The Great St. Louis Eclipse

TOTALITY: SOLAR CORONA FRINGE WITH RED EXCITED HYDROGEN PROMINENCE. Photo: Dr. David Galbraith

by Marguerite Garrick MN’03
published in The Explorers Log, Fall 2017

To our considerable relief, August 21, 2017 dawned clear and hot. All of us had been anxiously watching the rapidly changing weather forecasts, praying that no clouds would mar our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a total solar eclipse in our own backyard. This was the first total eclipse in St. Louis since 1422 and the next one won’t be until 2505, so we didn’t want to miss it! Because of the worldwide interest in this eclipse we feared heavy traffic on the north/south highways and left early for our viewing destination. A good friend of many of our Chapter members had offered to let our Chapter watch the eclipse at her beautiful, historic home Greystone, on the banks of the Mississippi River just south of Pevely, Missouri; totality would be 2 minutes and 31 seconds.

Dr. David Galbraith, a close friend and colleague of TEC, and St. Louis Chapter member Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson FN’11 were already setting up telescopes with solar filters and other equipment brought from Toronto where Galbraith is Director of Science at the Royal Botanical Garden. All of us greatly benefitted from and were delighted by what we could see through the telescopes during and after totality!

We’d brought boxed lunches which we ate spread out on the lawns and terrace overlooking the river while waiting. A huge cheer went up in the group of 60 when the first sliver of the sun disappeared. We all had solar glasses, but the best way to see the early stages other than through the telescopes, was in the cardboard pinhole viewers I’d made for Past Chapter Chair Benjamin MN’07, and Eileen Hulsey’s two grandchildren.

CHAPTER MEMBERS AND GUESTS VIEWING THE ECLIPSE

Gradually it grew darker and crescent shaped shadows appeared on the terrace and on the umbrellas. It grew as dark as dusk. Cicadas and crickets began to sing, birds flew to roost, and a pale orange afterglow settled on the trees across the river. We were all staring at the sun through our glasses as totality approached when all at once it was gone! For 2 minutes and 31 seconds we stared at this miraculous celestial event with our naked eyes, all of us moved and awed by how beautiful it was.

One of our members recorded a 12-degree temperature drop at totality, and as it gradually became lighter and hotter we shared a champagne toast to this unforgettable experience.

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The Explorers Club Saint Louis
c/o Marguerite Perkins Garrik
886 Queen Anne Place
St. Louis, Missouri 63122

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