The most extraordinary thing happened during the summer of 1972, and I was fortunate enough to take part in it. A memory just as fresh to me today as the day it happened. One of those childhood events that lead to “long, long thoughts.”
My brother Stuart and I traveled to Prince Edward Island, Canada to witness, photograph and Stuart, who was a graduate student at the University of Miami Physics department at the time, collected data on the eclipse. We flew up to New York and then drove, from there, to Prince Edward Island. The trip itself was quite an adventure for me. I had never been to New York City or to Canada.
We drove through some beautiful countryside to get to Prince Edward Island from New York City. It was quite a change of scenery for a boy from South Florida. Mountains, hills, deciduous forests, lakes and streams and bays. Quite a change of scenery.
We took the ferry across Northumberland Strait and went to the campsite set by the University of Miami expedition on the north side of the island. It was set upright on the edge of the North Atlantic Ocean. There was a small cliff of about 10 feet to the beach. In Miami, there are no cliffs to the beach, just a very gentle slope. All of these things were new to me.
To the south of us was a large wetland area with many wetland types of birds. This will be an important ingredient of my eclipse experience, believe it or not.
The morning of the eclipse was a bit concerning. It was completely overcast. You could not see the sky, just clouds. As the time for the eclipse approached our concern grew. There was no break in the cloud cover to be seen. Then with only 20 to 30 minutes to go until the eclipse the sky opened up. The clouds cleared away and the eclipse started. As the moon covered more and more of the sun it became darker and darker. The moon’s ever-changing silhouette across the sun was fascinating to watch.
The eclipse was absolutely fascinating. I was taking color photos but took a little time to look around. There was a 360-degree sunset. It was orange and red and beautiful. As the sunset started all the egrets and herons in the marsh thought it was nighttime and started flying home to roost. There were quite a few of them. When the sun came back out they flew back to the marsh. A very interesting observation for a biology major. I was, of course, thinking the whole trip about the eclipse and as the eclipse unfolded about the effect on people. Turns out it has an effect on the whole planet, plants and animals.
After the eclipse, we had dinner at the camp and everyone talked about what we had just witnessed. The next morning we took the ferry back to the mainland and on the drive back to the city we saw a moose next to a lake near the road. We stopped and said hello. The moose looked interested but didn’t say anything. It seemed a fitting end to an absolutely incredible trip. A lifelong memory for me. And I thought I was just having fun.
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