Overcast at the hotel in the morning, but reports of some loosening of the clouds. By the time we got to Dishui Lake, others who got there an hour earlier said that the sky conditions had improved. There was a half-hour to first contact, and we weren’t sure if we’d ever see blue sky. Then, briefly, right on time, a hole opened up, and amid the cheering, when I could detect a nibble taken out of the Sun, blew my whistle and told everyone to look. Our large combined group was big and spread out, so not everyone heard me, and the MIT & UCLA people had their own experts anyway. Through a patchy opening, everyone saw it…maybe. Then the clouds closed up again, reopening a few minutes later when the nibble became a more definite bite.
The clouds continued teasing and tantalizing us by covering the Sun, then showing brightenings, then closing in as a heavy mass moved in from the north. Finally, a brief break about 50 minutes in clearly showed a deep partial through a thin layer.
Then, the clouds hid the Sun again. We were worried that we’d been done in, but tried to stay optimistic – hey, we saw first contact and the partial stage, so it hadn’t been a total loss.
Then, minutes before totality, a hole opened up in the clouds again, showing the thinnest crescent to applause from everyone. The sky darkened…BOY, did it darken – like a dark, stormy day. Finally…
Through an uneven patchwork of clouds, we saw totality, the corona clearly visible. That was it – no other part of the sky was visible, so we couldn’t try to see any planets. The eclipsed Sun played hide-and-seek, but it was amazing. Because of the clouds moving in and out, I never knew whether my shots were coming out, so I didn’t want to monkey around with different exposures. A friend who’s an experienced eclipse-chaser once told me that totality never lasts long enough, and it didn’t. Five minutes went by in a flash, and when I saw the diamond ring of third contact, I blew my whistle again. Applause…WE DID IT!!!
With totality over, the clouds allowed us to watch partiality for a little while, showing each other our pictures of the corona and talking excitedly about when the next eclipse will be. Then, the clouds came in and completely covered the sky over again, and everyone decided there wasn’t any reason to stay. As we headed back for the hotel, it started to rain – talk about timing! And it’s not even noon…we still have lunch coming, check-out, and a bus ride into Shanghai proper.
More on this memorable day in the next entry.