Technology & Science

View of total eclipse an 'experience of a lifetime,' says northern resident

Canadians in the Arctic were witness to a rare occurrence early Friday morning, a total solar eclipse that darkened the sky for about 43 seconds.
Bridgewater, N.S. native Frank Edison braved 90 km/h winds to take this photo of the total solar eclipse from the Canadian Forces base in Alert, at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. ((Submitted by Frank Edison))
Canadians in the Arctic were witness to a rare occurrence early Friday morning, a total solar eclipse that darkened the sky for about 43 seconds.

The total solar eclipse began at about 5:21 a.m. ET east of Cambridge Bay, sweeping north across southern Victoria Island, Prince of Wales Island, Northern Somerset Island and finally Ellesmere Island, where it could be viewed from Grise Fiord and later from the world's northernmost community at Alert.

"It was an experience of a lifetime," said Frank Edison, a native of Bridgewater, N.S., who has spent the last 15 summers working in Alert as a contractor hired to manage the quarry for the Department of National Defence. He took photos of the eclipse using a Canon Sureshot camera without any special lenses, and sent them to the CBC.

"I have never been here during the dark period and this gave me an idea as to what it would be like during the twilight periods," he told CBC News in an e-mail.

"I can only compare the experience to another I had this summer when I visited Ward Hunt Island and saw the Ward Hunt Ice [Shelf] for the first time."

Edison said he and four colleagues braved the 90 kilometres per hour wind for almost an hour to witness the total eclipse, which occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun from our perspective on Earth and completely covers the sun.

Clare Kines of Arctic Bay, Nunavut, captured the eclipse at 5:18 a.m. ET with a Canon Rebel xti digital SLR camera. ((Submitted by Clare Kines))
The eclipse then moved on past Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia and China, where it ended at sunset.

The peak of the total solar eclipse occurred in Novosibirsk, Russia's third largest city, with a population of 1.5 million people.

Forecasts of cloudy skies there proved to be incorrect, and so the city's residents and thousands of tourists who had flocked there were able to witness the event for two minutes and 23 seconds.

"It became cold and dark, and suddenly it was light again. I am very happy — it was worth the trip," said Lucas Heinrich, a physics student from Berlin who travelled to Novosibirsk with classmates.

Viewers had to be in a very narrow path on land to have just the right angle to see a total eclipse; otherwise they would only view a partial eclipse, where not all of the sun is blocked from view. Residents in the high Arctic town of Resolute, for example, were only able to see a partial eclipse, as were people in Moscow.

The next total solar eclipse will be on July 22, 2009, and viewable in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before curving south across the Pacific Ocean. The next total solar eclipse that will be visible across North America will be on Aug. 21, 2017.

With files from the Associated Press