Sunday, August 27, 2017

Path of (almost!) Totality

As you may know, the recent solar eclipse passed straight through the middle of Oregon.  For months, I'd been hearing nothing but predictions about the millions of people who would be traveling to our state for the big event.  The media broadcast dire warnings about overcrowded freeways, campgrounds and hotels, and also food and gas shortages etc, etc.......I was so sick of hearing about the stupid eclipse I couldn't wait until it was over so life could return to normal.

My office-mates and I model our eclipse glasses

Afraid of being caught in the traffic nightmares, most folks in the Portland Metro area planned to take the day off work.  The path of totality was about 40 miles to the south, so the expectation was that a huge amount of people would wake up and travel that direction Monday morning.

August 21st, the day of the big eclipse, I got up per normal and went to work.  Not having the required protective glasses, I planned to just peek out the window when time came to see if things went dark.  All the gloom and doom about traffic nightmares, and my commute was surprisingly easy.  There was hardly anyone on the roads, and the light rail train nearly empty.  Upon arrival at work, my friend Hollie asked if I'd join her outside to watch the eclipse.  She happened to have an extra pair of eclipse glasses.  Our office was a ghost town that day, so I decided why not?

Huge crowd in Waterfront Park

Hollie decided to walk 4 blocks to the Willamette River and stand on the Hawthorne Bridge, the closest open area to our office.  The eclipse was supposed to start around 9:06 am so we planned to head down shortly thereafter.  We invited Jake, one of our summer interns to join us (we were nearly the only three people at work that day).

In downtown Portland, the west bank of the Willamette River is lined by Waterfront Park, a wonderful green oasis in this dense urban environment.  As we ascended the Hawthorne Bridge's ramp, I was amazed to see a huge crowd already gathered in the park.  One local radio station had set up a sound system and was broadcasting lovely classical music.

Lots of people on the Hawthorne Bridge

The three of us donned our special glasses, looked up at the sun, and were astounded to see the eclipse already underway.  The moon had begun to move over the sun, taking a small "bite" out of it.  As things progressed, the sun began to look more and more like a pac-man.  Jake tried to use his cell phone to take a photo through his glasses.

Totally unprepared for the day (and not planning to watch the eclipse) I hadn't even brought a camera with me, and had only my cell phone to document this event.  Doh!

More crowd scenes from Waterfront Park

In between peeps of the rapidly shrinking sun through our glasses, we entertained ourselves watching the crowds.  It was quite a mix in the park - office people sneaking a break from their jobs, families, street people, even one parks bureau employee who sat on a nearby gas meter to watch the show. 

Around 10:15, the light started to dim.  It seemed like an overcast day, but the sky was still clear.  Very eerie!  We noticed the street lights had illuminated, and passing vehicles had turned their headlights on.  A cold wind began to blow across the bridge.  It was kind of spooky. 

The streetlights came on!

We gazed in wonder at the sky, totally amazed by what was happening.  The moon now nearly covered the sun, it's light just a mere sliver.  Although not in the path of totality, the eclipse in Portland was supposed to have 99.3% coverage.

After about two very short minutes, the moon began to move again, and the surrounding sky started lightening up.  Some of the crowd in the park below applauded.  And then as if there had been a signal, everyone began heading out of the park.

Mt Hood silhouetted on the darkened skyline

As Hollie, Jake and I walked back to our building, I noticed funny crescent-shaped shadows on the sidewalk.  It wasn't until later, seeing photographs on Facebook, that I realized those shadows were the eclipsing sun filtered through the trees.  Very cool phenomenon.  Wish I would've thought to take a photo!

Although I initially pooh-poohed the whole eclipse thing, in the end I'm very glad to have taken the time to experience it.  What a mesmerizing, unique, awesome natural event!  Now I understand why it's such a big deal.  Since the next total eclipse in the US passes right over Cincinnati, where one of my brothers lives, I may just have to go check it out.

Thanks Hollie for getting me out of the office!


  1. I'm glad you were able to enjoy yourself and experience this wonderful natural phenomenon Great images from your venture.

  2. nice for you, at eclipse time I was near the New York-Vermont border, the sky was overcast and to say that nothing happened is an understatement. Maybe next time!

  3. Hello, looks like there was a crowd for the eclipse at the Waterfront. So glad your
    co-worker had an extra pair of glasses. I saw photos of the crescent shadows, they are cool. We had cloudy skies and missed seeing the eclipse. Happy Monday, enjoy your day and new week!

  4. It's fun to watch, isn't it? You were much closer to totality than me; that weekend was our annual siblings camping trip, this year on Whidbey Island. But we had a perfect view, and had fun playing around with the crescent moon/sun shadows on the ground.

  5. Oh gosh, I just blogged the crescent shadows :) I'm really out of the blogging habit lately! Looks like you had a really nice location for viewing! We went to the WSU campus. They had a fun event, since it was the first day of classes there, complete with DJ playing some festive songs for the occasion, like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Major Tom, Total Eclipse of The Heart, etc. Aside from the coolness of the actual eclipse, I really liked the shared viewing aspect of so many people out and looking at the same time.

  6. An incredible experience. No camera? I am surprised!

  7. Very cool! Definitely make the effort to get to totality next time, it takes the experience to a completely different level.

  8. What an amazing experience, Linda!

  9. Same thing here. Wasn't making a big deal about it, but turned out to be really neat. About 70% covered here, but you could still follow the moon across the sun clearly, like pacman.

  10. Looks like you had a fun experience as well on eclipse day! Yes, the moon and sun were fun to watch and hear the comments of teenagers behind us saying it looks like pac man! Glad you got to see it. Yes, it was chilly here too but quickly went away.

  11. Pleased you didn't miss out on the event.Great to hear about your experience.

  12. Yes, surprised you didn't photograph it

  13. What you don't take your big girl camera to work? Your cell phone did an okay job! :) I am glad you got to see it.

  14. Lucky you as here we only had 96.4 percent and I was just bummed because it barely got dark at all (sort of like dusk) and I didn't see any of the cool moon shadows people posted, didn't have glasses so couldn't look at the sun. - Lots of "hype" but maybe in 7 years if I'm still around I can travel somewhere to see the next one in a proper way.

  15. I have to admit being slightly underwhelmed by all the hype surrounding any eclipse, solar eclipse, meteorite shower etc as I have seen all three over the decades but wouldn't go out my way to do it again as a planned event. Better if it happens without knowing in advance sometimes- then its really special with no expectations in advance. I find the behaviour of the people at these group collectives more interesting than anything above me. It was nice to see some shots of Portland though as by chance I'm reading a Chelsea Cain novel at the moment set in the city and along the river. Big thing for the USA though as it doesn't happen that often through a heavily populated region over such a wide area of land mass.


  16. Glad you got to see it. I had decided not to, but then last minute did.
    It was exciting to experience, even 50 miles north of you.

  17. Linda I am glad that you had a chance to see what you did. Crazy how chilly it got! We walked to a hill behind our house and watched for the 30 minutes before, and then a few minutes after totality. Totality itself happened in an instant and was a very powerful experience. During totality we used binoculars to see the corona, which was truly spectacular. The sun was a burning ring of fire, but only for less than 2 minutes. The day-crickets fell silent, and the hawks and vultures all left the sky. I now understand why people make a big deal out of totality and travel the world to experience it.

  18. those crescent shaped shadows would have been neat. It was cloudy here so seen nothing.

  19. So cool....I was happy to just see the clouded crescent here...what an experience.

  20. Glad you got chance to see it. Have to agree with Bob that I find them a bit underwhelming and over-hyped, must be the grumpy middle aged man in me! :)


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