barmacooper's blog

Homeward Bound

We were still on a high from this indescribable sight when we left Des Moines this morning, another 1000 km will get us to our KOA Campsite near the Canadian border at Port Huron.  Tomorrow a leisurely 350 km to meet friends at Niagara Falls.   Very glad we went the extra mile.  The eclipse, as viewed from a wide rolling grass field, with nuclei of camper families and couples sparsely sprinkled around was the perfect venue made all the more enjoyable by the generous hospitality afforded us by our hosts, the sixth generation North Platte Long  / Ward family.

The Ward Ranch Welcome Wagon

I had always preferred the west as a destination for the best eclipse view, thinking we would fly out, maybe to my family in Vancouver-Victoria and rent a car to  Oregon-Wyoming.  So why Nebraska? Long story short is that we rented a motor home to go to South Carolina with friends from overseas but their US visa fell through at the last minute.  I was jittery about weather and traffic prospects for the original plan. So now that we had the motor home, why not drive as far west and back as we could in the 10 days we had the rental… which, on the map, led my finger to Nebraska and this facebook group.

Through the group I was referred to Kelly Ward who offered me the top of the hill on her land at a reasonable price, home cooked BBQ and breakfast canteen thrown in.

In her blog entry immediately preceding this one, Sylvie describes the frenzied fiddling that led up to our precious 2 minute experience very well.  In doing so, we made several new friends, especially through a spontaneous star party the night before the eclipse where I was able to tour our fellow travellers and our hosts through a potpourri of stars, planets, and constellations.  The Milky Way was out in in a bright arc over our heads  until around 11pm when high cloud drifted in and we all went to bed.

Pre-eclipse star party

This is what greeted us all the next morning at daybreak:

Dense Fog is compensated for by my camera’s automatic settings, but the flashlight beam shows the thickness as we light up my telescope mount, wrapped up after last night’s stargazing.
Breakfast in the fog

As the sun peeked in and out of the clouds, I was madly using every clear patch to align and calibrate my webcam equipped scope for viewing and recording on my laptop, but it proved a more stubborn venture than initially thought, even with Sylvie’s valiant and patient support, trying to adjust focus the telescope while I watched a moniter.  Shout out to fellow travellers Alek and Wendy from Colorado who kindly mounted their extra shelter beside our telescope in an effort to create shade and Alek who lent me all kinds of electronic rechargers and extension cords.  My mylar draped  “insta-privy” shelter worked fine in our Quebec City backyard, but not out on windy Nebraska plain.

 

Along with all this fumbling about between cloud patches, we had to contend with these pesky baby cacti that shot stingy spines into your toes and hitched rides on your shoes into the motor home.  The Sun presented a fine necklace of 4 well developed Active Regions or “sunspots” along the equator for its date with the Moon.

The morning cleared progressively and by the time the eclipse reached totality, there was only a slight wisp of transparent cloud around the high Sun.   But the view of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, extending far out from the punched out black hole of the backside of our Moon was magnificent.  Then, as suddenly as it blinked into view at the last disappearance of the crescent Sun, it disappeared with a rapid flash of the “diamond ring” effect and it was all over.  After an hour of carefully packing up all the astro-equipment, we departed under a steadily waxing crescent Sun as it returned bright warmth to the prairie landscape.

What a day, and what an experience for Sylvie and me to share together… and with you!