The Lost Eclipse Years

I was booked as the eclipse expert on this one, too – a marine expedition from the tip of South America – through the Falklands – and down to Antarctica via the shadow of the Moon. But once again, the pandemic made it impossible for the expedition operator to guarantee the safety of passengers and the availability of resources along the expedition path – and they cancelled with only a few months to go. Again, I was crushed.  Just like 2020, the pandemic had erased my eclipse hopes for the year.  This was really hard to take – especially the second time.

And the pandemic notwithstanding, this turned out to be a really difficult chase for those who did venture out.  There were a number of marine expeditions that did not cancel – and there were numerous eclipse flights that would attempt to intercept the Moon’s shadow from 37, 000 feet above the Southern Ocean.  And there was one band of intrepid chasers who made it to the mainland of Antarctica – at Union Glacier – to witness the eclipse standing on the continent itself.

Just to set the stage for this eclipse – look at this map of the eclipse path:

Map of the eclipse dynamics on December 4, 2021


The darkness receding to the northwest is the night side of the Earth becoming morning across the tip of South America.  The eclipse begins at the green line at sunrise and travels south along the dark path shown in between the red lines.  The ships carrying eclipse chasers are all in the same area – hoping to observe the eclipse as it rises across the horizon and into the sky.  The only land-based observation was from Union Glacier – and as it turned out – the only clear skies along the entire path.

Now play this satellite video – taken at eclipse time –  and compare to the map above.  The large, hook-shaped disturbance is perfectly positioned along the eclipse path in time and extent to obscure any observation of the eclipse!

The dark shadow that can be seem moving across the image is the shadow of the Moon – the eclipse itself.  You can also see the night receding to the northwest at the same time. These celestial dynamics point to a sunrise eclipse – and the large, hook-shaped disturbance points to disappointment!

All but one of the ships attempting to observe the eclipse under these circumstances faced a wall of cloud and mist on their bows.


Only The Endurance was in the right place at the right time – to observe the rising eclipse in a thin and disappearing band of clear sky.  Photo by Judy Anderson.

Check out these videos from chasers who were in the right place at the right time –

Lindblad Expeditions:


Jeffery Bagaporo:



A fleeting few seconds of cosmic glory!



Eclipse chasing by plane is almost always successful above the clouds and weather. eFlight photo by Catalin Beldea.

Watch these videos taken from inside planes flying within the shadow of the Moon. The movement of the shadow cone from left to right during the eclipse is stunning.

Robert Stephens:



Nicole Hollenbeck – by smartphone:


There was obviously more than one plane in pursuit! Photo by veteran eclipse photographer Alson Wong.

A few dozen people were lucky enough to fly in to Union Glacier and land on the continent for a solid chase on the ice.  NASA’s live stream event was a success from this location.


Felipe Trueba captures these delicious images of the eclipse from Union Glacier camp.




Delight and Disappointment – in equal measure.  An eclipse recipe baked into the solar system.




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