TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE   SUN 1999

PLYMOUTH - WEST OF ENGLAND

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 11th 1999

another "content over style" web page by Steve Johnson

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...as to it being cloudy for the eclipse, that famous astronomer Patrick Moore said on TV...

"Tut, tut, dear me......and down to the pub!"

...and it came to pass that is was cloudy, but it was still awesome!...and we did go down to the pub, along with many others.


For months and months Plymouth was gearing up for the big event, what with the Eclipse and the British Firework Competition there was going to be a lot going on in Plymouth.

Pennants hung down among the shopping centre, adverts for beer on hoardings in the streets and among the houses were slanted toward the eclipse, shops were to close to allow staff to observe this event.

Even the giant supermarket Sainsburys advertised extended opening hours at bus stops!

Shop windows were given over to offering Eclipse souvenirs, trinkets as well as educational material.

Around Plymouth and further down into Cornwall were music festivals "eclipse festivals"...some of these had posters advertising them on billboards  and old buildings and empty shop windows.......everywhere.   Plymouth was being billed as the "Eclipse City" with it`s own Eclipse Festival on the Hoe....where there would be a giant TV screen for folks to watch the eclipse in the event of it being cloudy..the TV picture being supplied from an RAF Hercules aircraft flying above the clouds.

Of all the posters extolling the virtues of the different "Eclipse Festivals" I particularly liked this one, featuring a "Cornish lizard" and here is a close up of the lizard and Earth bit. The marks on the right of the image are splashes on the poster, you should be able to get rid of them easy in something like Paint Shop Pro.

Much needless panic and hysteria which the media loves so well, was about regarding the risk of blindness in viewing the eclipse - thankfully the Aztecs and Egyptians and other great civilisations were not so panicky or we would have no mathematics!

However to prove my point, we will listen to the experts...these experts here, a national chain of opticians advised staying indoors and watching it indoors on TV!!!!

How pathetic, one of natures greatest events and the public are being told not to watch it...but see it on TV...GOD HELP ONCE GREAT BRITAIN....especially as these experts say "its 2 minutes that will cost you your eyesight".....well as reasoned folks will know....it is just those 2 minutes...totality... that WILL NOT HURT YOU AT ALL......its the rest of it that has the risk!!!

They have got it completely the wrong way round, thick or what!

TOTALITY

I awoke early to find the sky promising. Sadly however it was not long before the cloud rolled in and the sky lowered. What to do?

I felt it vital to observe the eclipse in an area I knew well, one that had history and meaning for me at a personal level, a place that I had seen in winter, summer, spring and autumn, in snow and frost, and in sun and rain and wind. A place that was part of me, and also a place that was part of Plymouth.

With the TV and radio warning of traffic chaos I decided to stay close to home and made the 2 minute trip to The Blockhouse. The Blockhouse is the highest point within the main city area and gives a view to sea and to the north, east and west horizons, which ought to be good to see the shadow approach, and high enough to give me a visible horizon far enough away to see the lit area beyond the area of totality.

The Blockhouse is very personal to me as it is the place that my son, now 18 would play as a child, where we would go to see in the New Year among fireworks, searchlights and fog horns.

Arriving there an hour before totality it was getting busy - quickly. I have never seen so many people at the Blockhouse, ever - I expect that this was the greatest number ever!!

It came from the West, a vague fuzzy dark patch (top left of picture), then a street light came on, then another, then a few more then lots, a breeze came up and the blades of summer grass swayed to its rhythm, then more lights and then suddenly, totally crushingly. the light level just went, like in a elevator, it was down,down and down........we were in the Moon`s shadow.

Nobody spoke, then a few whispers, it was a strange blackness, what prehistoric man must have thought? Along the horizon, mile and miles away, out of the zone of totality the Sun still shone, coating the Tors of distant moorland and Brentor in a silver light.

See what we saw and felt....1......2.......3.....

.....these should print out OK. I have not corrected the dust specks...you can do that better than me! Cheers!

The darkness was heavy, burdensome and cold, all the more for being a cloudy day. To our ancestors it must have truly seen like  an end to the world, the theft of the Sun.

Then it what seemed an instant, but what was I believe 1 min 50 secs - light and life came back - in an instant..the light level just shot up.

No words can describe it, you have to feel it, not see it.

We all then went home, and as Patrick Moore had said..."down to the pub!"


Links

A site that was written in the run-up to the 1999 Total Eclipse: PLYMOUTH TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN 1999....includes the Royal Navy`s Edwardian eclipse study equipment and effort in times past.

Plymouth local history and more local and national heritage sites from Steve Johnson, CLICK HERE

For the British Firework Competition held in Plymouth on the same day as the Eclipse, CLICK HERE

For Firework Heritage, CLICK HERE and also look for the firework links HERE


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