-covered Sun and the corona with the prominences. Venus was clearly visible but none of us saw Mercury... We saw the receding shadow of the moon racing eastward over the Black Sea. Nobody saw any shadow bands at our site and my camcorder did not record any. I believe that the very slight haziness of the sky prevented these elusive bands from being seen.' -- Eric Strach
Observing site at Sivas: Ray Emery
- Sivas, Turkey
Paul Coleman and I travelled with Explorers Tours to Turkey for the eclipse and were delighted to awake on the day to find a fine, clear and sunny day. A thunderstorm had been forecast but did not materialise. The site was a few kilometres east of Sivas at Göydün, and is a plateau surrounded by low hills. It easily accommodated the many viewers assembled there... We found the only tree and took with us a large parasol loaned by the hotel to provide some shade. Measurements were made of light intensity using a Weston Master V exposure meter and also of temperature. Light intensity remained fairly constant up to some 20 minutes before totality after which the light was obviously fading. A bird flew into the nearby tree, crickets went silent and we heard a cock crowing in the distance. We saw crescents on the ground under the tree which were enhanced by placing a white towel on the ground. Colour on the distant hills started to change, becoming subdued and this, with falling light and temperature, created an eerie feeling. Finally, and right on time, totality came.
Expressions of amazement could be heard from distant viewers. A fine view was had with 8×30 binoculars and particularly striking were prominences glowing like neon lights, one of which was detached from the Sun's limb. The inner corona was more or less symmetrical as would be expected with the current solar activity, but the outer corona was much more 'spiky' on both sides extending to some three or four solar diameters. All too quickly the event was over ending with a spectacular diamond ring. Venus was seen easily during totality and the daylight slowly returned... A truly spectacular eclipse in near perfect conditions, and we were fortunate to have left Turkey before the awful earthquake a few days after our departure and which claimed so many lives.' -- Alan Heath
- Tiran, Iran
'I wasn't too sure what I was seeing, but on the white sheet laid out in front of the telescopes were crescents, rotating in a circular motion. The circles seemed to be approximately 15cm in diameter and about 2cm apart. The observation site had been slightly windy, not uncomfortably so, it certainly wasn't the sheet blowing in the wind. The ring effect lasted for about a minute then the shadow bands appeared as normal, increasing in intensity until my attention was taken away by the Baily's beads and a small diamond ring.
The corona grew until it was about three times the diameter of the Sun. I was paralysed, Patrick had to remind me to look through the telescope... The low angle of the Sun made it look even bigger in the sky. In the inner portion of the corona, but radiating from the chromosphere I saw the colours of the rainbow, green, yellow, orange, and blue. The outer corona was fairly white but with filament detail. Through the telescope were unbelievably large loops (10.00, 7.00 and 2.00 o'clock) and a tongue prominence (5.00 o'clock). I believe and hope that sight will be etched on my memory forever. We only had 1 m 47 s of totality. Again I looked with the naked eye, and was absolutely breathless. I could still see the colours... the second larger diamond ring came into view much too fast, until the inevitable partial phase began again. We did manage to see the shadow moving away, distinct against clouds behind us.
People were silent. People stood in stunned silence. Mr Mirtorabi stood with his head in his hands... Astronomy rarely shows us fireworks, but on the 11th August 1999 it made an exception.' -- Joanne Edmonds
Colours at second contact: Derek Hatch
Return to Journal 1999 October contents page
Go to the BAA Journal home page