A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Sean C
Date: 2017 Aug 21, 22:40 -0700
My wife and I just got back home in Newport News, Virginia from our trip to see totality in Columbia, South Carolina. (Coincidentally the city in which I was born.)
Although I took two sextants, my Astra IIIb and Davis Mk. 15, I only used them to view the eclipse...not to make any sort of measurements. Nor did I time any of the contacts. I thought about it, but decided that I would rather just take in the experience without any distractions. We didn't take any pictures, either. Sorry...but I'm sure there will be plenty posted online in the coming weeks.
After looking at a map of the city, we decided to go to the SC State Fairground as it was a nice, open space guaranteeing an unobstructed view. I expected there would be maybe a few dozen people at most at that particular location. We arrived to find a full-blown eclipse festival with music, concessions and (by my rough estimation) around 1,000 people with their own tents and "tailgating" paraphernalia. Admission to the fairground was five dollars. I didn't have my Astra out of the box for more than 10 seconds before I was approached and asked "What the heck is that thing?" :)
There was some speculation as to how much of the eclipse would be visible due to moderately heavy cloud cover. Visibility was good for first contact, but came and went as totality neared. Around half an hour before totality, it even started to rain very lightly and there was much apprehension. Personally, I felt bad for the many people I had seen adjusting their cameras and telescopes in hopes of catching the entire event from start to finish. Then, as if by divine intervention, the sky around the Sun and Moon cleared and the remaining clouds seemed to come to a standstill. Totality was completely visible from beginning to end. And it was magnificent. Cheers and applause rose as the last sliver of sunlight disappeared, the fairground became dark and the corona became visible. Everyone around us was awe-struck by the beauty and eeriness of it, myself and my wife included. We heard fireworks going off in the distance, but I'm certain that no one could take their eyes off of the celestial spectacle above. Once totality had ended, the party next to us popped open a couple of bottles of Champagne and offered us a "glass" (paper cup, actually). I graciously accepted.
We departed not long after the end of totality. After all, watching the rest of the Sun emerge was rather anticlimactic at that point. And after spending hours baking in the hot summer Sun, we were anxious to get home. (I'm pretty sure I got a moderate sunburn even though we applied sunscreen just after arriving.) And it seems we weren't the only ones who had that idea. What followed was the longest traffic jam I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing, in both time and physical length. A trip that took about six hours going down became a nine hour crawl back home. I thought we'd never get out of South Carolina. We even discussed pulling off the interstate, renting a room for the night and resuming the trip the next day. Apparently, traffic all over the country was so bad that it made headlines. But, we persevered and it eventually cleared up as we approached home. I'm now exhausted and about to pass out.
All in all: even with the traffic it was worth it. And I'm glad I allowed myself the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the experience without any distractions. This was truly an event which we will both remember fondly for the rest of our lives. I only wish you all could have been there to share it.