My 4th Solar Eclipse
My 2nd successful Total Eclipse
My second continent on the chase
I didn’t know it at the time. I booked this expedition with a Brazilian friend of mine – he grew up in Sao Paulo – and he had offered to show me around the country and see his first total eclipse. I was foaming at the mouth to see another one – Mexico in 1991 was feeling very distant – and the two annular eclipses I had chased in the meantime didn’t quench my thirst for exotic adventure or umbral glory. Brazil did both. Big time.
In South America, Brazil takes up almost as much space as all the other 12 countries combined. It’s massive. From the all-important Amazon rain forest, to the loud, over-populated sprawl of Sao Paulo, to the pristine dunes of coral sands that line the beaches on the northeast coast, Brazil is a microcosm of the entire planet. Brazil can give you anything. And as is the case with any country, there are two ways to go: as a tourist, or as a local. Travelling this rich land with my Brazilian friend, Dimas, I saw a part of this land very few visitors get to see.
To begin this eclipse adventure, we rendezvous with an old friend of Dimas’ in Fortaleza, rent a dune buggy, and spend a week bounding through the hills of sand en route Canoa que Brada – a quaint village buried in the sand that is known for its young crowd and vibrant night life. Following the coastline for days along the beach, we stop at fishing villages and sleep in guest houses and make new friends at every turn. This part of Brazil is unique. The best fish lunches ever! And so much fun!
We arrive in Canoa and it is literally built on the sand. Townsfolk are mostly artists, musicians, small business owners or ex-patriots from the city who fell in love with this sleepy locale by the beach and never went home. Yes – we’re talking party central!
We met Carla in a restaurant on the way up from Fortaleza. She was giving us directions to Canoa when we asked to her to join us as our guide! People in Brazil are great! And when we got stuck in the sand, these two local kids came to the rescue. They knew how to handle that dune buggy better than any of us.
With a serious hang over, we make our way to Sao Paulo – one the biggest cities in the world; like Manhattan times ten – and enjoy the good life for a week. I don’t think I got any sleep the whole time I was there! And I am really starting to love the Brazilians we are meeting. If only I could speak Portuguese!
The eclipse path cut a swath through the south central part of South America, and numerous expeditions were staged to intercept the shadow in Chile near Putre. But for those of us observing from the Brazilian side, there was only one choice: Iguacu Falls; the meeting point between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
Dimas has friends in Iguacu Falls so it’s easy to find our way around town. We attend pre-eclipse meetings being held by tour operators in hotels, and begin to narrow down the options for observing sites. The concern is that the moisture in the air from the falls will condense into localized clouds as the air cools with the coming of the Moon’s shadow. A small soccer field just outside of town emerges as the best choice to avoid this fate.
We arrive at our chosen site only to find a group from the Toronto Centre of the RASC already set up! My local astronomy club! I had no idea they were in Brazil. We join the group, which includes additional chasers from Europe and around the world, and begin the nervous anticipation of totality. My second encounter with the Moon’s shadow is nigh.
During the partial phases of an eclipse – the 90 minutes or so before and after totality – chasers love to experience the unique visual phenomena that only a crescent sun can produce.
The media always makes a fuss when an eclipse comes to town. And although they usually can’t get the facts straight, they do a great job of creating excitement and raising awareness of this incredible event.
After a few tense moments where it looked like we might have some clouds, the sky cleared. This was still only my second total eclipse and I wasn’t yet burdening myself with multiple cameras and video. I got to sit back and enjoy it.
What a glorious thing to do with a day. But all it did was leave me wanting more. My first eclipse in Mexico in 1991 was so long, so intense, so beautiful, I hadn’t got nearly enough this time. But that unmistakable post-eclipse glow lasted well into the next day.