Chris Cook’s Cornwall Caper

Posted On June 21, 2001

By Chris Cook

I've arrived home in California so I thought I'd give a quick report from our eclipse expedition to Cornwall, England. With the prospects of clear weather not being in our favor, myself, my wife Jennifer and two friends Dave Churchill and Jim Janusz ventured to the small village of Looe on the southern coast of Cornwall to witness the last total solar eclipse of the millennium. While this region did not offer the chances of clear skies like Turkey and Iran, we decided it would still make for a great vacation even if we did not see the eclipse. Which it did!

On the morning of August 11th, I awoke at 6:30am local time to a sky that was about 70% clear. Some nice large blue patches filed the sky with a beautiful orange sun rising in the east. At this point I became quite excited because each of the previous six mornings in England that week dawned cloudy and rainy. I thought "we're going to see it!!!" But unfortunately the clear weather did not last long. A front from the North Atlantic was moving in quickly. By 9:00am we were setting up our equipment under dull grey skies with periodic small blue breaks. We were able to view first contact through roughly a 50-60% partial before the clouds became to thick to view the solar disk. By about five minutes before totality, the light became noticeably strange and the temp was considerably cooler. With one minute to totality, the grey sky became eerily dark with the western horizon a very, very dark grey. Like severe thunderstorm but no thunder. Totality came as we were enveloped by the moon's shadow. The local village lights came on. The hill side in the distance became dotted by hundreds of reddish-orange points of lights, with the distant horizon being a dark yellowish color. The local seagull's became very confused with hundreds of birds flying in random directions. Almost hitting each other in mid flight. The roughly 1min 45sec of totality ended as the western horizon brightened and the moon's shadow raced onward across the English Channel.

With this being my first trip to a total solar eclipse, I was disappointed that totality itself had eluded us, but on the other hand the experience of still being engulfed in the moon's shadow and seeing day turn to night was something I will never forget. This experience will always have a special place in my memory. Perhaps a saying from a local (Cripple Cock) special "Eclipse '99" bottle of Scrumpy says it all from Cornwall, England. It says... "Has night just ended-or has day just begun? 'Who cares', crows Cripple Cock', I'll have another one." BTW, I'm hooked...

see ya in Africa on Jun 21, 2001!!!