Friday, 28 July 2017

What is Eclipse Chasing?

These past few months a lot of us have been asked about eclipse chasing, who we are, what we do, and that sort of thing. It has caused me to reflect more on the subject than ever before. And it is difficult to convey the passion without sounding like a lunatic or someone who needs a prescription for some chill pills.

So I will start with a couple of simple to understand descriptions of what solar eclipse chasing is all about.

Total Solar Eclipses are amazing to behold. 

And I choose these words carefully. It is amazing. You see stuff you can only see during a total solar eclipse. Stuff like the corona, chromosphere, prominences, and a well, it is a strange thing to see. Very cool actually. And you don't just "see" a total solar eclipse, you behold it. It becomes part of your essence. A surreal spot in time where you found yourself immersed in the shadow of the Moon. You become part of the solar system, you feel it moving, and when the diamond ring appears at third contact, you really do feel enlightened.

Eclipse Chasing is travel with a specific purpose, sometimes to exotic locations. 

Once again I have chosen the words carefully. The travel is specific, we want to a total solar eclipse. The travel will take us through a specific area at a specific time. And we have a clear purpose, to see the total solar eclipse. Some may think that the purpose can get a bit extreme such as chartering back up aircraft for rapid relocation or for getting above the clouds. Adding the sometimes to exotic locations to the description is where many find us interesting. Who else do they know that goes camping in the jungle? Who else do they know that goes to the polar regions? Who else might they know that takes cruises into the deep blue ocean to remote or rarely visited islands?

You wanna ask me what?

Examples of questions asked by the reporters.

Are there a lot of solar eclipse chasers?

There isn't any way to really answer that question. That answer varies depending on the eclipse circumstances, where you can see it, how many people live near it and so forth. When looking at very remote locations like the polar regions maybe a hundred or so people can get to the eclipse path. Perhaps that number is more like several hundred using aircraft and ships. If the eclipse is out in the deep blue sea, far from the normal cruise ship routes, a few hundred or thousand might see it from chartered vessels. And when the eclipse passes over very populated area like the USA or China or Europe, the number is more in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.

What profession do solar eclipse chasers have?

Everything. The common myth is that all solar eclipse chasers are older white guys and while there are a few of those (after all, they have lived long enough to see more than a dozen eclipses) that is not the biggest demographic all the time. Travel to the jungles of Africa, to the polar regions, almost anywhere, is not easy. It costs money and time. So retired folks have the time, but do they have the passion? Some do. How about professionals? Sure! And what about astronomers? Of course!

How do you afford eclipse chasing? Are eclipses chasers all rich?

Now this is difficult. A lot depends on your income level and lifestyle. The key is, how much of a priority it becomes. If you scrape the money together, find some financial aid, help in group travel - you can do it. Not a lot of opportunities, but with the right passion it happens. For myself, it meant skipping vacations to save up money and time for an eclipse chase. It meant skipping a few eclipses because I could not get the time or money to work it out. So not every eclipse chaser is rich. Some are, lucky them, and others aren't rich with money, still lucky because they chase eclipses! So yes, eclipse chasers are rich in experience and passion and some even have money too.

It seems most Eclipse Chasers are Americans, is that true?

To a certain extent that is true if you search only English web sites. There are web sites in other languages devoted to eclipses and I know quite a few eclipse chasers who are not American. There are quite a few from Canada, Australia, and the UK who fit into the English speaking types. Of those, there are more American eclipse chasers. Do keep in mind that eclipse chasing is international in scope. So it depends when the eclipse is taking place and where as to what the national demographics will work out to be. This summer, hands down, there are more eclipse chasers in America. (Note that Europe won that distinction in 1999, China in 2008, and so on.)

How does one become an Eclipse Chaser?

Go see one, then plan to go see another one. That makes you an eclipse chaser. Or just plan to go see one, you are an eclipse chaser, a virgin eclipse chaser, but still one of us with the passion. Once you have seen one, then log in to the web site to log your eclipse - you are now an official eclipse chaser by all respects.

This summer a whole new crop of eclipse chasers will be born. Another eclipse will cross America in 2024 and I am sure most that see this one coming will want to see it again.

Which eclipse was your favorite?

ALL OF THEM! Depends what kind of experience or travel or what ever we are talking about. My first, my last, my wife's first, my kid's firsts, my friend's first - all are great. I cannot pick a winner. That is like picking your favorite toy as a child, it is the one in front of you at the time. I am passionate about all of them, so are most serious eclipse chasers.

Do you have plans for future eclipse travel?

Yes, I have already signed up for a cruise to darkness in 2019 and am investigating options for the next couple before 2024. If all goes well, I will have seen over an hour of totality in 2019! That is an exciting mark, too bad this summer's eclipse isn't a bit longer in duration.

Just how many eclipses have you seen?

This summer will be my 17th total solar eclipse. The complete log can be viewed as a world map at:

 More to come soon....

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