First Class Eclipse Viewing

August 21, 2017

“I don’t think I could have imagined spending twenty hours driving back and forth to Oregon, in very slow traffic, for a two-minute event. Yet I now understand why people become eclipse chasers. Every so often you experience something that defies all that you have experienced before.”

Alan Butler, Principal Emeritus, TLCD

On August 21, 2017, I had the rare privilege of watching the total solar eclipse in Central Oregon. Out of the blue, a Cal Alumni Association Eclipse Event fell my way. This was not a hiking tent and portable toilet event in any way. Four hundred Cal Alums and families assembled at the Sunriver Resort in Bend, Oregon. We had three days of lectures and star-gazing led by Astronomy Professor Alex Fillapenko, who is a rock-star professor at Berkeley. We learned about Diamond Rings and Bailey’s Beads and lots of history of past eclipses. A number of those attending had seen six or seven prior eclipses. These prior eclipses involved traveling to Machu Pichu, Pacific Islands and in one case seen from a 757 jet over Iceland, not the deluxe event we were attending.

During the days before we heard lectures in the morning and evening and had time to enjoy Sunriver, which is a spectacularly beautiful place. On Sunday night things ended early so we could be up to get on buses to the eclipse site at 2:00 AM. This was to avoid the potential traffic apocalypse that never fully transpired. After catching a few winks on the buses, we stumbled out to breakfast at 5:30 AM. We were at Ranch at the Canyons which had been rented for just our group. With snowcapped Mt. Jefferson in the distance, and the cliffs of Smith Rock State Park in the background, I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to watch the eclipse. The partial eclipse began just before 10:00 am and lasted a bit less than an hour. A 99.9% partial eclipse is still a world away from totality. The bright flare of a Diamond Ring was the first thing we saw. Moments later the sun was a black disk in the sky with flares of light beyond its outer edge. The sight of it defies anything we have ever seen before and produces different reactions in the viewers. Some cheer, some cry and most, like me, just sit dumfounded. This lasted just under two minutes. The most spectacular sight was the silloutted climbers on top of Smith Rock with the black orb above.