Next eclipse column: 2017

The Ticker

July 15, 1991|By Julius Westheimer

ECLIPSE TAPE (abridged) from Baja California: "It's July 11, 1991, the day we've waited for, total eclipse of the century. We're lucky, sunny, no clouds . . . I'm shaking a bit, didn't sleep . . . Nearing 10:25 a.m., beach neighbor cries, 'First contact!' (it actually happened at 10:24:24, predicted by ancients back in 648 B.C.) . . . Looking skyward through welder's goggles, I see black moon taking first bite from top of sun . . . Bite deepens, sun's crescent narrows . . . Colder at 11 a.m., temperature at 82 degrees, down from 102 in 30 minutes as moon partly blocks sun's rays . . . Glad I'm not alone, fun sharing this experience . . . Crowds peering up through telescopes, long-lensed cameras, reflectors . . . Two twittering birds, confused, flutter and dart wildly along shore; they think it's bedtime, but why at noon?

"Tension building, eerie light along beach, getting darker and colder . . . Hard to believe celestial dance 230,000 miles in sky affects us down here . . . Light dims, don't need sunglasses now . . . Neighbor screams and points, 'Jupiter, Mars, Venus!' as planets shine in darkening late morning sky . . . Crescents of light flicker on sand as misshapen sun filters through leaves . . . Totality nears few minutes before noon . . . Looking west at hills, I see moon's dark shadow racing toward us from Hawaii . . . Sun almost gone, a sliver . . . I recall that in Java, 1983, a frightened native asked me, 'Is dragon swallowing sun?' . . . Young woman points to outstretched sheet, cries, 'Shadow bands!' but I don't see the elusive, mysterious ripples . . . Multiple screams now, 'Baily's beads, diamond ring!' as sun's last rays blaze through moon's mountains . . . Eclipse is total . . . Almost complete noontime darkness, faint rim of light around horizon. We remove all eye protection.

"We look skyward, standing in shadow of the moon . . . Moon was always white before -- reflected light from the sun -- but now pitch black moon covers sun . . . Blue glow around lunar disk, brilliant corona blazes around sun, some red prominences shooting out . . . I notice I'm gasping, mouth dry . . . Not wasting time photographing this spectacle; I'll 'take it in,' then buy others' pictures . . . Cameras click, recorders whir, everyone whispering . . . These are the six minutes we've awaited for years . . . Nearby flowers close their petals . . . Everything hushed, dark . . . Now, several people scream, cheer as second 'diamond ring' blazes on other side of the moon . . . Moon moving away now, daylight comes too quickly . . . I feel weak, sad it's all over. Maybe it's because it's my sixth total eclipse since I was 9 -- but maybe my last."

BACK TO WORK: Barron's, dated today, runs an optimistic story about the outlook for firms that specialize in providing temporary employees . . ."A recent 'pawnshop poll' shows this recession is far from over." (Paul Duke, Washington Week in Review) . . . "To keep plans on track, take clear and concrete steps to implement them. General intentions stay general." (The Time Trap by Alec Mackenzie) . . . "Most dangerous decision traps: plunging in without thinking the problem through; overconfidence leading to failure to collect key facts; shooting from the hip without being systematic." (Decision Traps by J. Edward Russo.) . . . "An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made, and how to avoid them." (Money Talks) . . . "God helps those who get up early." (Scottish proverb) . . . "The busiest men have the most leisure." (English proverb) . . ."Some people make the future; most wait for the future to make them." (Leadership).

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