It’s official. I am now taking ‘Expressions of Interest‘ from communities that would like to be included in my Being in the Shadow Path of Totality Tour.
The tour is expected to commence in April in South Carolina, and end in July in Oregon – final dates will be confirmed at the end of January. At the moment, I am still awaiting the final stages of my US visa process, and therefore I cannot confirm any dates. However, I can now start planning. Woohoo!!
We will be traveling in a fifth wheel camper, and staying at RV sites within each community in order to keep costs to a minimum whilst ensuring flexibility and a mobile workspace. From coast to coast, across the US, helping to prepare for the eclipse.
I will be ensuring the tour is high profile, and will engage in extensive media throughout, ensuring that all of the communities involved in the tour will greatly benefit from the extensive media exposure. The results of this can be considerable. For example, the PR value of the media from the 62 international media outlets that were reporting from the Faroe Islands in 2015, where I was the Eclipse Planning Consultant, was equivalent to US$22 million. Media interest across the US and the world is going to be considerably greater for the 2017 total eclipse. That’s big buckaroos.
I will, of course, be unable to visit each of the 1,000+ communities that are along the path of totality. Instead I will have to prioritise those communities that are keen to host me – that is, those that complete this form to let me know what their needs and wishes are.
I am recommending a stay of five days in each community to ensure that I can make a significant difference for each of the communities I visit.
Once you link to the form, you will see that each page has the range of events that I can offer, from planning consulting, workshops, community engagement, stakeholder engagement, book launch activities, public lectures etc. If you are an eclipse coordinator, please complete the form, ticking those events of interest.
I will then be able to collate this information, start plotting and planning a rough tour outline, and will then get back to you regarding an estimated cost based on your preferences, an estimated time frame, and more detailed information about confirming plans. It’s simple.
To make sure your region is included, complete the ‘Expressions of Interest’ Form by 27 January AT THE LATEST. I’ve been talking about doing this tour for years, literally, and I can’t believe we have now reached the time when I am about to start planning. Let me help to make it awesome for your community.
Recently, there was much to-do about the supermoon. In a way, it was great, as people started talking about the moon, and many made a point of going outside to view our closest celestial body. Images like the one above – taken with a telephoto lens capturing the moon illusion – are gorgeous and captivating, and were making the rounds on social media in the fortnight leading up to the supermoon. However, some people saw these posts, read the hype and then expected to see the moon this huge in the night sky. They were then disappointed when it looked just the same as every other full moon they had seen, perhaps a little brighter.
We seem to now be in a situation where the normal – a beautiful full Moon – is no longer enough. It now has to be some super, special, branded thing that people think they are missing out if they don’t see it. Some rare factoid is then used to give it even more meaning, and photos are used out of context – or faked – to create an unnecessary dramatic effect. This over hyping of astronomical events certainly grabs people’s attention, but there is a downside – expectations are raised, and then dashed, and people are left disappointed and disinterested in other astronomical activities. The reality is, there is so much to explore out there in the night sky, every night. We just have to stop and look up.
WHEN HYPE IS APPROPRIATE – BUT HOW MUCH?
But there is one astronomical event that astronomers and science outreach folk actually DO get very, very excited about, and is truly worthy of hype. The total solar eclipse. It is not the rarity that makes this event special – it really, truly is quite an unnatural and awe-inspiring event. Most of the people on social media currently talking about the total eclipse are those who have actually seen one, or are preparing for one. But it won’t be long before social media hype will take over, with unnecessary fake photos and incorrect facts, conspiracy theories and talk of the end of the world. We should brace ourselves.
If you are under 40, live in the US and have never traveled abroad to see a total eclipse, then you will never have experienced one. Yet it is surprising how many people think they have seen a total eclipse, because of misunderstanding media reports and social media posts.
That is why eclipse outreach is so important for those who are living in or near to the path of totality for August 2017. Most people get their astronomical news from social media, where fake stories and images abound. Even in traditional media reports, there are often factual errors and incorrect images. People need accurate information to understand what is to come, why it is a big deal, where they need to go to experience it, what to expect, and how to view it safely.
But if, like me, you share the full details about the total eclipse experience are you also feeding into the hype? Are we raising people’s expectations about this once-in-a-lifetime event, only for them to be disappointed?
Telling people what to expect CAN influence their expectations. But I also believe that you cannot ever spoil or over-hype a total solar eclipse. Totality is very visceral, fully immersive, and goes beyond language. There is no way, using words alone, that you can fully prepare someone for what they may feel and how it will impact upon them.
I have interviewed many scientists who say they thought they would not have any emotional reaction to their first total eclipse as it is a ‘science event’. Yet, despite their ‘superior’ knowledge, they were still as affected as others who knew very little – screaming out ‘oh my God‘, repeatedly, being stunned into silence, and perhaps even crying, as they see the impossible happen. Not everyone has emotional or transformative responses, but it is a rare person who is not moved and completely awestruck by the experience.
I have now spoken with hundreds of people before their first total eclipse, and then afterwards. I get comments such as “I was expecting it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT good!”, or “If I hadn’t heard you talking about what it would be like, I would never have gone”. I have never had one person say that previous conversations with me has spoiled the experience for them.
When doing my eclipse research, the most common analogy most people relate the total eclipse experience to is the birth of their children. It is a meaningful, significant and life-changing experience. You may know what is to happen, have read about it, talked about it, seen videos, and even read personal accounts. But nothing can prepare you for what goes on physically and emotionally, and how you make sense of it.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF TOTALITY – WHEN ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS
There have been a few occasions that people have expressed their disappointment, or disinterest – always because they thought they had experienced totality when they hadn’t.
For example, when a total eclipse is clouded out, this can be disappointing as the main features are not seen and experienced. During a post-eclipse lecture back in 2012, one man expressed his disappointment at the over hype of the total eclipse experience, which for him was blocked by thick cloud. He could not accept that there was so much more to what he experienced, and he had no interest in seeing another. It made me understand the importance of ‘expectation management’ – something that I encourage organisers to consider if they are in regions along the path that are likely to be cloudy.
Again in 2012, I was interviewing a local about her eclipse experience, and she didn’t seem to have much of the usual emotion when recounting her day. When questioned further, it transpired that she kept her solar filters on for the whole of totality due to fear of harming her eyes. As a result, she saw nothing, and missed it all.
By far the most common reports of disappointment are made by those who THINK they have seen the total solar eclipse, but were clearly not within the path. One of my colleagues over a period of time kept questioning me on the authenticity of my experience, as he hadn’t felt any emotion at all during totality. After we consulted maps, it turns out that he was located about 400 miles away from the path of totality! He had seen media reporting about the total eclipse, and had assumed that the partial in his area was the main show. He had been adamant that he had seen a total eclipse. I think to this day he STILL thinks they are no big deal – his loss.
MY APPROACH TO ECLIPSE OUTREACH
Everyone has different drives and motivations. Some people are much more open to having new experiences – these are the people who will seek out information themselves about the eclipse. But for most others within the path of totality, they will need information that helps them to understand the unique experience that is to come, so they can plan to see it.
When I do my talks, I talk from my personal experience, but also from my research as well. Sharing the experiences of many gives me the ability to highlight how unique and meaningful the total eclipse experience is. There are similarities, of course, but the impact is deeply personal. I can describe differences in how people make sense of that feeling of connection – it could be a connection to nature, the universe, mother earth, or some religious figure. I never know what that will mean for each person – but I can give examples of how others have made sense of it. This information may help people to put language to the profound experience they have, but it doesn’t necessarily change the lived experience. Nor does it spoil it for them.
So, should you read and listen to other people’s accounts of totality before you see it for yourself? I think yes. Reading the accounts of others, listening to eclipse chasers – these things may influence how you think about it, and how you act. That is, it might make you more likely to get into the path of totality, and to convince others to go along with you. Without knowing that it really is quite a special event, you just may miss this chance, and regret it for a lifetime.
My next book features personal total eclipse experiences from a small number of ordinary people, and will be self published and available from my website in early 2017. I also plan to engage in a speaking tour of the path of totality in 2017. Formal announcements will occur soon. Get in touch if you would like your community to be included in my tour.
It was the clearest total eclipse I have seen since Mongolia in 2008. That’s a long time to wait.
We saw totality from Wayu Village, high up in the mountains above Palu city, with sweeping views of the whole bay to the north, and down the valley to the centreline towards the south. You could not have picked a better vantage point.
The skies were clear, the Sun was high up, and the atmosphere electric. At first contact, a traditional music song was played, sounding like a single didgeridoo, which echoed down the valley. It was tremendous. There were further cultural performances – eclipse dances, chanting. We were high above the festivities though, it was difficult to fully see what was happening. but the music drifted upwards.
It was hot – why do I always forget to wear sunscreen?? The temperature at first contact was 31.5 Celsius, and over time it dropped slowly until after totality when it registered 24.5 degrees. The light went weird, birds were confused, and it was thrilling.
The shadow was not as pronounced as other eclipses, but the moment of second contact was incredible. The diamond ring hung there beautifully and seemed to last a lifetime. And then – totality. I screamed with delight as that familiar shadow fully covered all on that sacred mountain. We whooped, cheered, hugged, and stood in silence at the wonder before us. It felt like forever. Two planets were clearly visible, although the sky did not darken too much. I had a quick glance through binoculars and saw an incomplete but beautiful corona and prominences at 9 o’clock, both of which were clearly visible without binoculars. The shadow was much more pronounced from behind. The light on the horizon was beautiful. I was so grateful that the clouds stayed away.
And then third contact – always over too soon.
I was incredibly lucky to have this eclipse experience documented by MetroTV. I must say that spending days with the crew really added to the whole experience, and it was such a privilege to share that with them.
There is so much more to say. This eclipse will always be very special because of how we shared it – amongst the local population, our experience to be shared with the local community. What a wonderful, bonding and precious time that was.
Afterwards, I did a post-eclipse research workshop at the Sulawesi Eclipse Festival, where we shared the eclipse experience. It was a very special time.
The documentary featuring this eclipse experience, the research I have done, the pre- and post-eclipse workshops I did at the Eclipse Festival, and interviews – all will be aired across Indonesia to millions. What a wonderful way of sharing this amazing natural phenomena. The below clip is the promotional video for the full show.