Total eclipse of the Sun

11 August 1999

Our adventures on the cross-channel car ferry Pride of Le Havre ... (click thumbnails for full size pictures)

08:15 [Le Harve] We set sail from Le Havre (having sailed over from Portsmouth the night before), with encouragingly clear blue skies
[Wake] Well out to sea, we see clouds bubbling up back over the land
[Solar Projector] our Lightline Solar Projector, a clever inexpensive rugged cardboard contraption we bought from Green Witch , designed for safely projecting an image of the sun
09:34 [On deck] The crowd builds up on the viewing deck, as clouds begin to bubble up on the horizon -- but it's still clear overhead
10:07 [First Contact] Just after First Contact, as seen with our Solar Projector. We can see two sunspots with it (but they haven't photographed).
10:26 [20%] About 20%, projected. The projector is a real hit with all the other people viewing -- we even have a short queue at one point!
10:52 [clouds] The clouds start to thicken, and we all start to worry
[pinholes] The cabin key provided an excellent source of multiple pinholes, for a regular "sun crescents through tree leaves" effect
11:00 [80%] About 80%, projected -- it's getting a bit cloudy overhead, but the sun still projects.
11:11 [90%] About 90%, projected
11:14 [95%] About 95%, projected -- but it's still cloudy. A change in the quality of light begins to be noticeable. It's very weird -- the light is definitely dusky, yet it's coming straight down from above. The crowd grows quiet.
11:18 [totality -- (hand held, digital camera, 28mm lens at x3 zoom, no filter)] Totality! The sun pops into a small hazy hole in the clouds, and we get the full two minutes. Too hazy to see the corona or Baily's Beads, too cloudy for any dark sky stars...
[red prominences -- (tripod, SLR, 300mm zoom lens, no filter)] ... But we get the starting diamond ring ... several bright red prominences ... (the photographs are over-exposed -- reality was much more impressive)
[2nd diamond ring -- (tripod, SLR, 300mm zoom lens, no filter)] ... and then the ending diamond ring the other way round. An utterly mind-blowing, indescribably amazing experience -- nothing at all like seeing a partial eclipse; nothing at all like watching one on TV.
[location] our approximate position at totality
11:21 [95%] And it's all over, until 2090
[ferry] This part of the Channel, under that hole in the clouds, did get a little crowded...
[HMS Warrior] We sail back into Portsmouth, under full cloud, past ships old (HMS Warrior) ...
[HMS Victory] ... ships older (HMS Victory) ...
[Aircraft Carrier] ... and ships modern (aircraft carrier)

(All times are British Summer Time)