How I Spent the Solar Eclipse of 2017


Here in northwest Washington State, Monday's solar eclipse would reach 91% of totality at 10:21 a.m.  For the event, I picked a spot at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park to experience the eclipse, and take some pictures.  Looking west, this is a photo of the Deception Pass bridge taken at the moment of totality.  I expected it to be darker, but the light had decidedly taken on "golden hour" tones.


At the same time, these are the light patterns that appeared on the road behind me.  The dappled sunlight passing through the trees was now projecting images of the eclipse on the pavement of Cornet Bay Road.  This effect is called camera obscura or pinhole image.  In this case, the leaves of trees were only allowing pinhole beams of light to pass through the canopy.  I wasn't expecting this at all.  For me, it made the event all the more special, as surprises often do.

I arrived at the State Park early to find Deception Pass completely fogged in.  I wondered if the fog would lift in time to be able to see the bridge at totality.  Fortunately, by 09:09 a.m., the start of the eclipse, the fog had cleared enough to reveal the bridge.  The pass was completely clear by 10:21.  The event would end for us at 11:38 a.m.  While I waited, I took some pictures of the things around me.  Hover your mouse pointer for titles.  Click or right click the images to see them full size:

Cornet Bay Road
Boat in Deception Pass

Cow Parsnip
Lichens on Shrub Branches

Stinging Nettle Near the End of its Life
Boat in Deception Pass

Bracken Ferns
Hoypus Point Gateway

Boat in Deception Pass
Bird Feather, Northern Flicker?

The following are pictures of Deception Pass taken between 09:08 and 10:12 a.m. as the fog lifted and the eclipse proceeded.  The larger span on the left crosses Deception Pass.  The narrower gorge on the right (the north or Fidalgo Island end) is Canoe Pass.  Pass Island anchors the two spans and separates the gorges.  Strawberry Island sits in the foreground:

Deception Pass, Washington

Deception Pass, Washington

Deception Pass, Washington

Directly above the sailboat, notice the people on the overlook watching the eclipse (click or right-click the photo).

Canoe Pass at Deception Pass, Washington

Deception Pass, Washington

Canoe Pass at Deception Pass, Washington

Canoe Pass at Deception Pass, Washington

Hiking back to my car at the State Park docks, it was noticeably colder.  Back in Anacortes, my weather station recorded a 4° F temperature drop between 09:51 and 10:46 a.m.  In the shade of the Hoypus Forest and near the water, it felt like it dropped more than that.

I have read that birdsong goes silent during solar eclipses.  At my observation point, besides a couple of gulls and one Great Blue Heron, there was no birdsong to speak of at the time.  I have nothing to report in that regard.

Driving home, the traffic on the bridge was heavier and slower then normal.  It was crowded with people, much like a holiday weekend.  The bridge was obviously one of the best spots around to view the eclipse.

For me, seeing the eclipse was not as important as experiencing it.  For that experience, I chose a favorite spot.  Discovering those crescent images projected onto the pavement was an unexpected surprise.  The eclipse provided me a short hike, a celestial event, a unique experience, a bit of real science, and photographing a favorite subject all at once.  It was a good day.

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