Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse from Newport News, Virginia, March 7, 1970

They called it "The eclipse of the century." The anticipation leading up to it was immense. The east coast of the United States was going to go under totality from this solar eclipse. I remember as a kid how excited I was to be able to see and photography, a total eclipse of the sun. At that age, I really did not know how fortunate I was. I would learn that in life, we are almost always more fortunate than we think. Not something my 13 year old brain could fathom at that time.

It was a Saturday and the family gathered in the front yard to watch the event. I also noticed most of the neighbors were out in their front yards as well. How can you beat an eclipse going right over your own neighborhood? Plus, I was young, strong, and thought life would last forever. Now I'm an old man on heart medicine. If there's a lesson in all of this...don't live life vicariously. Live in the moment. Take advantage of what you have today. Like eclipses, there may not be a next time.

Most of the neighborhoods in Newport News were recently developed to provide housing for the exploding military industry that the Tidewater area was known for. They sort of had that prefabricated look. Many home owners were of the WW11 generation but their kids were absolute baby boomers.

I sort of miss those times. Society and culture had more continuity then. I'm not so sure over the decades we have improved on that. Most people valued family and security. It was really a great time to grow up. A few months earlier, we had watched man first walk on the moon, now this celestial event. Life seemed boundless. The possibilities were endless.

I remember going out on a cold winter night and seeing the display of the cosmos up above. There was little light pollution then and the sky seemed so vast. Since Star Trek was on prime time TV, it seemed that type of future was possible. My father showed me one night the trail of a satellite as it made its way across the night sky. I looked with amazement and wonder at it. I was so ready to be experiencing this eclipse.

With the technology of the times, I did a decent job of filming the eclipse it with an 8 mm camera. My father helped me use a welders glass attached to the outside of a cereal box for this makeshift device. The camera was inside the box. My theory that blocking out all ambient light would make a better image.

Everything went right that day, including the weather. It was a late winter day probably in the 60's. Felt good and got even colder during totality. I remember the diamond ring and Bailey's Beads on both ends on lunar contact. And just like that - it was gone. But the memories of that day remain.

Research tells me the totality lasted 93 seconds from our vantage point. Not long but long enough.

This image is of the eclipse that day in Newport News. The star to the left is Venus.

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