Eclipse Mania: What’s your Excuse?   3 comments

Total solar eclipse sequence, Zambia 2001 by Fred Espenak.

I’ve noticed quite a few (facebook) friends are skipping this eclipse, even though all are within a day’s drive and a few live only an hour or so from the path of totality.  The reason?  They are afraid of the media’s predictions of apocalyptic disaster: traffic, crowds, food/water shortages, and assorted catastrophe.  Many of them are skipping the path of totality in favour of staying home to see a dramatically inferior partial eclipse.  I’m amazed that anyone still takes media hype and exaggeration seriously.

Of course I realize this will be a popular event, and if you don’t have a good plan (the reason I’m doing this series) you will have to endure hassles in order to get into position to see it.  But those people who do go to the trouble will be, years later, certainly not regretting doing so.  They won’t be talking about how epic the crowds and traffic were.  They’ll be talking about how incredibly epic the total eclipse of the sun was.

At first I assumed that these friends have simply seen enough eclipses and don’t want the (perceived) hassles involved in seeing yet another one.  I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.  But something about that didn’t make sense, so I asked why.  Some of them answered, saying yes, they have already seen eclipses and are not interested in this one.  One even said they weren’t that special.  That last is a sentiment I can respect if it’s based on actually seeing one (but certainly not several).

The strange fact is that these people are from the U.S.  That means that, to see a number of eclipses, they flew overseas, booked tours, or otherwise planned to be in the paths of totality.  The last total solar eclipse in North America was in 1979, and that was only visible from the Pacific Northwest.  The next one is in 2024 and does not boast the coast to coast path that this one does.

I don’t know of anyone who would fly halfway across the globe to see enough solar eclipses to be satiated, and then avoid driving a few hours to see one on his own turf.  That’s not how eclipses work.  You either love them and are motivated to travel long distances to see one, or you’re not impressed and don’t bother to see them at all unless they happen to pass over your house.  Put another way, for U.S. residents, there is no good excuse for missing this eclipse other than a disinterest in natural wonders.

Ozette Lake, a large and relatively unknown lake on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, is only a few miles from the rugged coast, but it has an exceptionally pristine night sky.

I must conclude that people not seeing this eclipse just do not know what they’re missing.  I think some must be confusing (very common) total lunar and (quite rare) total solar eclipses.  Or, since they seem to be looking forward to the partial eclipse, are unaware of the vast difference between a total and partial solar eclipse.  Some may be genuinely afraid of traffic and crowds, but as I’ve said earlier in this series, a little planning plus a willingness to share an “eclipse party” kind of atmosphere easily mitigates that concern and reveals it to be what it really is, a lame excuse.

So let me put it as strongly as I can.  The only good excuse for missing this eclipse (again, aside from disinterest in nature) is that you live on another continent and have upcoming opportunities to see one nearer to you.  Also, a partial solar eclipse is forgettable and barely worth your time, while a total solar eclipse is something you will remember your whole life, especially if you’ve never seen one before.  My first one was one of the best days of my life and I had a smile plastered onto my face until I went to sleep that night.  My fellow Americans: do not miss this eclipse!

The Africa eclipse of 2001 was one I wanted to travel to but couldn’t.  It took a full decade for me to finally visit this part of the world.  Zambia eclipse of 2001, image by Fred Espenak.

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Posted July 22, 2017 by MJF Images in Nature Photography, Travel photography

3 responses to “Eclipse Mania: What’s your Excuse?

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  1. I’ve been exceptionally distracted and busy the past few weeks, and accordingly remiss on catching up of the best blogs I follow, including yours. But glimpsing, I’m impressed with your exceptional series on the eclipse. EXCEPTIONAL! I am bewildered and frequently disappointed at the apathy or indifference most people have in this event. Most, in fact, are unaware of the unparalleled experience and significance of a total solar eclipse, as you have noted. Understanding what a TOTAL SOLAR eclipse is, is also sadly rare. In our case, our whole immediate family (13 people including five-grand children under 10,) are gathering in the Great Smokey’s in N.C. (apparently near you.) We’ll be camping with an Airstream, and have reserved cabin lodges and units well inside the path, months ago.
    For my wife and I, this will be our second, TSE, the one of March 7th 1970 documented in this post 2 years ago: http://wp.me/p37YEI-1t3 and I also had been in Maine 7/20/63. So, thanks again for the wonderful posts, and your well conceived efforts to spread the news of how rare, awesome and beautiful this event will be. Marty 🙂

    • Thank you very much Marty! I appreciate your nice words. I so agree on apathy. But what confuses me are those fellow-photographers and nature lovers who are missing it because of the traffic and crowds. That I believe is short-sighted. But to each his own. It’s been quite a long time since you’ve seen one. I have seen only three so this will be my 4th. I’ll likely be with family, whose house is directly under the center line. Talk about luck! It’s an hour or so from the Smokies, and I will sure do some hiking during my time in TN. I’m hoping the clouds stay away on that day. Have a great eclipse!

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