For as long as I can remember, for as long as I’ve known what they were, I’ve wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun. Lunar eclipses are relatively common, and a little underwhelming; I’ve seen partial solar eclipses; they’re… OK, but I’ve always wanted to see the glowing corona.

I remember desperately trying to convince my mother to go see the 1970 eclipse in Nantucket. No sale. And as I’ve gotten older, there’s nothing that’s been close enough that I would consider it to be “within range”, so it was with considerable interest when I found out about the 2024 eclipse, and I decide I want to see that one.

As the time got closer though, I had second thoughts. April in the northeast… the weather is awfully variable. And frequently rainy. And I was having trouble deciding where to try to view from: Liverpool, New York, where my brother’s friend Rich lives, or the western shore of Lake Champlain. The Finger Lakes are close to Liverpool, and it would be nice to see Rich, but I knew where Ticonderoga was, and it was two hours closer, and it was only half an hour outside the path of totality — relatively easy to cover in the morning, even if traffic did get heavy closer to the eclipse.I booked a room at the Trout House Resort, where I’d stayed for the trip to the Star Trek Set Tour and Fort Ticonderoga.

I booked a room in the “Country Inn” of the resort, and in hind sight, I should have booked one of the log cabins. This area is a resort area, like the Cape, but it just doesn’t have much by way of restaurants, especially in what is still the off-season, and the resort itself does not offer dining.

The sky was completely clear when left the resort this morning. I ended up having breakfast in Ticonderoga, across the street from the Star Trek tour, and then headed north. My original intention was to stake out a spot in Port Henry New York, on the shore of Lake Champlain. I had visions of a quaint little town, sort of like Chatham, but I ended up sailing right past it, without really realizing I was passing through. So I decided to keep on and head for Westport, New York, also on the shores of Lake Champlain, but fortunately, closer to the center of the path of totality, meaning we had an extra 30 seconds of totality.

I got there around 10:30 in the morning. There were already a fair number of people there, but I was able to find a place to park the car relatively easily, across the street from Westport’s rather handsome Victorian library. From there, it became of a question of “What do I do with myself for four hours until the eclipse starts?” There was a nature trail through the woods that I followed for a little while, but I’m really not a trail person, so I turned back and headed down the beach.

I’ve been kicking myself all day for my lack of preparation. Other people brought chairs with them; I did not. Fortunately, there was a beached dock I was able to sit on while waiting. I could have also used some sunscreen; I’m feeling a little sunburnt right now. Last week, I’d looked at filters for the Nikon for the eclipse, but had been looking on the phone, and never got around to placing the order.

One thing I did get was a pair of solar eclipse binoculars. Around $45 at B&H Photo, and totally worth it. They took a little getting used to — you can’t see anything other than the sun, so it’s a little hard to find it, but they provided a fine view of the sun. I was able to see not only the encroaching moon, but also a sunspot right in the middle of it. They also came with a bunch of free eclipse sunglasses

So I poked around, and read as much of a book on my phone as I could without running the battery down — a real book is another thing I should have brought with me. I walked around a bit and took some pictures.

There were a lot of people there, but I wouldn’t say it was overcrowded.

It had been completely sunny when I left the Trout House. As I waited, though, I noticed some high thin clouds starting to overspread the sky. It still seemed sunny, the sun still cast shadows, but I couldn’t help but notice that the sky was becoming milkier.

Finally, it was quarter past two and the eclipse was beginning. You couldn’t see much yet through the sunglasses, but through the binoculars, it looked like a little shaving had been removed from the sun. The shaving got bigger and bigger, and become visible through the sunglasses.

You don’t realize how bright the sun really is, until you’ve seen an eclipse and realize how much of the sun can be blocked and still have things look bright.

More and more of the sun was blocked. Through the binoculars, I could see a little blotchiness on the face of the sun — it was the cirrus clouds moving in front of it. The shadow of the moon approached the sunspot, then covered it.

On the ground, the light was becoming perceptibly dusky. It wasn’t golden, like sunset, the colors were still neutral, but it was perceptibly darker.

Partiality - getting darker

By the time the sun was three quarters covered, it was getting noticeably colder. I put my jacket on, and shifted my position closer to the beach. I wanted to get some pictures of the shore, and there were some poles there I was hoping to brace the camera on.

As it got darker, I noticed I could hear the birds twittering away.

Finally, there was just a sliver of light left, it seemed to be almost gone, and then I put the binoculars down just in time to see Bailey’s Beads, and then the glowing corona. It was completely awesome and totally worth the waiting around. I’d been looking at it, heavily filtered, for the past hour, and then, to see it with the naked eye, glowing, with a dark sky around it,

It seemed like a ring of glowing white fire around a dark but not black hole. Turning around, I could see the light was like late dusk but not night, since you could see skylight from outside the area of shadow. I grabbed a few pictures as fast as I could… and completely forgot my plan to brace the camera against the poles. They’re all motion blurred. I should have had a tripod with me.

I got a couple of pictures from the phone that were a little — but not much better. I’d been trying without luck throughout the eclipse to shoot it with the iPhone, using the eclipse glasses as a filter. It just did not cooperate.

And as fast as it started, it was over. We were looking at the corona, and then suddenly a bead of light peeked out from the lower left corner, and the totality phase was over. Even though the sun was still mostly covered, it didn’t take long for enough of it to be revealed for it to reassert itself.

.Last week, XKCD posted a cartoon which is so true:

1000% true.

Update: I was just talking with my nephew Danny. Looks like the choice of the western shore of Lake Champlain over Liverpool was a fortunate one; He was in Brockport NY, and had cloud cover.