Eclipse fever has hit central Chile. On 2 July the Moon’s shadow is due to sweep over the city of La Serena. A total solar eclipse will plunge the surrounding landscape into a brief 2 minute period of darkness.
I arrived in the city of La Serena on the eve of the eclipse to find a place well prepared for the influx of visitors.
All the businesses in town are offering eclipse glasses to the public.
Everyone here knows about the eclipse – there are signs everywhere – and they are well informed about what to expect.
One of many international travellers to the eclipse are Amy Kawleski and Tommy Yonash.
Both recent students of Madison University, Wisconsin in the US, the pair have come to Chile after seeing the 2017 eclipse from their native United States.
When asked what it was about their first eclipse experience that drove them to see another one, Amy responded: “I watched the eclipse surrounded by forest and hundreds of others who had trekked to share that experience.
“As totality approached and the sky darkened, a switch flipped. The sound of cicadas swelled in the forest below as people began laughing, yelling, and howling in awe.
“I had never felt so connected to the animalistic roots of myself and others, as well as nature in whole. I understood why others had traveled thousands of miles to see totality and knew that I would in the future.
“And at the very least, it’s a good excuse to travel.”
Thomas too was struck by totality: “As someone who’s only seen one – and I imagine any eclipse chaser understands this well – I think about that moment right after totality when you are overcome with wonder, awe, confusion and complete elation.
“That moment, which can last for hours and usually days, is a drug. And in that moment, you know you would go anywhere to experience that feeling again.”
There was a sense of optimism about the weather prospects as blue skies welcomed those who arrived for the eclipse. Almost all areas along the path of totality have favourable forecasts.
An evening recce of Vicuña – about 100km away and the location for my eclipse observations on the day – showed hillsides thronged with enthusiasts camping out on the hillside for the eclipse.
Ariel Devoto and Sol Arriagada were two such campers.
Ariel, from Argentina – where the eclipse is also visible, lives in Valparaiso, Chile. Sol, who is named for the event, is from northern Chile.
They were bubbling with the expectation of seeing their first total solar eclipse, an opportunity they said they couldn’t miss out on, given how close they live to the centre line.
While walking around Vicuña, I bumped into Fred Espenak, recently retired NASA eclipse expert.
I was relieved to hear that his plans, by chance, mirrored mine exactly.
We both hope to observe the eclipse from the grounds of Mamalluca Obvservatory.
Fred was laden down with equipment (eclipse-chasers never travel light).
My photographic gear consists primarily of a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera with 400mm f/2.8L IS less and 2x extender.
I have several smaller cameras for wideangle shots.
Instead of bringing a small portable telescope, I opted for a set of Canon 15×50 image-stabilized binoculars.
They will be making their eclipse debut and I’m excited to see what view they provide.
As the sun sets this evening over La Serena, the atmosphere is building for a special sunset eclipse over the Pacific.
Even at this late stage, throngs of busses keep entering the city, full of eager people hoping to witness nature’s greatest spectacle – a total solar eclipse.
It’s due to be an unforgettable day.
If you were unable to make it to South America for the eclipse, you can watch totality via a live stream here.