At nine minutes past nine this morning there was a Total Solar Eclipse over China. The Eclipse covered several countries in Asia and was the longest eclipse of this century, lasting over six minutes at its greatest point.
The last time I was near an eclipse's path was the back in 1999 where it crossed over the south west of the UK. Back then, I elected to stay in Reading and saw only a 95% eclipse rather than head down to cornwall. I regret not making the trip. So, this time I was rather keen to see this spectacle and we planned our itinerary in China so that we would be right in the middle of the eclipse's path.
Sarah and I decided to base ourselves in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. We thought that the plains of China would be better than the mountains for good weather morning. We headed out to a town the size of Reading called Leshan in the hope that it would be away from the smog of Chengdu and that it would be a good bet for fine weather. We were met with a mixture of pollution and low lying cloud.
We resigned ourselves to seeing nothing other than darkness and waited. And then it started to go dark, very dark. I had the shivers as the surroundings plunged into darkness. It felt rather unique and special. The thing that struck me the most was how quick it went dark and once the four minutes of totality were over, how quickly it became light again. It was a special experience, which I hope to repeat one day.
UPDATE: Well, I just finished updating this blog and went downstairs. I met a traveler who stayed in Chengdu this morning to watch the Solar eclipse. They went to a local park and They avoided the 5.30am start that we had. For the lucky lot that stayed in Chengdu, the clouds parted. I don't need to comment much on how gutted I am.
1999 Eclipse as viewed by Tim
Checkout the 2009 Eclipse here as viewed by Tim
Digging around on the net, it seems that most of China was under cloud cover, including our 'plan B' to be in Shanghai. I now feel every so slightly better that fate had its way. It was a little troublesome to find out as the Chinese Internet is still in lockdown mode
Following the eclipse we did get to see the Great Buddha of Leshan. At 70 metres high this is rather large. I was a little spaced out to fully appreciate the Buddha, after the disappointment of not actually seeing the actual sun, the stifling heat and the result of a 5.30am start. But it was a nice place to visit and arriving early for the solar eclipse meant we missed the truck load of Chinese Tourists. Phew.
The Giant Buddha...and just his head