Bob Bestler

This McClellanville resident ready to be at center of once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse

This March 9, 2016, file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 will be the first in the mainland U.S. in almost four decades.
This March 9, 2016, file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 will be the first in the mainland U.S. in almost four decades. The Associated Press

I picked up a swell new T-shirt at the McClellanville Art Museum this week.

It’s a shirt that, on the back, shows the path of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, the one in which McClellanville will be one of the last places in the United States to view a total block out of the sun.

The 70-mile-wide arc of total eclipse in continental United States begins in Oregon and touches 12 states before departing South Carolina.

It is the first solar eclipse visible in the U.S. since 1979, though that one clipped only a few northern states on a day of poor visibility.

Noted astronomer Bob Berman says you have to go back 99 years for the last solar eclipse that swept across continental U.S. from coast to coast.

This one is being called The Great American Eclipse and even those on the fringe of its 70-mile path will see a total blackout, at least for a few seconds.

McClellanville is in the center of that path and should witness a blackout of 2 minutes, 39 seconds.

Much of Horry and Georgetown County will see a partial eclipse, but some areas could see a total blackout for up to 90 seconds – and that’s a big deal.

As one astronomer said, “Likening a partial eclipse to a total eclipse is like comparing almost dying to dying.”

Berman, writing in “Astronomy” magazine, suggested nothing compares to experiencing a total solar eclipse.

“Totality,” he said, “feels like nothing else in life. Travel to see it, even if you end up observing from a highway shoulder.”

According to “The Week” magazine, communities across the country are planning viewing parties and other eclipse-related events for Aug. 21. Hotels in many places are already sold out.

Columbia, also in the center of the arc, will experience the longest total eclipse of any East Coast city. Events being planned for Aug. 21 include a Lowcountry boil and a “Star Wars Musiclipse” concert by the South Carolina Philharmonic.

No doubt McClellanville will see a sudden influx of cars on that date and I would expect nothing less.

Astronomers from the College of Charleston are already planning to set up at Sewee Environmental Education Center in Awendaw. They’ll be there not only to record the total eclipse but also to witness the impact on the center’s wolves and other wildlife when their world goes completely dark at approximately 2:49 in the afternoon.

Berman gave an idea of what will happen: During those minutes of total or near total blackout, look around you, he said.

“Cars, trees, buildings – the familiar now seems alien. Colors become saturated. Contrast is heightened. The air gets noticeably cooler. Confused by the sudden twilight, birds stop singing and crickets start chirping.”

Don’t, he adds, squander a single moment.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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