Gallery Report
Programmer: Bill Kramer
Last update: April 17 2015
Eclipse Chaser
(noun) - Anyone that wants to see a total solar eclipse.

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The Total Solar Eclipse of February 1979 traversed a path through the Pacific North West of the USA into Canada. This is a bad time of year in terms of weather. It is typically cold and cloudy, snow packed, and just not the best climate conditions for a solar eclipse chase. Of course, that does not stop some eclipse chasers!

A Frantic Chase - by Dr John D Bernard

This solar eclipse has a short story, with four lessons to be learned about eclipse chasing. I signed up with the Johnson Space Center Eclipse Expedition out of Houston. We flew into Winnipeg and staged for three days, and the weather was forecasted as "socked in" for eclipse day. Having planned for a contingency, I solicited a doctor and two attorneys to split the cost of a chartered, small ski-plane to fly to Hudson Bay... had it ready at the airport. The attorney made me laugh as he was going on the ski-plane to the sub-arctic in a business suit and a dress overcoat; he intended to step out of the plane, look at totality, and step back in. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

This is a true part of this story... believe it if you like or not. After going to bed, my roommate Stuart Shenkman, a Jewish gent from New York City got out of bed at midnight, went over to the picture window, threw open the drapes, raised his arms to the heavens and said "God! these men have come a long way and have done months of preparation to see this glorious work of yours... please grant them clear skies." In my heart I said to myself... he has just asked for a miracle! Listen on the audio tape for the guy screaming "I see stars... I see stars." That's Stuart. The entire 19 minute audio tape is available for play on this website: http://www.jupiterspacestation.org/solarEclipse/79.html

At 3:00am I got up and made my last, pre-arranged call to the Canadian Weather Office. The meteorologist said "John, there has been a freak weather phenomena, called a thermal inversion. We were now going to be clear and Hudson Bay is going to be socked in."

Wait... the story gets better. So the next morning the scientist, engineers, and equipment are loaded into 2 buses, and off we dash to the site. We are running from a cloud bank coming on our left, rear so we are charging forward to gain more clearance, when the buses suddenly STOP. A majority of the team wanted to setup now... so they would not miss their flight connection back to Houston! All hell broke loose among a group of us and we demanded that the expedition leader give us one of the buses. He relented... put us on one bus. We charged on. We settled on the frozen Hecla Island in Lake Winnipeg.

Next, the expedition $100,000 NASA radio would not work in 9° F, and for most the cameras snapped their film in two because they were not arctic greased. In the gallery photos you see my trusty equipment trunk, with my $35 Globe Patrol radio kit ,and tape recorder from Radio Shack... look closely at my feet and you see my grounding nail driven into the ice... and on my audio tape listen to WWV from Ft Collins, Colorado singing away with the time signal... as well as my camera clicks. All the equipment you see in these site photos are hand made from wood, tubing, hardware-store parts, and optical parts bought off Sky and Telescope magazine. The camera was my friend, David Stewart's Canon 35 mm [arctic greased] which I switched from telescope to telescope. The refractor was FL 600mm and the 6" was a fast, rich-field reflector around 500mm. My point: you can do eclipse chasing even on a budget.

Lesson 1: Timing is EVERYTHING. Lesson 2: ALWAYS be in control of your own fate... never let anyone preempt your judgment and passion to get to the open hole in the sky. Lesson 3: Always have a BACKUP plan. Lesson 4: Don't hesitate to ask GOD for a little help.

www.eclipse-chasers.com ©Bill Kramer
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