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Helen

The Total Chinese Solar Eclipse Experience

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On 16th July Jean and I set off for our solar eclipse adventure. Mike drove us to Heathrow and the trip started well when we were told we'd been upgraded to Club World (never happened to me before).

We had 5 days of China before the Eclipse - I'll keep to the Eclipse report here, but will post some general China photos/details in a lounge thread later.

So on 22 July the day arrived. We were up at 4:45 for a 5:30 pick-up (although I must admit to getting very little sleep that night) and off we went in a minivan with a guide and our breakfast boxes to a promenade alongside the Qiantang River. The weather forecast was proving accurate and it was very cloudy. We were early enough to have our choice of pitch and so we decided to go for atmosphere - and pitched next to a Buddhist temple!

So here's me set up and ready to go (at 7:00)

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2259-me1.jpg

The bin liner proved to be a very good idea as it then decided to rain heavily. Despite this, thousands of Chinese started to arrive and the whole place gained a party atmosphere. It really felt like we were part of a local celebration.

First contact time came and went under very heavy clouds - at this point it looked like we wouldn't see the sun at all. But 40 minutes or so in and the whole place erupted into noise and action as the sun revealed itself behind the clouds :)

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2260-before1.jpg

The sun played hide and seek through until just before totality, then it got really shy and disappeared behind dark clouds - and then the heavens opened! And the cloud stayed all the way through totality. But that didn't actually stop the experience! The light faded rapidly and the temperature dropped dramatically too (to a rather nice temperature from very hot and sticky). And it was dark for a long time! The noise was incredible, and being the Chinese there was a firework display across the river during totality, and the Temple used its gong to good effect too!!!

After 3rd contact the light increased rapidly and remarkably the clouds started to clear. So unusually the time between 3rd and 4th contact was a time of real interest (usually once totality is over there can be a lack of interest).

I'd long ago decided that proper photography was not going to be my priority and so just enjoyed the experience with the PST (which had spent pre-totality under its bin liner for shelter!). I took the PST on Mark's advice ( thanks Mark!). I was really popular!!!! The local Chinese were really curious about us westerners anyway, but when I got the PST out the interest reached new levels! I had people of all ages coming to have a look - and the reactions were amazing (lots of excited oohs and aahs).

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2261-group1.jpg

And people kept coming back as the sun grew...

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2248-group2.jpg

We also shared our equipment around which was great - Jean did wonder if her binos would ever get passed back up the row! and my baader camera filter caused much excitement for a couple of photographers who took greatdelight in showing me what they'd captured with it!

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2262-photographer.jpg

I took a couple of quick and dirty handheld shots of the partial eclipse just to remind me (certainly not good enough to warrant a post in the imaging section!!!)

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2256-mid.jpg

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2255-last.jpg

We made particular friends with a little girl called Linwenqi and her family. She's 11 and learning English. As a thank you for using the PST she gave us refreshments and then charms for our phones. The only thing I could think of to give in return was my head torch - the smile she gave me when I gave it to her will stay with me for a long time! (addresses were swapped!)

helen-albums-china-eclipse-picture2263-linwenqi.jpg

Hopefully we've inspired a few more budding astronomers.

It was a shame we didn't see totality. It would have been nice to have seen it, but even better to have witnessed the Chinese raction to it!! And knowing that other people in the area did get to see more than we did around totality did just make us think that maybe we should have been somewhere else. But that said, it was an amazing experience all round, particularly being the only westerners amongst the local Chinese, and we wouldn't have missed it for the world :)!

Helen and Jean

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Helen and Jean,

That sounds like a truly wonderful trip. What an experience, not only from the astronomy point of view - the eclipse - but also culturally, all those people together in a different country, the temple, the gongs at totality, it sounds fabulous! I can almost feel the atmosphere sat here in my bedroom.

Even though you didn't get a clear sky it is wonderful that you still managed to feel those other effects of a total eclipse - drop in temperature and so on, when normally the attention would on the Sun and it's decreasing size!

It is wonderful that you shared your experience (and equipment!) with other people too. A really heart warming report.

:)

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Thanks for the wonderful read and great pics, Helen.

Linwenqi's smile just about says it all, doesn't it?

Absolutely priceless!! :)

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Thanks guys. Yep, that smile is priceless!!

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That must have been amazing to be there with the locals and to get up graded on the flight!

I like the sharing of the equipment must have made the atmosphere great.

Neil C

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Well Helen and Jean, it looks like you had a great time and did your bit for the IYA and Sino-British (Sino-Welsh?) relations.

Absolutely lovely picture of the little girl.

Mike

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Nice account of the trip Helen. Shame you didn't get the totality.

I know how you feel. I missed in 1999 in Devon for the same reason.

You've had a wonderful experience just the same, and something you will not ever forget.

The little girl in the picture won't forget you either, she will be a very happy young lady.

As Mike said, you have probably done more than the Diplomats to improve relations with that huge country's people.

Of course the Images are good enough. Post them in there.

I hope Jean enjoyed it all too. How could she not.:)

Ron.

Edited by barkis

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Great report Helen. So sorry you didn't get to see totality but it sounds like the atmosphere you enjoyed and shared with the locals made up for it somewhat. That little girl is adorable and she will probably remember your friendship and gift for a long long time.

I got back from the cruise late Thursday and have been busy unpacking and readying myself for a return to work on Monday. I'm still sorting out my photos from the eclipse cruise and will post a report asap.

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Wonderful report Helen it must have been a great experience especially with the local Chinese people with you. It is a pity that you missed Totality but I am sure that the total darkness together with the reaction from people and the grateful smile from the little girl will make up for it.

I am glad that you took the PST as suggested because it a great crowd attraction especially with those that viewed through it because they will never forget it.

Mark

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Well, you didn't get the complete experience you wanted, but something else unexpected and enjoyable happened. How marvellous is that?:)

Glad you and Jean had a memorable time.

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What a great report, Helen it looks like you made some new friends too - perfect apart from the clouds!

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Thanks guys! (and thanks again to Ian and Mark for the great advice before we went).

Its all starting to sink in now - I came back with such a heavy cold that most of last week I wasn't in a fit state for really thinking about all the things we did in such a short time. I now need to work through the photos....

Helen

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Hi Helen,

I'm still (and probably always will be) awestruck by the Chinese eclipse, as it was my first total, and it was only by chance really, that I was able to witness it. Here's my account which I posted on other forumses (yes, that is the "official" pluralism) on Monday 27th July 2009. The photos aren't brilliant as I am new to photography, and I had little in the way of filtering (ray-bans, held infront of the lens proved best comprimise), enjoy and relive:

Last Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be in Wu Han, Hubei province, PRC. Which proved to have been a good choice of location to view the total solar eclipse.

Despite the cloud cover we were afforded a splendid view, indeed, some of the experienced "ecliptologists" claim the effects are better for some haze. Our clouds were a little more than haze though.

I was certainly feeling camera envy when I saw the kit some of these folk had with them, especially the NASA squad, who had all manner of fancy plans to monitor every aspect.

So, equipped with a pair of Ray-Bans, my trusty fuji-finepix and a rather annoying tripod, I did my best to record what I could, whilst still absorbing the event to the full.

First contact:

001eclipse-.jpg

003eclipse-.jpg

005eclipse-.jpg

008eclipse-.jpg

011eclipse-.jpg

013eclipse-.jpg

Totallity:

Totaleclipse-X-02.jpg

The sky remained quite bright right up to totally, when an eiry darkness fell upon the earth. All around us, the previously noisy insectcs and birds fell silent, I noticed a bat was out feeding, and there was a 360 degree twilight surrounding us (this was obscured to a fair degree by the hotel building from where we were observing).

totallity-001.jpg

totallity-002.jpg

totallity-004.jpg

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Hi Helen,

My eclipse adventure, part 1 due to too many images, or summat):

Last month I was fortunate enough to be in Wu Han, Hubei province, PRC. Which proved to have been a good choice of location to view the total solar eclipse.

Despite the cloud cover we were afforded a splendid view, indeed, some of the experienced "ecliptologists" claim the effects are better for some haze. Our clouds were a little more than haze though.

I was certainly feeling camera envy when I saw the kit some of these folk had with them, especially the NASA squad, who had all manner of fancy plans to monitor every aspect.

So, equipped with a pair of Ray-Bans, my trusty fuji-finepix and a rather annoying tripod, I did my best to record what I could, whilst still absorbing the event to the full.

First contact:

001eclipse-.jpg

003eclipse-.jpg

005eclipse-.jpg

008eclipse-.jpg

011eclipse-.jpg

013eclipse-.jpg

Totallity:

Totaleclipse-X-02.jpg

The sky remained quite bright right up to totallity, when an eiry darkness fell upon the earth. All around us, the previously noisy insects and birds fell silent, I noticed a bat was out feeding, and there was a 360 degree twilight surrounding us (this was obscured to a fair degree by the hotel building from where we were observing).

totallity-001.jpg

totallity-002.jpg

totallity-004.jpg

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Part 2:

totallity-005.jpg

totallity-007.jpg

Totallity lasted for about 6 minutes, which is a very long time for an eclipse, or so I am told, and then, just before the sun started to reappear, the "diamond ring" shows, this is where the suns light shines directly between lunar mountains to the earth, the only direct light visable during the period of totallity. Due to the cloud cover we only saw the "diamond", but it truely felt like it was shining directly at me and so brilliantly too (needles to say, I didn't waste the experience on photoghraphs).

Alas, the sun slowly reappeared and the sky brightened again. I continued to watch untill the moon was no longer visable.

020eclipse-.jpg

021eclipse-.jpg

022eclipse-.jpg

026eclipse-.jpg

028eclipse-.jpg

031eclipse-.jpg

I fully intend to see another total eclipse, if not several. But I know I'll never shut up about this one!

* totality shot has been darkened to enhance the corona. Enjoy and relive the experience.

YM

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