By Mark Sukhija
I am an eclipse chaser. One of my most passionate (and expensive) hobbies is to chase total solar eclipses. They've taken me from my Swiss / London base to Australia, Libya and China. And thats having missed Easter Island due to the economic crisis. In addition to this years eclipse in Spitzbergen and the Faroe Islands, over the next years there'll be eclipses in Indonesia and the United States And they're NOT just for astronomers. Here, I try to tell you why.
Solar eclipses are spectacular opportunities for travel. The 2009 eclipse in China was the longest for over 100 years in a fascinating country. country steeped in history. Although we missed Easter Island eclipse due to cost and remoteness in the Pacific Ocean there are oppurtunities to visit well worn destinations such as the United States in 2017 to less considered destinations such as the Faroe Islands and Spitzbergen in 2015 and Indonesia in 2016 are also great oppurtunities. We've also managed, over the years to visit Australia twice (2002 and 2012), China in 2009 and Libya in 2006. You don't get a whole lot more diverse than that.
Every eclipse is a different experience - a different in length and location. You will not have the same experience for two consecutive eclipses. At Ceduna on the coast of South Australia in 2002 totality was just over 30 seconds - we viewed the eclipse over the ocean with the magnificent show on the oceans surface reaching land while the birds slept. At Jaghboub in Libya, totality was 4 minutes and, with no buildings in site, we experienced a 360-degree sunset effect. In China in 2009 while the extreme cloud cover obscured the eclipse, birds slept and we experienced one of the most eerie natural environments going. Oh, and we saw the Qiantag River tidal bore shortly afterwards.
Solar eclipses aren't just for astronomers. Of course, professional and amateur astronomers will be there with all their kit to study the eclipse but for those interested in travel there are many oppurtunities too. BUT, a total solar eclipse is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena known to man and, to my mind, impressive enough to make as much effort as possible to see.
The next total solar eclipse will be in Indonesia for the eclipse in 2016. Although still early days, I know from experience that a lot of accomodation can set out years in advance - especially in remote locations such as the Faroe Islands which saw an eclipse this year.
I am also making plans for the 2017 (continental United States) and 2019 (South Pacific / Chile / Argentina). But these latter three are very much in the preliminary stages and really are only being investigated at the moment.
Image reproduced by courtesy of Copyright © 2006 Paul Evans and is rotality in 2006 as seen in Turkey.
Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook