Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

The Dark Side of the Sun
by Tina Whittle

Since my husband is a science nerd, there was no way we were going to miss the Great American Eclipse of 2017. Not if we could help it anyway. So Monday morning on the day of the event, we packed up the mini-van with a bunch of teenagers and a cooler full of snacks and headed up to Orangeburg, South Carolina, which lay almost exactly in the path of totality.

Now there’s a word that’s been trending—totality. In scientific eclipse-specific terms, it describes the swath of territory that will experience the sun being fully blocked by the moon. This eclipse had a path of totality that was 70 miles wide and covered the entire breadth of the United States from coast to coast. Including Orangeburg.

We set up in the parking lot of the University of South Carolina, a prime viewing spot (which also had restrooms, because we’re not savages). The teenagers created an umbrella fort on the grass. The grown-ups occupied folding chairs in the shade and made sure everyone had the proper eyewear and sunscreen. The eclipse was already going on—a quick glance revealed a bite out of the sun—but nothing felt strange looking around.

Then we noticed the shadows—fuzzy where they should have been sharp, oddly curved and elongated. The unusual light was the next thing we noticed. It changed from a yellow summer glare to a filtered gray-blue, as if we were looking through sunglasses, and it gave off very little heat. This was when I got the first shiver up my spine, the ancient animal part of me rising in panic. Something is not right, it said. Hide now.

I didn’t hide. I shushed the monkey mind and took in the experience.

People say “awesome” about a lot of things. It should be saved for moments like this, when the moon seems to swallow the sun, and twilight descends like a curtain. And the stars flare into diamond points as the horizon glows orange and crimson all around, sunset everywhere you look. And the crickets and night birds break into song, and the temperature drops. And the chatter and laughter both cease, and silence rules, because what sound can one make in the presence of the entire universe, its clockworks revealed?

Like my husband, I’m a science nerd. But during the eclipse, I lost all comprehension of facts and data. I grew speechless. Word-less. Awe-full.

How did you experience the Great American eclipse?

 

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Comments

  1. Hubster set up his camera, although we weren’t in the totality zone. However our son the photographer drove up to Wyoming, found a friendly farmer who let him set up in his cornfield, and got the absolutely most amazing shots. http://www.luminescentphoto.com/2017/08/22/solar-eclipse-photos/

  2. Terry Ambrose says:

    Here in SoCal, we had only about 1/3 of the sun blocked out. But it was still an eerie feeling. Totality—that does deserve the word “awesome!”

    • tinawhittle says:

      No matter what, it always makes me feel like a very tiny cog in a giant clockwork. And that is somehow reassuring.

  3. Thanks for sharing your awesome experience, Here in South Florida nothing much happened.

  4. We had a much diminished effect here (slight waning of light for about ten to fifteen minutes) in coastal Ga due to heavy cloud cover. However, just 20 miles south of us they had a great view. Our rotten luck with the clouds. We went riding around the neighborhood with our eclipse glasses, just in case some place was better situated than our yard. No dice, but we are ready for the next eclipse. We’re hanging on to our eclipse glasses.

    • tinawhittle says:

      We are sending ours to the next eclipse, the one in Asia — we have heard that they don’t last over a few years with any effectiveness. But hey, the next one in the US is in 2024! Just around the corner!

  5. We were not in “totality” although we were close. I was most amazed that “sunset” was 360 degrees around the horizon as opposed to only in the west like we’re used to seeing.