So these two missionaries are imprisoned in a hut, awaiting their fate. Outside, they can see a large cauldron bubbling. Then one has an idea. “Hey, there’s an eclipse in two hours. Why don’t we tell them if they don’t let us go, we’ll make the Sun go dark? They’ll buy that.”
The other replies, “Yes, but I think their cauldron will reach boiling point before that.” Then he shouts for the Chief and asks him,”How long do we have until you – ?”
“Oh, in about two hours,” says the chief, “Right after the eclipse.”
I am reminded of this venerable anecdote by the fact that right now, as I type this, a solar eclipse is taking place outside. However, thanks to the sky being uncharacteristically overcast today, nothing is visible, here in Thailand.
Then again, the corridor is about 1,200 miles north of here, in China. Thus if the sky was clear, we would only see about 60% of totality – which is nothing. To see the full thing would require a 1,500-mile drive (and back again) to the northernmost point of Myanmar which, given the state of their roads (and their COUNTRY) would be, to put it mildly – ARDUOUS.
And it might be cloudy there, too.
In any case, I’ve already SEEN my eclipse. It happened in England, just before I left.
I had been aware that England would experience an eclipse in ’99 (when I would be forty-six) as far back as ’61 (when I was nine). Its path had been shown, in what turned out to be a great degree of accuracy, tracking across the West Country.
Thus when the papers began reporting it, it was not news to me. But if I’d known, back in ’61, the absurdities it would trigger in ’99 – I would not have believed it.
Like the schools that said they would keep their kids INSIDE – for fear of being sued by parents when they all went blind from looking at the Sun.
And the farmers who illegally blocked roads, trying to extort cash from people in return for using their fields to park up and watch the show.
Then there were the prices charged for hotel bookings in the area – and the “special” goggles that cost a few pennies to make…
But THIS reporter dodged all of that.
I set off in the small hours and reached the target area some four hours later. Then, having reconnoitered the whole county before most people even arrived, I selected a HILL right under the centre of the eclipse’s path, which faced the direction its shadow would approach from. I parked up and waited, alone.
Of course, being post-climate-shift England, the skies were CLOUDY (so much for all the bullsh*t measures detailed above) but every now and then, I caught a glimpse of the Sun, slowly being overlaid by the Moon.
Then it happened. As I gazed across the valley in front of me, the HUGE shadow sped towards me. And… PHOOOM! All was dark and silent (save from the noise of distant fireworks being set off by the prats in the valley, trying to “enhance” Nature’s greatest non-disastrous spectacle). All the birds had gone quiet. It was like the World had come to an end. Suddenly, I understood why primitive people fear the phenomenon. The atmosphere was… well, if you have not experienced it, I would have better luck trying to explain Beyoncé The Fiancée to a blind man.
Suffice to say, it had been worth the drive.
Then, all too soon, I saw the light zooming towards me, over the valley and… PHUT! It was over. The birds began singing again and without pause for ceremony, I jumped back into my chariot and headed for home.
The roads were clear, but it took me another four hours to return to Bedford. When I reached my flat I powered up my TV to see what had happened elsewhere. It was interesting. A tiny patch of beach had been the only spot in England where the clouds had been thin enough for anyone to actually see the corona – a bit.
And the roads I had just zipped back over were, four hours later – now GRIDLOCKED!
Further north, some areas had been cloud-free, but of course all they got was what we, here, WOULD have got, had the skies been as clear as they usually are. Not a lot.
No, you have to be IN the corridor to get the experience. Even through cloud-cover, my eclipse was something I will NEVER forget. And I only had to wait thirty-eight years…