The eclipse - what can you expect?NEWSPORT

Thursday 15 March 2012

The eclipse - what can you expect?

Rick Brown is a commodity and futures trader from New York, but his passion lies in the pursuit of the indescribable feeling he experiences when witnessing a total solar eclipse.

A veteran of 12 total solar eclipses, he now tracks the astronomical events relentlessly and brings dozens of eager tourists with him.

Rick spoke to The Newsport to share his experiences, and to pass on what we can expect come the morning of 14 November 2012.

The Newsport:
What drew you to chase solar eclipses?

Rick Brown: My first eclipse was in 1970, I was 17 years old and I got permission from my parents to travel from New York to Virginia Beach. It changed my life. I decided I was going to see every eclipse I could ever see after that.

TN: Where has eclipse following taken you to?

RB: 1991 on the southern coast in California which is Baha, California. It's actually Mexico.

Since then I've done 11 other tours. In 1994 it was Brazil, '95 Thailand, '98 Antigua, '99 was Turkey, 2001 and 2002 were both in Africa, 2006 was Turkey again, 2008 and '09 were both in China.

In 2010 the eclipse path only hit a few very remote atolls in Tahiti and ended in Patagonia in South America. There were no other places on land we could view it so I chartered an airbus for 41 people and we took the seats out of the left side of the plane and viewed the eclipse from 39,000 feet. It was unbelievable.

TN: What can we expect come the moments of the eclipse in Port Douglas in November this year?

RB: First of all you have people reacting in all sorts of different ways. But you've also got the temperature dropping and the flowers closing and the animals go crazy, the birds start to go back into their nests, they don't know what's going on.

The next eclipse is here (Douglas region). I've got 60 people I'll be bringing.

TN: The estimates of expected number of visitors varies greatly between 10,000 and 50,000 people. Drawing on your experience, how many people can we expect to visit the region during the eclipse on 14 November?

RB: This is unique in that this is the only area of the world between just north of Port Douglas to just south of Cairns where the eclipse will be total. Every place beyond that is water.

For the most part the path of an eclipse is generally close to 8,000km to 10,000km long and about 100km wide. That path crosses many, many spots on earth.

Generally speaking there's a good chance it will cross very populated areas but vast amounts of land.

For this specific eclipse there's not very much land at all that will be encompassed, so every eclipse chaser is going to be forced to come somewhere between Cairns to Port Douglas.

I would certainly say it would be closer to 50,000 than 10,000. If I had to bet money I would guess it would be over 50,000, I would think much more than 50,000.

What makes a solar eclipse so special?

RB: You've got to see one to understand. It should be on everyone's bucket list without a doubt.

It's indescribable. I've never read anything that's ever really truly described what it is that you see. People shiver, people get goose bumps.

When the eclipse is total what you're looking at is the dark side of the moon against the sun and the white corona that is coming off it which is actually the sun's atmosphere you can see.

The closest description I've heard of that is that you think you're looking into the eye of God.

It's the blackest black that you've ever seen. It's like a hole in space that goes on forever.

It's beyond describable. 

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