Total Eclipse: Is Witnessing the Spectacle Worth It?

Let me be honest. Seeing the total eclipse was not at the top of my bucket list. It seemed like a lot of hype and fuss for a few brief minutes of watching the Moon block the Sun.

But I have two sons, Jonathan and Christopher, who are science nerds and have been looking forward to seeing the eclipse for years. We all live in different parts of California, nowhere near the “path of totality.” So, we all planned a trip together to see the total eclipse. Was witnessing the spectacle worth it?

My Expectations

Like most people, I had seen several partial eclipses during my lifetime. The Moon gradually covers the Sun and it becomes a bit darker. That was cool, but was it worthwhile to travel across the country to see the Moon completely block the Sun? I had seen photos of the bright ring created around the Moon during a total eclipse. Don’t judge me, but I wasn’t certain it was worth the money and effort fighting the crowds to see the event.

And what if we traveled all the way there and clouds obstructed our view?

My sons insisted it was worth all the trouble. Jonathan sent me this 20-minute video about the science of a total eclipse. There seemed to be a name for everything like: “contact,” “partial phase,” “corona,” “shadow bands,” and “totality.” I must confess, I watched about 10 minutes of it, then fell asleep. Christopher couldn’t stop talking about all the “fascinating” facts of an eclipse either.

But it seemed everyone who had seen the last total eclipse in 2017 described a profound, spiritual experience. So okay, maybe I should be more excited.

However,  just in case the weather blocked our view, we didn’t make our trip all about the eclipse.

My husband, Scott, and I flew to South Carolina to see a childhood friend, drove through the Great Smoky Mountains, and then to Nashville to meet up with our children and grandchildren. We went to the Adventure Science Center and rode a simulator that spun us sideways, upside down and looped endlessly. Our family took photos at the Grand Ole Opry. We tried axe throwing, ate Southern food, and listened to music in honky-tonks on Broadway. In rented cars, we traveled through Kentucky and Illinois to Missouri through downpours, and windy conditions, with warnings of isolated tornadoes. The kids bought us tickets to go up the Gateway Arch together in St. Louis, Missouri (which I did despite a fear of heights!).

Scott and I visited six states in 10 days for a whirlwind trip.

Then eclipse day, April 8, 2024, finally arrived.

The Anticipation and Preparation

My sons insisted that we see the eclipse in the center of the “path of totality” where we would have over 4 full minutes to take off our eclipse glasses and view the spectacle.

We got up before dawn to drive an hour and a half from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau, Missouri (where they wanted $3000 a night to rent an Airbnb, which is why we stayed in St. Louis) to ensure we had the perfect spot. Christopher anxiously watched weather reports which called for partial clouds.

We had several hours to wait once we arrived, but it was a charming town with a walkway along the Mississippi River to explore. Jonathan had brought a miniature set of Uno cards to help pass the time along with snacks. Although the day started foggy with some wispy clouds, we were lucky, and the skies were clear for the eclipse.

The Partial Phase

The partial phase of the solar eclipse began. We put on our solar eclipse glasses and watched as the Moon gradually began to encroach upon the Sun’s disk. We examined the shadows of trees and used small disco balls Jonathan had brought to look for small solar crescents. As totality neared, the sky began to darken, temperatures dropped, and the street lights turned on.

As the moon almost completely covered the sun, we could see a bright gleam of light on one side of the moon which was quickly becoming smaller.

Totality

After much anticipation, at 1:58 p.m., the time finally arrived.

Suddenly, the view was completely dark through my glasses. I heard my family yell, “Take off your glasses!” As other people did so as well, gasps, cheering, and shouts of awe and wonder could be heard.

I was not prepared for what I saw.

In a breathtaking moment, the last sliver of sunlight vanished and the corona – an indescribable, brilliantly white, powerful, wispy, ethereal halo – emerged.

Normally invisible against the brilliance of the Sun, its intricate streamers had a fluid movement. A few solar flares appeared. It looked surreal, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I’ve never seen anything remotely close to it.

While my son’s above photo turned out much better than my own, it is impossible to capture the captivating moment. Words cannot fully describe the spellbound effect of this spectacular phenomenon. This must be experienced in person.

A 360-degree sunset surrounded us and we were plunged into an eerie twilight. Planets and a few stars became visible in the darkened sky.

I was speechless for a moment, then the first thing out of my mouth was: “I had no idea it would look like this.” Everyone agreed.

For about 4 and a half minutes we stared in amazement at one of nature’s most spectacular displays.

As totality ended, the blinding burst of sunlight emerged and we quickly put on our eclipse glasses again.

Was it Worth It?

Yes, we traveled a great distance and risked unpredictable weather conditions. It took us 7 hours to drive back to our Airbnb, which normally was an hour and a half drive.

Was it all worth it? A resounding and enthusiastic yes!

In the end, I was eternally grateful, my sons talked me into this rare opportunity to have a fleeting glimpse of the eclipse’s spectacular beauty and the marvels of the universe. I am so happy that we could share this profound, spiritual, deeply moving, and unforgettable experience together as a family.

The Addiction

Interestingly, according to an article in Psychology Today, “An increasingly large group of people appear to have become almost ‘obsessed’ with the experience, leading them to pursue eclipses all around the globe, almost as if this had become a new ‘addiction.'”

Christopher may be one of those people, and is already talking about visiting Australia in 2028 to see another total eclipse.

In case you’re thinking about seeing a total eclipse here are the dates and places of the next ones, but you’ll have to travel far:

August 2, 2027: Total solar eclipse visible from parts of Morocco, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean.

July 22, 2028: Total solar eclipse visible from parts of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.

The next total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous U.S. is happening in August 2044, about 20 years from now.

Appreciate the Wonders of Life

Keep in mind that breathtaking moments aren’t limited to grand celestial phenomena such as solar eclipses. God’s creation and nature’s wonders surround us in our everyday life.  Embrace the beauty, seek new experiences, forge meaningful bonds, and you’ll discover a newfound sense of awe and gratitude for the world around us.

 

 

 

juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Loved your report of your trip, Julie and surprised to see your post so soon.
    Our oldest son and I saw the total eclipse in 2017. It was very cool and I will cherish my memories of that day with him forever.
    This time around, it was 90%. It was interesting, but to be honest, I enjoyed watching other relish in the moment more about it this time.
    Glad you had a great trip and hope you are resting up from all of it. That’s a lot to do in a short time.
    Thanks for your fun and informative article.

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks, Rosie! I was tired when I got home, but I wanted to get the blog written while it was all still fresh in my mind. It was a whirlwind trip and, admittedly, did take a few days to recover!

  2. Cat Michaels says:

    I’m so glad your family traveled all that way for the eclipse! I get the addiction to it. Experiencing totality in Greenville, SC, in 2017 profoundly shifted my perception of the world…something existing right in front of me in everyday nature, that I couldn’t see, made itself known. Thanks for sharing your trip.

    • juliegorges says:

      You were lucky to be in the path of totality in 2017. And what you said is so true. The things in nature that we don’t always get to see – it was a profound experience for us too!

  3. It was a bust for us in Delaware as it was a cloudy day. I purchased glasses via Amazon and didn’t even use them – lol

    • juliegorges says:

      So sorry it was cloudy for you. So many people had the same problem. We were worried since the weather report predicted some clouds in Missouri, but we were so happy they cleared in time. I guess you can always save your glasses for next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: