On July 11, 1991 I stood witness to the longest total solar eclipse for the remainder of my lifetime.  I shared this experience with my wife, Karla, as the rapture of totality enfolded her for the first time.  This eclipse saw the debut of my first fully automated camera controller, which allowed me to WATCH this once-in-a-lifetime event.  Later giving rise to UMBRAPHILE, my first cybernetic incarnation ROSE to the occasion.  Later I will add more photographs to this page.  For now, here are the unedited notes I prepared on July 23, 1991, so that I might at some future date (such as now) recall these events with clarity - as if I could ever forget!

"The BIG One - July 11, 1991 - Baja California"

July 23, 1991, Baltimore, Maryland

For years I have been telling people: "If you are thinking about seeing a total solar eclipse once in your lifetime make it the eclipse of July 11, 1991 - and watch it from Baja California, Mexico".  Having just recently returned from Baja, where I reveled in umbraphillic delight while basking in the moon's shadow for the sixteenth time in my life, I am glad to say that as far as the time and location are concerned that I followed my own advise.  The choice between Baja and Hawaii for me had been an easy one.  Being unwilling to sacrifice nearly three minutes of totality, a sun almost at the zenith, and most importantly a deck stacked in Baja's favor in the game of meteorological poker, Hawaii was ruled out a Saros ago.  It now seems incredulous that it has been nearly two decades since, standing on the pitching deck of the HMS Canberra on June 30, 1973, I watched the last apparition in this family of great solar eclipses.  At that time, as the lunar shadow washed over us and moved off toward Mauritania, I remember vividly thinking and feeling "we'll meet again".  And it was so, a third of a world away, eighteen years and eleven days later.

My sojourn to Baja began on July 6, as our gang of three flew to Los Cabos.  My wife and mother-in-law both traveling with me ready to experience their first total solar eclipse.  Of course, our preparations for this excursion to El Gran Eclipse began years earlier.  During every eclipse I have ever observed I have been busy operating camera, telescopes, spectrographs and other equipment - stealing precious fleeting moments to take in the esthetic grandeur of total eclipse.  Half a lifetime ago I promised myself that when "the Big One" came around that I would lie down on a beach towel rest my head on a pillow, and with binoculars in hand simply watch totality in it's entirety.  I had made a self-imposed pact to enjoy this one to the fullest and not fiddle with any equipment during the eclipse.  This, however, did not conflict with my equally strong desire to capture this eclipse on film.  Quite some years ago I noted astrophotographer George Keene described a microprocessor based camera controller he had constructed.  And on that concept the seeds for my plans for the 1991 eclipse were sown.

After returning from Banka Island, Indonesia (having observed and photographed and observed the total eclipse of March 19, 1988), I began constructing an automated solar eclipse camera controller around a 6502 (8 bit) microprocessor.  Ultimately, this system would operate two cameras.  While most of this was a relatively easy software effort, the electrical/mechanical camera interface had to be worked out.  Initially I had planned to couple the computer, via a properly biased A-to-D converter to the camera's internal light metering electronics.  By injecting an appropriate signal in place of the camera photocell's output to the camera would be "fooled" into adjusting the exposure time to a pre-determined desired value.  After opening up my first camera, however, and staring into the tightly packed maze of integrated opto-electrical and mechanical components, uncoded sub-miniature circuit boards, and wires and twisted thin-strand ribbon cables disappearing into the bowels of the camera body I decided that this approach might not be prudent.

Ultimately, a second approach proved successful.  For the first (primary) camera I obtained a miniature 6 Volt DC high speed linear solenoid which was mechanically mounted, rigidly, directly above the camera's shutter button.  This solenoid, when run at 4x overvoltage (at 24VDC) has a 2 millisecond response time over a 3/8" travel delivering sufficient force to reliably trigger, hold open as desired, and close the camera shutter (i.e. the camera is left in its "bulb" setting).  The +24VDC solenoid power was switched on and off via a high speed (millisecond) 5VDC reed relay.  A 5V control line to the relay was a TTL buffered output from a 6522 I/O chip "talking to" the 6502 microprocessor chip.  The was similarly used to provide control signals to the second camera, and as the interrupt source for exposure sequencing and timing.

With a Nikon EM I found that the mechanical hysteresis in the shutter button mechanism was such that exposures shorter than 1/100th second could not be taken in this manner.  Exposures times of 1/100th of a second were reproducible to 2%.  This, then, was the shortest exposure which could be taken and was sufficient for the photographic program I had in mind.  The interrupt-driven control program was written with an interrupt rate of 0.01 seconds to service shutter manipulation, display and printer updates, keyboard polling, etc.  Exposures could be programmed through an interactively entered table to be started at specific Universal Times, with exposure durations from 0.01 seconds to 2.55 seconds with a granularity of 0.01 seconds.  A motor drive on the camera body handled the automatic advancement of the film after each exposure was taken.

The second camera (a Nikon FM2), with the 400mm lens, was used to fire a rapid sequence of 1/125th second exposures at second and third contacts to photograph the diamond ring sequences.  Eighteen exposures were taken at second and again at third contacts, at a rate of 3.5 exposures per second.  The starting and stopping of these sequences were initiated by the computer at the predicted contact times -3 and +2.4 seconds.

Amazingly enough, during the eclipse, the equipment worked exactly as planned.  I had my eclipse cake and could eat it too... my photographic program proceeded successfully [hands off!] and I did indeed get to watch the eclipse.

Returning to Baja, I arrived at Los Cabos international airport armed with several very official looking documents and letters (lots of stamps and signatures)  to help expedite the temporary importation of scientific equipment to Mexico.  This had been arranged with the grateful assistance of the COMES IA - UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico), and particularly with the assistance of Prof. Manuel Alverez.  The only problem we encountered when we arrived with our parcels of equipment and importation documents was that there were no customs formalities at Los Cabos.  We simply retrieved our cargo and left the airport.

The simplicity of entering Mexico was the first portent that things in Baja might not be as bad, logistically, as all of the dire predictions asserted.  We all had heard, and read, how the boarder would be closed after the first 25,000 vehicles were let in; the main road, Mexico 1, would be closed on eclipse day at 7AM; there would be shortages of gasoline and drinking water in Baja Sur; traffic jams were to be the rule rather than the exception; food might be scarce; the air space between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas was to close on 24 hours prior to the eclipse, etc.  We had been warned by "knowledgeable sources" to expect  our rental car (which we reserved six months earlier), and our rented condo (reserved more than a year in advance) might not really be available when we arrived.  While rumors of this sort tend to get promulgated at any eclipse they were particularly stressed and circulated for this one.  At least one government publication (the Baja Traveler put out by the  Ministry of Tourism) quoted estimates with the expectation as high as 800,000 people besieging Baja!

As it turned out, fortunately, all of these fears were completely unfounded.  None of these logistical nightmares even began to evolve.  Cabo San Lucas (where we were staying), and the area of Southern Baja up to, along and around centerline were calm, and serene.  The only time things picked up at all in Cabo was when two cruise ships pulled into port and discharged about 2000 eclipse-chasing tourist for a few hours of shopping.  It appears that a lot of people were scared off by the anticipation of a fiasco which never emerged.  The expected beaches littered with campsites were nowhere to be found - mostly empty stretches of beaches (with great snorkeling) were the rule.

Long before leaving for Mexico we had selected our primary, and several potential secondary observing sites.  Our primary site was near the very small town of Buena Vista, on the east coast of Baja 11.1 Km north of centerline.  Our plan was to join some eclipse-chasing friends and acquaintances (including Craig Small and  Sam Storch) who had led or a group down for the eclipse.  From the beach, just to the north of the "Rancho Buena Vista" the duration of totality was 6m 55.7s (loosing only 1.5 seconds from the centerline duration at the same mid-eclipse time). Our first drive from Cabo San Lucas to this site, about 110km by road, alaid all our fears about the reported inferior conditions of the road.  We made the trip, not counting a stop at the 6ft diameter concrete ball commemorating the crossing of the Tropic of Cancer, in an hour an 40 minutes, noting the availability of plenty of gasoline along the way.

We took the opportunity, over the next several days, to investigate a number of alternative sites and see first hand - after investigating the situation remotely for years - how the local weather really behaved.  The weather situation in southern Baja was exactly as expected with little deviation from the climatological norm, or variations from anticipated local effects.  I had always planned to observe the eclipse from the east coast.  As expected, during the early morning hours as the land heated up cumuloform clouds built up along the inland hills and were supported by local heating further eastward on the flatter inland portion of the far southeast portion of the peninsula.  But morning coastal cloud tended to dissipate shortly after sunrise.  On two days very thin cirriform cloud was noted at several locations along the coast at eclipse time - but fortunately not on eclipse day!  At least one large tour group of about 500 people (Twilight Tours led by Joel Harris) was planning to observe near La Cueva.  We had noted on three visits to that area prior to the eclipse that remnant cumuloform cloud from the hills to the west could extend that far east and though we wished them the best of luck we had subsequently learned that they were clouded out of half of totality.

{Added later: During one such excursion we stopped in San Jose del Cabo to join, and have lunch with die-hard eclipse chasersWendy Carlos, Laura Kay, and John Beattie.  It was there, at a restauraunt in town, that I lost my red "United States Antartic Research Program" baseball cap, which had been my favorite since I worked seven years earlier (for the first time) at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station.  If some other eclipse chaser subsequently found it I would still *REALLY* like to get it back.  A long-standing reward is still being offered.}

On eclipse morning we awoke at 5AM (local time), and with the first light of dawn the skies were as clear as we had ever previously noted in the wee hours of the morning.  A good omen, perhaps.  By 5:30, equipment loaded into our car we were on the road heading for our primary site.  We planned to get an early start to beat the road closings (which never happened), and the traffic jams.  On the drive to Buena Vista on eclipse morning we saw at most a dozen cars on the road.  We covered the 110km in record time (for us), only an hour and a half.  By the time our equipment was unloaded, at 8AM local time, the sky was steel blue and severe clear - a uniform dark blue right up to the sun's edge.  Perfect conditions for the eclipse.  We could see low cumuloform cloud on the western horizon, which stayed there (as they usually do) and did not encroach toward the coast.  Although our go/nogo decision time for this site was 9AM, by 8AM we knew the eclipse would be "in the bag" and we began moving equipment to our site and setting up.

The computer and ancillary equipment to operate the automated cameras were designed to run on batteries, but the owner of Rancho Buena Vista kindly offered the use of AC power from his home.  To reduce the risk of Murphey's Law striking I took him up on his offer and ran an 80 meter extension cord from his house to the observing site.  This allowed me to set up a large circulating fan to keep the computer well ventilated in the near 100-degree temperature.  After several hours, shortly after first contact all of the equipment was set up, the computer program loaded, and the exposure time/duration table entered for this site.  During the partial phase ingress I had the computer run through it's control sequence to verify that the cameras would operate as planned.

For this eclipse, the first camera was mated to a Celestron Ultima-8 telescope with a 0.5x focal reducer giving an effective focal length of 1000mm at f/5. The second electrically fired camera (with the 400mm lens), was piggybacked on the telescope with a vibration damping coupling.  Kodachrome 25 Professional film was used both in this, and in the camera with the 400 millimeter lens.  The exposure sequence for the Celestron would begin with exposures at Contact Two -3, -1, +1, +3 and +8 seconds with exposure times of (0.01, 0.02, 0.03, and 0.04 and 0.05 seconds [1/100, 1/50, 1/33, 1/25 and 1/20 seconds]).  This sequence would be repeated in inverted order at Contact Three.  Throughout the rest of the eclipse exposures were taken at equal time intervals, increasing in duration to mid-eclipse, and then decreasing to third contact.

Approximately fifty people had set up an array of diverse equipment at this site.  On the ground were scattered white bed sheets (for shadow bands), a polished old hub cap (for a panoramic view), and lots of liquid refreshment to help keep people cool.  Camera tripods were weighted down with bags of sand and sported an incredible assortment of camera and video equipment.  A cry went out at first contact - a milestone of interest heralding things to come.  Old timers and totality addicts (such as myself) noted this with mild interest only and kept on setting up and testing equipment, while occasionally watching the progress of the partial ingress.

Throughout the first hour of ingress the light level diminished as measured by simple photometers and light meters, and 45 minutes after first contact the temperature which had risen to 97 degrees leveled off.  The first cooling effects on the upper atmosphere were about to be felt at ground level.  Half an hour before second contact the effect of the diminished lighting was visually apparent.  While the eye adapted to the decreased level of illumination the shift in coloration, and the sharpening of shadows was noticed even by first-timers.  At contact-2 minus twenty minutes my wife and I each donned eye patches to dark adapt one eye prior to totality.  As usual this trick drew strange looks from the uninitiated, but, as it has before, turned out most valuable once totality arrived.  With the WWV receiver turned on and the computer synchronized to Universal Time,  we stretched out our beached towels and prepared to watch the show.  I was going to keep my self-imposed pact and watch the eclipse.  During the remaining time prior to second contact I did make a few centering checks on the telescope (the clock drive was, happily, very well aligned), and several minutes before totality made final focusing adjustments - as the telescope tube continued to slowly cool.

Five minutes prior to totality the temperature was a very pleasant 85F and still slowly dropping, the light level was down to 32 candles (6.8% of pre-eclipse illuminance), and the air eerily still. The latter has always struck me notably.  In this eclipse, as with others I have seen, there was a hush in the air - any trace of wind just died minutes before the eclipse.  This was probably just the effect of the cooler heavier upper atmospheric air having dropped to ground level, quelling any lateral air movement.  Yet it seems as if nature was preparing a stage for the great event about to unfold.

The specific predicted time of events for our site (which post-eclipse were found to be in agreement to a few tenths of a second) were as follows:

 Contact-II  Smooth Limb Tangency = 18h 49m 24.16s
 Contact-II  End Diamond Ring     = 18h 49m 27.99s
 Contact-III Start Diamond Ring   = 18h 56m 17.53s
 Contact-III Smooth Limb Tangency = 18h 56m 19.84s

The following chronology of notable events prior to, during, and just after totality has been reproduced from notes and audio recordings made at the observing site:

18:46:00 U.T.  Three minutes and 24 seconds prior to the second contact diamond ring, the light level had dropped to 8 candles only 1.7% of full sunlight.

18:46:30 U.T.  The sky over the western horizon, over the distant hills, began to take on a distinct pink (chromospheric induced) color.

18:46:45 U.T.  Venus was easily seen to the east of the sun.

18:47:34 U.T.  Sky rapidly darkening, brightness gradient from western to eastern sky visibly obvious.  Light reading 4 candles.

18:47:50 U.T.  Distinct, though slightly amorphous, lunar shadow could be seen approaching from the west.  A wall of fuzzy darkness creeping across the sky.  The slowness of its motion, in comparison to other eclipses, was most impressive.

18:48:00 U.T. Cries of "It's coming!", "You can see the shadow.", "See it?", erupted around the observing site.

18:48:20 U.T. An amalgam of voices: "The horizon's pink!" "You can see the shadow", "Silver Lining!"

18:48:34 U.T. "Just Look", "Oh Man".  The shadow had become a very distinct line seen over the clouds hugging the hills to the west. "Looks like a storm coming".

18:48:40 U.T. Forty seven seconds before second contact the corona became visible to the unaided eye by blocking out the remaining sliver of photosphere with a thumb at arms length.  In binoculars, by holding the photospheric slice out of the field, coronal detail to a full solar radius on the western edge of the disk was visible.  Filaments more than half a minute before totality!

18:48:50 U.T. The remaining arc of photosphere was slightly curved but perceptually almost linear.  The moon was so much larger, angularly, than the sun this was a strange site.

18:49:00 U.T. "Oh my God, Look at that."

18:49:12 U.T. The verbal countdown begins to smooth limb tangency: "-12, -11, -10, -9, -8, -7".  A few cameras clicking already.

18:49:18 U.T.  Minus-6, A primal cry "AAArrrggaaaahhooowwww" shatters the air.  Umbraphiles again were getting their long awaited fix.

18:49:21 U.T. Shouts, Cries, Screams, incoherent moans and exclamations reverberate.  The photosphere extincting to a single broad bead.  The corona  becoming easily visible, even on the eastern side.

18:49:22 U.T.  Through the audible outpouring of awestruck emotion and the din of syncopated shutters snapping I heard my two cameras being fired by the computer.  The automated photographic sequence has begun as scheduled as the last tiny sliver of photosphere began to shrink to a single point.

18:49:24 U.T.  DIAMOND RING. The photosphere began to wink out and the true glory of the corona began to be revealed.  Staccato punctuations of surprise, delight, joy and incredulity propagated in the still air.
18:49:28 U.T.
The diamond ring fizzled to a dim ember and was instantly gone.  "HERE WE GO", "OH, MY GOD - OH, MY GOD", "OH! OH! OH!",  "I DON'T BELIEVE IT", "THAT IS SPECTACULAR", "HOLY MOTHER OF {expletive deleted}".  From fifty people and fifty different intonations unified in the totality of eclipse.  And so began six minutes and 52 seconds of a lifetime.  The long awaited great total solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 had descended and engulfed us.  Staring down from near the top of the sky, like the eye of God surveying his domain, the corona enshrouded moon tapped our cerebral cortices and filled our senses in unparalleled fashion.  "The heavens declare the glory of God" - and old biblical phrase known to many; a new, affirmed and immediate reality to it being enfused and etched into our souls as the seconds began to tick by.

18:49:33 U.T. The second contact diamond ring now history the chromosherically brightened innermost region of the corona at the east-south-eastern edge of the lunar disk quickly faded.  Not much chromoshphere was seen, probably due to the combined effect of the geometry of coverage (the moon being 8% larger than the sun, angularly, would cover the less-arced chromosphere very quickly), and the somewhat unanticipated brightness of the most interior region of the corona.  This, perhaps, was the brightest coronas I have seen in my twelve clear total solar eclipses.  I suspect this may be attributed to combined effects of being close to sunspot maximum, having the sun nearly at the zenith (only 1.0075 air masses of extinction), and the phenomenal clarity of the Baja sky.

18:49:40 U.T.  The first naked-eye prominence is spotted near the limb at a Position Angle of approximately 140 degrees.  Impressive by the purity of its hue, but somewhat muddled as it is located in a bright spot in the inner corona.  This, for now, the dominant of very few prominences - and the few others very small (not visible to the naked-eye but quickly noted in 7x50 binoculars) and close to this one on the edge.

18:49:45 U.T.  Following second contact it was not the eastern-limb prominence that stole our attention but the corona.  What a corona - virtually indescribable.  {Since the eclipse, no photographs or videos I have seen even begin to do justice to its majesty}.  The amount of fine structure, filamentary detail, plumage and extended asymmetrical radial streamers were flabbergasting.  My initial assessment at this time was that the streamers in the near-equatorial direction extended three solar radii.  But then I removed the eye patch which had been covering my right eye.  Like opening up the f/ring on a stopped down camera lens the radial coronal extensions immediately bloomed to 5 solar radii as my dark adapted eye began sending visually enhanced signals to my brain.  The corona, which previously was astounding, took on a new magnitude of beauty.  Tendrilly detail threaded through streamers and plumage alike, unseen or just barely on the edge of detectability at the start of totality literal sprang into view.  For several seconds, when my eye patch was first removed (as the corona flowered and bloomed outward), my brain was receiving conflicting signals.  The return of depth perception was immediate - but the site I was viewing so strange (and distant) it left me for a fraction of a second in discord.  Even with one eye fully dark adapted, and one only beginning to respond to the lowered light level of eclipse that wonderful optical processing unit comprised of the optic nerve and brain had no trouble reconciling the disparate inputs.  Visually the results were astounding.  If anything the dynamic range of the perceived image seemed increased overall as if the faint outer detail seen by the dark adapted eye was overlaid and integrated with much brighter inner coronal detail seen with both eye.  Under such a condition I have found that the secretion of rhodopsin in the non-dark adapted eye proceeds at an accelerated rate and that eye adapts more quickly than if the other were not already preconditioned to the low light level.  Without launching into a physiological diatribe I simply want to stress that the "eye patch trick" really does work, and I would urge every eclipse watcher to take up this technique.

18:49:55 U.T.  Returning to binocular viewing the scene was astounding.  In a 7 degree field, with the sun centered, some of the coronal streamers now extended beyond the edge of the field.  Thus they were at least 6 solar radii in length measured radially outward from the lunar limb!

18:50:22 U.T.  Almost one minute of totality gone.  I took a few seconds to take my eyes away from my binoculars and looked around the sky.  First noted, and easily spotted were Castor and Pullox just to the north of the Sun.  Then in a line extending half way up the eastern sky toward the Sun were Venus - dominating the sky - Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury.  The latter fainter, but clearly visible.  Looking southward Procyon and further south Sirius shone, North Westward from there both Betelgeuse and Rigel marking two corners of Orion.  I could not, however,  make out the belt stars of Orion, naked-eye.  Toward the west, Aldeberan faintly gleaming.

18:50:44  U.T.  Lying back and looking at the corona its full extent now seen to six solar diameters.  Nearly halfway to mid-eclipse as we were getting closer to being centrally located in the lunar shadow the sky near the zenith was still darkening.  I have to admit I had not considered this earlier, and the even-more-greatly extended corona (the streamers and outer region in even greater contrast against the background sky) then before caught me off guard.

18:51:12 U.T.  The lunar shadow was now, visually, much closer to being centrally located.  Even now, one minute and 40 seconds before mid-eclipse the sky was red all around the horizon.  On my audio tape three cries of "Look at those streamers", "The streamers are incredible", "What streamers!".  Clearly, the visual show stopper for the moment.

18:51:27 U.T.  A rapid brightening, a hot spot, in the inner corona at the lunar limb began to appear at a position angle of approximately 300 degrees (about the "11:30" position as we were facing toward the sun looking eastward from the zenith). From this location, which would brighten over the next minute and a half THE spectacular prominence would emerge.  The first glimpse of the top of that prominence became visible in the next few seconds - though at this point still not very impressive - just notable.

18:51:48 U.T.  The prominence on the eastern edge, most visible shortly after second contact, while still visible was becoming less so as it was being covered up more and more by the moon.

18:51:58 U.T.  A piercing shout from across the observing site was heard "I've got the belt of Orion in the Fuginon's" {binoculars}.

18:52:02 U.T.  The shout continued... "I got 42, damn it, I did it."  A particular desire of Sam Storch's was to see M42 in July.  He got his wish.

18:52:35 U.T.  Even 17 seconds before mid-eclipse the western horizon was seen, easily, to be lightening up.  We were now nearly centrally placed in the shadow.  It was time to lie back, again, to just stare at the eclipse and drink it all in.

18:52:52 U.T.  Mid-eclipse.  Was the glass half empty, or half full?  Everyone there, afterward felt it was half empty.

18:53:28 U.T.  "Look at that prominence up there.  This is spectacular".  THE prominence mentioned at 18:51:27 began to show itself more clearly.  Still, not overly bright at that time, but detail in its upper portion above the lunar limb was magnificent.
18:53:47 U.T. 
"Look how bright that prominence is, just look at it, that little bead up there".  Everybody shouting "look how bright that it", "like diamond ring already".  The base of THE prominence emerged over seconds, apparently, along a local depression in the lunar limb profile.  The inner corona at that point was rather faint (comparatively), a local depletion zone.  THE prominence, which had been hinting at its preeminence for over two minutes burst forth.  It's appearance as if someone had switched on a ruby laser on the moon's limb and beamed it Earthward.  An intense spot of pure elemental fire.  With the purity of hydrogen-alpha and the intensity to nearly rival a photospheric Bailey's Bead, THE prominence greeted everyone in a big way.  It stunned and was stunning - and it was big, and getting bigger.  For the remainder of the eclipse much attention would be focused on THE prominence.


18:54:40 U.T.  Carefully, so as not to jar the telescope, I took my first look through the camera view finder on the focal reduced Celestron-8.  The image was still well centered - the telescope tracking well, the computer mechanically clicking off exposures, oblivious to the out-pouring of human emotion erupting audibly and internally echoing from and in each of us.  THE prominence and the inner coronal detail was striking at that image scale.  Yet, somehow the view through the 7x50 binoculars, and even naked-eye somehow was more esthetically pleasing.

18:55:00 U.T.  One minute and 17 seconds to third contact diamond ring.  Time, again, to just watch.  Or as so eloquently recorded on my tape a few seconds later as stated by some unknown source "Just look at the sun, the hell with the stars now".

18:55:20 U.T.  The western edge of the inner corona was now becoming noticeable brighter as the innermost part of the corona began to be revealed.  The first real visual indication that the eclipse would soon be coming to an end.

18:55:45 U.T.  "It's getting brighter", "Yes it is", "Not long now" (Actually, still 32 seconds until the diamond ring).
18:56:00 - 18:56:13 U.T.
18:56:00 U.T.  A number of small prominences were seen along the western and northwestern edge of the disk.

18:56:08 U.T.  "It's getting light from the west", "Get ready".

18:56:13 U.T.  The chromosphere became visible in a short arc along the western and northwestern edge of the disk.  The length of the chromospheric line extending over the next few seconds.

18:56:14 - 18:56:17.5 U.T
In a single breath, voice speeding up and increasing in volume and pitch over three and a half seconds - starting calmly and ending frantically: "Spectacular.  Ah, your seeing, chromosphere now. that-reddish-lineHereComesTheDIAMONDRINNGGG!!!"

18:56:18 - 18:56:22 U.T. "OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!WHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! YEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!!"  {This looses something in the transcription}.

18:56:23 - 18:56:47 U.T.  Amazing stunned silence.  After the initial outcries at the end of totality nearly everyone remained in stunned silence for about 15 seconds as if the eclipse had stolen our ability to speak.  Then with the corona still visible at 18:56:48 U.T. - by again blocking out the thin arc of photosphere with a finger - all Haydes broke loose.

18:56:50 U.T.  Cheers, Screams, Primal gut emotive spill over.  No words, just sounds.  Applauding.  Back slapping.  Hugging.  Crying.  Slowly, with the corona STILL visible, but fading at Contact-III + 45 seconds, and Venus still shining in the east and the shadow racing eastward over the Sea of Cortez, sanity slowly returned.

It was over.  A 99% partial eclipse was beginning to wane, but only a few took note.  IT - The Big One, El Gran Eclipse was over.  Decades of anticipation, years of planning, the longest remaining eclipse for many lifetimes and it was over.  In the midst of the jubilant celebration over our success and good fortune that reality cascaded down like a ton of bricks.  So much effort and energy and it was over.  But in it's ending the eclipse brought on not a feeling of termination, but kindled eclipsomania in first time eclipse viewers and sparked the inextinguishable flame of shadow chasing in the truly addicted.  It was over, but that is not what was exclaimed.  The shouts were: "Only 354 days till the next one!" and "We'll meet again, under the moons shadow".  And they were right, we will meeting again in a syzygal alignment of Sun, Moon, Umbrahiles, and Earth.

{description of photographs removed until thy are added to this Web page}

Without changing tracks too much, but wearing a different hat, I would like to take this opportunity to report on a rather different "observation" of this solar eclipse.  As an astronomer in the Science and Engineering Support Division of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the impact of this eclipse on the Hubble Space Telescope's electrical power system has been of particular interest to me for a number of years.  While I was enjoying myself in Baja, the HST telemetry system was dutifully reporting on the state of the spacecraft's power reserves as it orbited from day to night, and in and out of the moon's shadow.  I have prepared a short summary, with an accompanying figure, which describes how Hubble "saw" the solar eclipse (sorry, no pretty pictures - we cannot point the telescope within 50 degrees of the sun).  This will appear in the STScI observatory monthly engineering report.  Some time ago, an article by Tom Sherrill in ASTRONOMY was devoted to this topic, so if you think this might be of passing interest to a more general readership feel free to reproduce any of this.  These engineering data are non-proprietary.

In closing, let me thank you for your time, consideration and patience.  It is difficult for me to too curtly synopsize an eclipse which I have waited for more than half a lifetime to observe.  Best wishes for continued clear skies and good seeing in all of your astronomical endeavors.

 Glenn Schneider