From Kevin Clark:
My wife and I were in Cabo San Lucas for the total solar eclipse on July 11,1991. It was to be my first eclipse, my interest in general astronomy and eclipses didn’t peak until AFTER the total solar eclipse of 1979, where a short trip up to the Pacific Northwest would have been an easy task. In fact, I didn’t even know about the eclipse until I walked out of my house in Palm Springs CA and noticed how it was a bit dim outside for a cloudless sunny day. Turns out the Sun was about 60+% eclipsed from where I stood.
We descended upon the southern tip of Baja with what we felt was the rest of the world, the crowded conditions at the small airport was intense.
On eclipse day we set up camp on the beach in Cabo del San Jose, probably 10 or so miles from the center line, but we didn’t need to be right on the bulls eye, where we stood was just fine, and quite a few others thought the same as the beach got more and more crowded. A cheer went up with first contact, however there wasn’t any noticeable change in our surroundings, but the anticipation just grew from there. The process of the surroundings darkening and changes taking place was very slow and was almost imperceptible. Fast forward to just a minute or so before totality and things sped up quite a bit. We started to see mini-eclipses in the shadows under the palm trees, and I was looking westward hoping to see the shadow hurtling toward us. The “sunset” dimming became more and more evident, and that’s when I noticed the animals and birds beginning to flip out. Bird were flying everywhere, and there were many bird calls. Beach rodents were seen darting into bushes. Since this was my first eclipse, everything was brand new to me and I didn’t know what exactly to expect. Unfortunately, I never saw a “shadow wall” racing toward me, and after hearing someone shout “diamond ring!” I glanced up and saw the phenomenon, then a split-second of Baily’s beads. And then, suddenly, totality began. It was incredible. No matter how much you prepare yourself to see something truly awesome, it was much more than that.
There was a dim (not quite black) sky, similar to a late twilight, with a jet-black dot in the sky, surrounding by a glowing radiance (the corona). What blew me away is how the corona MOVED. You could see it flow in and out slightly, it was alive. Then I saw the brilliant red prominences, probably 3 or 4 of them, but one was very pronounced and you saw it easily with the naked eye. I took my eyes off the eclipse briefly and saw Mercury and Venus and Jupiter, as well as several bright stars. And it was 12noon!
I was told this was the 2nd longest eclipse of the century, we had almost 7 minutes of totality – and believe me, it rushed by like it was 2 minutes. I could only imagine what primitive man thought when one of these things suddenly popped up in their village, I could see why they would thing the gods were angry or something!
And then, just as quickly as it all began, it all ended……….suddenly the diamond ring appeared on the other side, and it was over.
I planned the trip for a couple of years, spent way too much on hotel and travel, all for 7 minutes – and it was worth every penny and time spent!
On August 21, 2017, you’ll find me somewhere in Kentucky for a repeat performance. For anyone who has never personally witnessed one of these, you REALLY have to go, it’s an incredible experience!