Sunday, 3.11.2013, continued:
On the way to the eclipse place of course there were quite many local villages, but less than in regions to the south. The quality of life also was significantly lower than elsewhere, mostly just small cottages with tin roofs or their traditional clay huts with thatched roofs. For us as tourists it is an interesting view, but it is understandable why people are so happy that oil has been found in this region. This is one of the least developed regions of Kenya, with a low standard of living and a high degree of uncertainty caused by the nearby Sudan. At the same time, because of the relatively small industrial impact here it is possible to observe the local tribal culture and traditions more pronounced.
For the solar eclipse observation already a sizeable group of watchers had arrived at the moment we turned up. Approximate arrival time – a bit past three in the afternoon. Partial eclipse phase started only at four and seventeen minutes, so before it there was some time during which Ilgonis set up a telescope to project a solar image on a sheet of white paper, and all of us had a lunch. Nothing grand, just a couple of sandwiches with cheese and cabbage leaves, but at that point nobody really needed anything more than that.
Everyone was waiting for the solar eclipse, the great goal of this trip. During this time we also became acquainted with our neighbors – the other eclipse watchers who had come here. There were both local Kenyan and nearest African countries’ representatives as well as distant travelers like us, for example some eclipse hunters from Russia. It quickly emerged that everyone has the same problem, namely the lack of glasses that would be suitable for observing the eclipse, as well as our joint team t-shirts caused genuine interest. In general, this is an idea for people who want to profit to make a stall in the eclipse observation sites, where to sell T-shirts, glasses and other souvenirs. I think that many would be willing to pay much more than usually in this situation.
At the start of the partial eclipse phase all gathered around the telescope, and soon we were joined by a number of locals, including our driver, who somehow somewhere managed to get the eclipse glasses. Telescope projected an upside-down image of the sun; gradually a dark notch could be seen appearing in the sun, which with time grew even bigger and bigger. Of course, everyone photographed, as well as they knew to do it. Given that I did not know how, I got a short lecture on eclipse photography from Ilgonis. The whole main trick lies in a minimum short exposure. Vitolds worked as the team’s main photographer, who also got pretty good pictures. Turned out that American scientists’ tent s close by, where with the use of powerful hardware they carry out a study of the sun, which is only possible during the eclipse. However, I no longer remember what exactly. Of course such events are accompanied by journalists; they would not miss anything, not even an eclipse the middle of nowhere in Africa. So Ilgonis as a real astronomer was also interviewed for some Chinese television channel.
As we approached the moment of total phase, which was to start around 5:20 PM, the clouds began to gather. Ilgonis had warned that during the eclipse the sky will dim and the wind will rise, but this time with the wind came clouds that began to threaten the opportunity to see the total phase of the eclipse. About five minutes before the total phase clouds went in front of the sun and covered it. Such a situation remained until about five minutes after the total phase, which was about 15 seconds long. In other words, we did not see the total solar eclipse. Admittedly sky darkened for a moment, but the total phase was too short, so the night did not fall as it happened during the solar eclipse in China, at least as claimed by Agnese. We observed the partial phase of the eclipse for a while and went back to the accommodation in Lodwar. Much of the eclipse viewers began to leave already shortly after the total phase. The partial phase would end only around six thirty , it is after sunset , so I think it was wise to not wait for the end, but to go back, because the road was not brilliant and ride in the dark would be daunting. However, still a certain part of the road had to be driven during the darkness.
The solar eclipse did not leave any special impression on me, maybe because I did not see it, or simply because it is not my field of interest. I do not know about the other members of the group, it seemed, however, that everyone is disappointed with the failure to observe the magical moment when the day shifts to night and the solar corona is visible.
First thing that was done after arriving in the accommodation was making dinner, because, of course, everyone was starving abominably. The exception, as always, was Vilks, because he has his own schedule, which states that nothing after 7pm. At the end of the dinner, we were joined by Russian eclipse hunters who stayed at the same property as we did. They hoped to find someone who had been able to observe the eclipse, as even though they had tried to get out of the cloud area, they had not managed, and the moment of the totality was absent. Everyone was tired from the long day and soon went to bed. Agnese and Anders still exchanged travel stories with the Russian group, united together by a common characteristic, that is, traveling to countries where the eclipse occurs.