Total Eclipse 1999
On August 11th 1999 the last full solar eclipse of the millennium occurred. For those who don't know, a Solar Eclipse is an event during which the new Moon passes directly between the Earth and Sun, temporarily blocking the Sun's light; the day turns to night for approximately two minutes.
In England, we were very excited to view this event. It was predicted that the best place to view the eclipse would be Cornwall, where the full ecliptic shadow would first hit land. Our home was in Guernsey, in the English Channel. We had planned to camp in Cornwall for five days, and had booked a camp ground for the occasion. We were meeting six of our friends (who lived in London) at the camp. We sailed over from Guernsey to England on the ferry and took a train down to Cornwall, which is a beautiful county at the south west tip of England.
We arrived and reunited with our friends, set up camp and had a great evening talking around the camp fire. The eclipse was set to commence the next morning at approximately 11.00am. There were hundreds of people who had gathered in Cornwall to see the event. There were all kinds of memorabilia such as T-Shirts saying, "I was in Cornwall for the millennium eclipse ," and pin-hole glasses used to view the eclipse. (It is dangerous for the eyes to look directly at the sun for any extended period of time).
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to view the actual eclipse due to thick low cloud in the whole of Cornwall, but this is a description of what happened. About 15 minutes before the total eclipse, daylight became weak. The crowd bustled with excitement. 5 minutes from totality the sky turned a dark gray from the west and darkness slowly advanced until the whole sky was a dark, cold gray.
As though the Almighty were turning off a dimmer switch, the light faded completely over a period of 2 or 3 seconds. Then a hush came over the crowd as total darkness approached, and an eeriness which made the hairs stand up on the back of my arms. A dog howled in the distance, (obviously confused by the lack of light).
After about 2 minutes the sky began to lighten in the west. Light returned to the clouds, advancing up across the sky. Then suddenly light appeared on the ground and wiped away the darkness, like a giant hand was operating a magic eraser. General light slowly increased for many minutes more. There were ripples of loud cheers from the crowds.
Despite the disappointment at not being able to get a clear view of the Eclipse, we were in a party mode and numerous dances broke out in the streets. We had a great time for the rest of our stay and have many lasting memories.
When we got back home to Guernsey, we found out it had been a clear, sunny day and Guernsey was reported to have been one of the best places in Europe to view the event! Still, we had a great five days camping with our friends and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
PS, I still have the T. Shirt!
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