Wednesday, November 14

Breathtaking!

I've just witnessed one of the most extraordinary phenomena in nature. At exactly 6:38am this morning the Far North Coast of Queensland was bathed in the eerie twilight of a total eclipse for two minutes and five seconds. Without doubt the entire experience was worth a 24-hour dash to Port Douglas!

The experience was exactly as photos depict it.  However, I cannot begin to describe the sensation that accompanies totality.  The sky turns a dull blue/black, followed by the sudden appearance of a glowing white ring in place of the sun's dazzling disk. It's all very surreal and truly breath-taking. Surprisingly the eclipsed disk is far larger than you expect. The sun's relative size in the sky is clearly masked by its normal, blinding glare.

I arrived in Port Douglas shortly after lunch yesterday. The town was already buzzing with anticipation.  Tourists were pouring in to witness the eclipse, including two large cruise ships, anchored just offshore. In fact, everyone on my flight from Sydney seemed to be travelling north for the same purpose.  I had orginally planned to watch the eclipse from Four Mile Beach.  However, I recently learnt that the approaching high tide was likely to cover most of the shore. 

As a result, I booked a ticket on Calypso, a local tour boat.  With the weather forecast warning of intermitent cloud, a mobile viewing platform also seemed the safest bet.  This certainly proved true as clouds played havoc with our view right up until totality started.  Fortunately, the clouds parted in the final minute providing an unobstructed view of the famous diamond ring phenomenon. A minute or so later clouds swept across the sun's disk and we lost sight of the sun on the final minute of totality. We heard later the southern end of Four Mile Beach enjoyed a unobstructed view for the entire event.

As the clouds rolled in those of us on the boat used the remaining period of totality to soak up the scene around us. As we turned towards the beach, we witnessed thousands of camera flashes burst into life along the entire shoreline.  This spectacle, in the eerie twilight, was almost as stunning as the eclipse itself.  An estimated 10,000 people had gathered along the beach.  You can see them in the photo above about half an hour before the event. Everyone was clearly getting their money's worth!  

I'm totally hooked. I want to see another one. Sadly we'll have to wait until 2028 for the next eclipse visible from Australia. On July 22 at approximately 4:00pm the moon's shadow will once again sweep across Australia on a path that crosses the city of Sydney. It's incredible that astronomers can calculate its appearance literally to second, 16 years in advance.
 
Eclipse photos: Shane Branch, Director, Hibiscus Resort & Spa

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