|On December the 4th 2002 outback
Australia was witness to a rare and incredibly beautiful event, a solar
eclipse. I make a point of seeing rare or spectacular
natural events and since this solar eclipse was in my back yard it was
an opportunity too good to miss. I planned to view the eclipse
from the road between Pt Augusta and Woomera, next to Purple Downs
station. When we got to the viewing point on the main road there
was cars and people everywhere. Usually on a trip from Pt Augusta
to Woomera you might encounter ten to thirty other vehicles, well there
was hundreds of vehicles lined up along the side of the road for this
event. There were people sitting in chairs next to and in front of
their cars, they had barbecues, it was a real carnival atmosphere.
A report in the news next day said there was about 3000 people that went
to the Purple Downs viewing site.
We arrived just over an hour before totality was due to occur. The sun was partially eclipsed. The partial eclipse is nothing spectacular at all. All that happens with the partial eclipse is the sunlight starts to look like the sort of light that you see at sunset, the only difference, in this case, is that the sun is still high in the sky when it happens. The real event is totality. It is too hard to describe in words how it looks and how good it is to see. We had positioned ourselves at the top of a small hill in the viewing area, everyone was either beside us or in front of us. As totality began, all I could here was a collective gasp from down the hill below me. It was as if the hill itself had gasped. It was like the gasp you hear when people watch fireworks. Given that most people down the hill were about 50 metres away (there was a road in between) they all must have gasped fairly loud for me to be able to hear it as loud as it was! - this is probably the best indicator of the image that you see. It is like a special effect you would expect to see on a movie screen, the only difference is that what you are seeing is real.
The viewing area (631kb)