Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Total Eclipse of the Sun

On February 26, 1979 there was a total eclipse of the sun which, like all such events, was only fully visible at certain locations on earth. One of those spots was Winnipeg, Manitoba. Anticipation about the event ran high in Winnipeg for weeks, even months, before the Big Day. Everyone was taught not to look at the sun during the eclipse unless they had a special piece of welders' glass to look through. Disposable glasses with the requisite protection were handed out to all school kids. Everyone was positively ga-ga over the upcoming eclipse.

Well, not absolutely everyone. I was certainly not taken in by all the hype and hoopla. After all, I was a very smart 22 year old university student who was ruled by reason and who was not going to get all worked up because of some natural event, scientifically interesting though it may be to the human intellect. [Yes, yes, I know, but that's how I was in those days].

When the Big Day came, I was at home when the eclipse occurred. Looking out my apartment window, the full light of day disappeared, quickly plunging Winnipeg into the full dark of night instead. It was an incredibly eerie and awesome effect. Overcome with inexplicable excitement, I put on my winter coat and raced down the stairs in the pitch black, almost breaking my neck. I just HAD to be outside in the weird daytime darkness! I just HAD to experience the eclipse! After a little while, the light started to return. Then I had to race back upstairs to watch the corona on TV (because of course I hadn't bothered to get the necessary protective eyewear). In short order, daylight returned and the world was restored to normalcy.

Wow. I was very surprised and not a little disturbed by the eclipse's emotional impact on me. I could completely understand how eclipses must have frightened and mystified people through the ages. It was like Beholding the Hand of God or something. Not a "scientific" or an "intellectual" experience after all, but a purely emotional one, even a spiritual one. I regretted my arrogance and wished, too late, that I had gotten the special eyewear to see the magical moment when the sun returned. Silly, silly girl. I will probably never again have the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse.

[Right after the total eclipse, a fabulous photo was published of the corona behind the Golden Boy on top of the Manitoba Legislature. I hoped to find a copy of it on the internet, but this time-lapse photo was the only similar image I could find.]


Sarah said...

Oh wonderful post. Funny what we think think at that age. I have one there now..Kate...I think just maybe she is finally finding her feet - I hope.
Seriously is a beautiful post..thank you for the reminder of what it felt like to be that age again.
Hugs, Sarah

Lady Grace Dreamweaver said...

Wow! What beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing this experience. You narrative gives a first hand immedience that is powerful.

Renee said...

I remember it dear friend. I remember the overwhelming feeling.



great pictures..i think i remember the total eclipse..was going to watch it but was hung over and the last thing i wanted to do was go out and look at the sun..

Hibiscus Moon said...

Oh, what a walk down memory lane! I was in 5th grade and don't remember much b/c my parents couldn't be bothered with getting me the supplies the teacher required to make a special looking aparatus so I had to sit in the portable classroom while most the rest of the class got to go outside and experience it. I do remember all the hoopla. I don't think I will get another chance in my lifetime unless I travel somewhere else to see it.

Toni said...

First chance I had to read this. It was extraordinary, right?

OMG. I can't believe everything that went on during the time span.