Wednesday Morning, December 4, 2002, Helen Mahoney
Well, the day has arrived! Eclipse Day. Many of us have been looking forward to this day for years. (for me, since Aug 11, 1999 when the magnificent Turkey eclipse ended!). We’ve put on our great eclipse t-shirts and are heading toward the path of totality via Lyndhurst. There’s excitement in everyone’s voice.
So far, this trip has been wonderful. It’s our second trip with Dave, et al. "Al" this time being the very capable hands of Stuart. Doug and I saw most of what we came to see already – kangaroos in the wild, wild flocks of cockatoos Gallahs (including some who liked to sit in the trees around our Leigh Creek campsite), emus. Last night Mervyn and I stayed up until the entire southern Cross rose (finally got to see it properly). He pointed out Eta Carina, the jewel box, 47 toucani, the LMC, SMC, tarantula nebula and coal sac. He also pointed out that the biggest star cluster and brightest stars are seen from the southern hemisphere (not fair!). It’s gorgeous.
Hooray! We just crossed over the southern edge of the path of totality!! That means that we are inside the path the moon’s shadow will take in about 9 hours. I remember crossing this line on other eclipses too. It means we are here and will see the eclipse. Right now, it’s beautifully clear.
Off to the east, we see the tent city where the rave party is taking place. We’ve just entered the bustling metropolis of Lyndhurst. Our busload alone almost doubles the population; not to mention the several hundred multiply-pierced, barefoot, dred-locked young folk who poured into town. The tents along the road are dotted with portable toilets, souvenir stands, food stands (Chinese food – hot chips and cappuccino to mention one) and carnival attractions. It reminds me of the scene from "Contact". Others said it reminded them of Woodstock.
We’ve been waiting 2 hours for the farmer who has the keys to the property upon which we plan to see the eclipse to come. We’ve decided to plant ourselves in front of the gate and have lunch. We have a big truck and several engineers. We’ll get in………
Stuart, you thought visas for South Australia might be a problem – how about a bunch of absent-minded scientists who forgot to bring back the key? Well the locked gate proved to be no hindrance to a bus driver and his toolbox. Good work Tim – dare we say you showed a touch of Kiwi No. 8 wire ingenuity? Once through the gate the wonderful capabilities of a 4WD AAT Kings bus and Tim took us on a Tiki-tour of Witchelina Station.
Bill and Rose, like David and I, were bought up on the radio serial "Dad and Dave", and maybe even Mervyn will remember (sorry Vince and Stuart – you are too young). The point of all this being that the music for "Dad and Dave" was the Road to Gundegai with such words as these – "There’s a track winding back to an old wooden shack on the Road to Gundegai" and that song sprang to mind as we bounced along and finally found "Camp Eclipse". I reckon that track would be a real horror "in the wet".
There appeared to my inexperienced eye to be mirages on the horizon as we approached groups of trees that seemed to float; just above ground level.
Having found Shangri-La or the closest we’re likely to get this side of "Total", we, the passengers, sat back while Cam produced barbecued sausages between slices of bread and Man, did they hit the spot! And who needs salt and pepper when the wind blew a taste of fine sand over everything.
Then we competed with the wind in a tent-raising exercise. I dealt to my mozzie bites with a couple of handfuls of ice blocks from the Bar Esky and sat down to write out some of my memories since we left Lyndhurst before I forget (or before I have a "Senior’s Lapse").
It is 7:25 now and we have just come back down the hill from our first solar eclipse, "totally" amazed, but why didn’t time come to a long pause so we could see it all in detail. I think it was all a very fast blur, unfortunately, but my recollection is of wanting to keep on watching the other side of totality while the moon’s shadow moved across the sun again as it went down and what a sunset that was.- not one I’m ever likely to watch again. As the right-hand side began to dip toward the horizon, the left-hand side was a little bit higher and it looked like a baby’s pram or cradle.
Well I wrote that last paragraph before I went to join the post-eclipse party, and if that’s the best I could do when sober, I’m glad I didn’t try and write it after me and my big mouth and a glass and a half of Skillagaloo Gewürztraminer. I’ll leave the scientific minds to describe the real eclipse details and just say it was a moment in time I will never forget and thank God for the wonders of His world, and Stuart for giving me the chance to see it on this amazing experience in the Outback.
Read the Eclipse Reflections Here