Total Solar Eclipse in the Libyan Sahara Desert
2006.03.28 - Tuesday - Benghazi to Eclipse Camp - We leave at 8AM this morning on our bus headed to the Eclipse Camp, south of Jalu. After stopping to pick up some water and box lunches, we finally get underway at 9:30am. We make several pit stops along the way, including a lunch stop on the roadside. We seew some sheep and camels being herded beside the road. The closer we approach our Eclipse Camp south of Jalu, the more frequent the security check points become.
On the way down to the eclipse camp, we go through multiple security check points. Security has been high throughout this trip - we have a Tourist Police aboard our bus at all times, as well as our Numidia Tours guide and our driver. The Libyans are taking no chances of any "tourist incidents" happening for this Solar Eclipse event!
We have arrived! My GPS says we are at N28° 13' 48" E21° 30' 44". The eclipse camp is amazing:
This evening the organizers in the dining hall lose control of the crowd of 500-1,000 who show up for dinner around 8pm. Libyans are crashing the line, pushing the tourists back - a bad scene. Most of my group eat dinner around 9pm. Needless to say, we are exceedingly hungry by then! I find a small stuffed camel in one of the shops, which will make a nice gift for someone special when I return home.
There are perhaps 500-1,000 people at our camp, and I can see at least two other camps nearby. Everyone is pretty excited to finally be at our destination - the reason for our long journey. After some supper, most of us adjourned to a coffee shop setup in the desert, and shot the breeze for awhile, then retired to bed. We were all tired after being in the bus and on the road for 8 hours.
2006.03.29 - Wednesday - Solar Eclipse, then travel
from the Eclipse
Camp to Benghazi - The following morning, everyone is
well-rested and ready to go. Breakfast is a bun and some cheese from Mahmood
Poonja (Bestway Tours & Safaris). Then a few of us
go over to the coffee shop for our morning coffee before setting up for the
Patrick, Marvin and I all wore our Ghutras, which caused all sorts of fellow eclipse chasers and Libyans to either take our pictures, or want pictures taken with themselves standing beside one (or all) of us. We ditched the Ghutras after the eclipse was over. Lunch is served around 3pm, which is very well organized today.
we count down to First Contact, people are really getting excited. Finally,
"first contact" is shouted out, and we all look up (through filtered
glasses) to see the first chunk of
the Sun being eclipsed by the Moon. What a strange sight! Over the next few
minutes more and more of the Sun is eclipsed, until we feel the
temperature of the Saharan heat start to drop. Next comes a strange change in the colour of the surrounding light. As things start to darken more, the
temperature drops more - a total of 7 or 8°C by the end according to one of my
fellow observers, Jim Low, who is measuring the temperature throughout the
A solar eclipse can be enjoyed in many ways - direct observation, photography, and observing changes in the light, ambient temperature and wildlife in the area, or just sharing the experience with others. We have a great group, with everyone helping each other to enjoy the experience. We do a fair bit of ambassadorship for Canada, the RASC, and astronomy in general - Sidewalk Astronomy in the Sahara!
So I observe my first total solar eclipse from the middle of
the Libyan Sahara Desert - very exciting! Bailey's Beads, the Diamond Ring,
solar flares and the corona were all superb as viewed though my binoculars and
through my Canon EF 400mm L series telephoto lens on my Canon Digital Rebel dSLR.
The photos I took of the
event turn out very well.
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