April 10, 2024

You watch, for over an hour, through your protective glasses, as the Moon’s dark disc progressively occludes the Sun. Darkness descends; the temperature drops. Finally only a crescent sliver remains.

Then none. Nothing now visible through your glasses. As instructed, you remove them . . .

And wow! The Sun is a black circle, in a dark sky, edged by coruscating brilliant white. A picture so counter to nature, the mind rebels.

Then the “diamond ring” as the first glimmer of the Sun’s re-exposed edge, a globule of light, bursts from the slowly moving shadow.

So far following the script. But now, something totally unexpected: the “diamond” suddenly exploding into a blazing fireball engulfing the whole Sun. This couldn’t be happening.

It’s understandable how daytime darkness would have unnerved earlier peoples. That fireball would’ve scared their pants off. Again, I never expected it, and some research has failed to confirm this as a known eclipse phenomenon. There’s some indication it may have been an optical effect as my eyes were adjusting. I did fairly quickly avert my eyes and put my glasses back. Yet I know what I saw in that moment, and it was quite dramatic.

Anyhow, I will probably never view the Sun quite the same again.

My wife and I had scoped out Tupper Lake, a few hours distant, as our best viewing bet; paid for a parking slot, and hotel room (exorbitantly priced) for eclipse night, to avoid likely heavy traffic exiting the totality zone. Her sister Catherine came from Waltham, MA, to join us. A last minute addition was my friend Sherrie Lyons, a science writer, whose other plans had fallen through.

We prudently left Albany shortly after 6:00; apparently the route north got congested a bit later. We stopped for half an hour along the way to reconsider our plans, checking weather info, and decided on Plattsburgh instead. Arrived there before 10:00; the free parking lot at Lake Champlain’s beach still had space.

It was chilly and windy, so I didn’t relish a whole day outdoors, but the gals insisted we stake out spots on the already crowding waterfront. It eventually warmed up, becoming a pleasant “Day at the Beach.” Mostly blue sky, with only a slight cloud haze. The eclipse began at 2:14.

After, we got to our Tupper Lake hotel with no traffic delays, and even, to my surprise, found a very nice and uncrowded restaurant for dinner (the Belvedere in Saranac Lake). Again avoided traffic returning to Albany next morning.

Meantime Sherrie and I had taken a long walk along the beach, joined by a lovely family (the wife a CBS News anchor). But it was delightful being among so many people, making a communal experience. It’s a great virtue of human civilization and culture that we thusly come together, sharing in such good spirit.