2010 Sydney Observatory Eclipse Trip: Eclipse Day

Melissa, Toner and Lilly on Rapa Nui preparing for the 2010 total solar eclipse
Melissa, Toner and Lilly on Rapa Nui preparing for the 2010 total solar eclipse. Photo & copyright Andrew Jacob ©, all rights reserved.

At 3am on July 11, 2010 we were all disturbed in our sleep by incoming aeroplanes carrying more eclipse viewers. The wind was howling, rain was lashing at the tents. At 6:30am there was a cry from Lilly ‘Get up, get up! There are stars, I can see Pleiades!” After 2 days of rain and cloud the sky was clearing, however, the occasional shower and a howling wind persisted.

At 9am we piled into the bus, raincoats, warm weather gear at hand to Tahai. The National Parks had given us special permission to erect a basecamp tent next to the Park Ranger’s hut.

There are three Ahus at this site and we mainly setup our tripods in the viewing area in front of the imposing Ahu Tahai, looking topwards Ahu Ko Te Riku, the Moai with eyes.

There were about 1,000 other eclipse viewers, stalls selling local crafts, and a traditional dance group. People had come from North America, Italy, France, Germany, the UK, Japan and Switzerland and there were many Chileans. There was a relaxed atmosphere with many local families present. We gave solar glasses to the police on crowd control duty. Members of our group were interviewed by Rapa Nui TV and Chilean journalists.

At 12.40 ‘first contact’ (when the edges of the Sun and Moon first meet) occurred behind a cloud but it quickly passed. Everything stopped, people viewed through their special eclipse glasses and cameras started clicking. By 1:40pm we began to use Lisa’s pinhole paper camera and Barbara’s hat gave us a wonderful array of tiny partial eclipse images.

“The light is getting softer, European” said Robin. Then at 2:08pm totality began with a brilliant diamond ring effect. The temperature had dropped, there was a roar from the crowd, traditional drums beat their rhythm, and fire sticks were waved – a unique cultural background for this eclipse. “It’s unbelievable” said Robyn. Totality lasted 4 minutes 39 seconds.

Totality! July 11, 2010, Rapa Nui.
Totality! July 11, 2010, Rapa Nui. Photo & copyright Andrew Jacob ©, all rights reserved.

“The diamond ring goes really fast” said Barbara. “Spectacular, the weather cleared perfectly” said Mel. “It was the fastest four minutes in my life” Toner exclaimed. “Everything flew out of my mind” said Ross. “What a blast” said Mike. “It was so much more than I imagined” said Jantina, our guide. “Beyond description” exclaimed Lilly. “I didn’t expect it to get so cold” said Carmel. “I’ll pop the champagne cork’ said Neville. “I was amazed by the shadow coming across the water” said Lesa.

And, after the rain and wind of the last few days Val summed it all up with “We are fortunate”.

From Toner and Andrew.

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