2009 solar eclipse from HangzhouTweet
22nd July 2009
We left Hangzhou early this morning for the Qiantang River. Our tour firm, Journeys Worldwide, and the AAQ identified our vantage point two years previously on the banks of the Qiantang River which offered a clear vantage point to the west - i.e. of the Eclipse - in an otherwise fairly populated and built up region on Chinas coast.
The weather was ominous - much more so than Ceduna in 2002 and Libya in 2006, although things had gone our way on these occasions. Not this time.
Only the call of an astronomer with an eye on the clock alerted the congregation to First Contact and the start of the partial phases.
We hoped. And prayed. And hoped a little more. OK - we hoped a lot more.
The clouds thinned and a roar went up - eyes fixated upon a single thinning spot behind which partial phase was barely visible.
The clouds thickened again and a sense of dark resignation set it.
As totality approached, the birds went wild and began their preparations for night. The sounds from the wildlife beginning preparations reached a crescendo as the atmosphere cooled and the sky darkened.
At second contact, the crowd roared and applauded and, slowly, quietness set in on the Qiantang Front. The cloud cover plunged us beyond totality and into what could so easily have been nighttime. 5 minutes and 40 seconds of darkness.
Third contact was called. The disappointment of no corona, no bailey beads, no shadow bands, the disapperence of the trips raison d'etre began to set in.
Not seeing totality didn't dampen the spirits of the nearby, newly deflowered "eclipse virgins" who remained overexcited at the experience of not having seen totality. If they think this was good - they should try it for real. Unclouded. Unfettered.
Ominous and eerie though the clouded enhanced darkness was, when it comes to totality - accept no substitutes.
Next stop - Queensland 2012.