I’ve always been fascinated by our solar system since I was really small. While other kids were memorising Boyzone lyrics, I was memorising the order and name of the planets. I was encouraged by my Dad, who has a very scientific mind.
In 1999 there was a total eclipse down in Cornwall, and partial further north (almost complete in my town just north of London). My Dad was away on a business trip and my mother wasn’t particularly interested, so I missed the chance to view this eclipse. I was only 11 so didn’t have the knowledge to view it on my own. I was disappointed and hoped one day I would get the chance to see one.
Fast forward many, many years! My Dad had too always been interested in seeing an eclipse. We found out there was one happening in 2012 in Cairns, Australia. I had been to Sydney and wanted to see much more of Oz. My Dad had never been so we made the decision to go together and book into a hotel to see the eclipse.
Hotels were booked up months and months in advance. People were renting out rooms in their houses as there was so much demand. We managed to grab a cancellation at one hotel with a couple of rooms left and booked. Cairns was a great place for those wanting to witness the eclipse as there are so many beaches along the coastline that there was plenty of room for the tourists to displace amongst the various beaches.
The eclipse was early in the morning. About 6am. We got up early for the walk to the beach, equipped with those plastic viewing glasses that protect your eyes from the sun. Along the way, we could watch the beginnings of the eclipse as the moon was starting to make its way in front of the sun. We watched the whole thing and I was mesmorised.
As we stood on the beach with a crowd of excited tourists, we waited for the moment of totality, and a chance to glimpse the famous ‘diamond ring’ formation.
Just then… a massive cloud wafted in front of the sun. Our view of the eclipse was covered.
At that moment, the sky and land went dark and birds went quiet, indicating totality of the eclipse. I cannot explain the frustration and disappointment from the deflated group of hundreds of tourists. It was gutting.
When we got back to the hotel and watched the news, we learnt that nearly all the beaches along the coast had seen the eclipse. We were one of only one or two that had been unfortunate enough to miss it. However we felt more determined than ever to see an eclipse in the future.
Over two years later, Dad and I were chasing an eclipse once again. We had joined a cruise that was stopping mainly in Iceland, but had extended their itinerary to include stopping on the ocean around the Faroe Islands, where we should have the perfect view of the eclipse as it took place. 10,000 tourists swarmed to the area with only a 30% chance of visibility (winter in the far north).
We were a happy or hopeful group of tourists that morning. The weather was cloudy, with more clouds and a forecast of thicker, cloudier clouds! The captain was moving the boat around to try to find breaks in the cloud. We knew the moon had begun to move over the sun as we got occasion glimpses here and there. There was that deflated feeling of everyone, that was reminiscent of the failed eclipse viewing in Cairns.
We waited eagerly for the moment that we were all dreading… when we would miss totality. And then it began.
The skies went dark.
We could see nothing.
Seconds later, our captain found a break in the clouds! Our amazing, talented and wonderful captain! The total eclipse came into view and we had a minute of amazement. I genuinely felt emotional after having assumed it was another failed attempt. The solar eclipse was beautiful. An amazing phenomenon. And as totality ended, the whole boat began clapping and cheering the crew. We were all so impressed with the steering and rewarding efforts to find a break in the clouds, at the perfect timing, long enough for us to see such an amazing sight.
This was the last total solar eclipse to occur in Europe for another 11 1/2 years. And we almost missed it.