Been there, done that? Eclipse chasers give extreme tourism a dark edge.
Some people will go to great lengths for a little shade.
They’ll travel thousands of miles on chartered flights, boats and buses to some of the world’s most remote spots, contend with foreign cultures and customs, and sometimes even brave politically volatile regions — and shell out some serious coin for the privilege. And they do it all to rapturously savor a majestic, made-in-the-shade moment: the eerie midday darkness of a total solar eclipse.
A lunar eclipse has just begun here in Utah’s Arches National Park, seen through the world-famous Delicate Arch, as the moon rises slowly above the horizon.
Jim Hardy/Getty Images
The price tag? Think down payment on a luxury car. The payback? Just a scant few minutes of darkness. Gazing slack-jawed at one of nature’s most astounding and profound cosmic spectacles? Absolutely priceless.
Eclipse chasers will tell you that witnessing your first eclipse is a potato-chip moment: One just isn’t enough. So planning for the next chance to stand in totality — those mind-blowing minutes of darkness when only the sun’s shimmering gossamer corona is visible — becomes the raison d’être for these so-called umbraphiles (loose Latin translation: shadow lovers).
“I can’t even describe it, except to say that it’s almost like seeing a violation of nature,” says Mike Kentrianakis, a technical supervisor for CBS News who’s viewed six total solar eclipses and five partials (which occur when the moon only partially obscures the sun). A resident of Astoria, N.Y., he gropes for words as he tries to describe what it feels like to watch darkness spread like ink across the landscape.
“The moon is winning and the sun doesn’t stand a chance,” he says. “You hear people start to go, ‘Ahh’ … then you see the pearly corona with a black hole in the center … ?suddenly there’s no more problems.
“It’s just emotionally overwhelming,” he finally concludes in a hushed voice.
Rick Brown, a commodity broker from Long Island, with 12 total eclipses under his belt, concurs.
“It’s indescribable,” he says. “It’s probably nature’s biggest show. At my first ?total eclipse, I was absolutely silent — totally awe-struck, staring at a black sun. I’ve heard people describe it as the blackest black you can imagine, or the eye of God. I think that nails it.”