Solar Eclipse Umbraphile Shadow Chaser Expeditions
The communities along the west coast in the path towards solar eclipse totality including but not limited to Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Onslow and surrounds have been planning for the past 12 months to host an influx of explorers getting ready for a celestial event that brings people from all over the world. During this time, I have learned, unlearned and relearned a lot about the Moon Catching Up with the Sun during a solar eclipse as well as shadow chasers known as umbraphiles who want to witness the phenomena in real life.
On April 20th, the skies above Carnarvon in Western Australia will witness a 97% partial solar eclipse, there will be people who stay in town and will enjoy a musical street festival for a few days. In the meanwhile, the truest umbraphiles, or shadow chasers will seek 100 % totality 400 km up the road, either on a boat, in a camp ground, or driving to Exmouth for the day.
The Umbraphiles express that experiencing a solar eclipse is a sight that will stay with you for a lifetime, so seek out totality because 97% coverage, won’t be the same.
I have found that the eclipse is more than just a chance to witness a natural wonder. It's also an opportunity to learn and appreciate to seek balance while discovering the history and science behind solar eclipses and the adventures of space.
Did you know over 100 years ago…
On 21 September 1922, a total solar eclipse was set to occur over the skies of Wallal, a remote location on Eighty Mile Beach, 300km south from Broome in Western Australia. This rare astronomical event would provide an opportunity for scientists to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, which predicted that gravity could bend the path of light.
However, the challenges of reaching and setting up a sustainable camp in this remote location were daunting. At the time, the only infrastructure in the area was an old telegraph station, and there were no roads in or out. Moreover, the British scientists who had previously attempted such an expedition dismissed the possibility of setting up camp in Wallal, citing its remote location and lack of infrastructure. At the time the Nyangumarta people living in the area and cattle stations helped to erect structures, source and carry rocks for foundations, as well as starting camp fires, and helping around the camp.
Despite the odds, Professor Alexander Ross, the head of mathematics and physics at the University of Western Australia (UWA), was determined to make the expedition a success. Ross had researched the area and discovered that pearling boats frequented the area and were able to navigate the massive nine-metre high tides. He also found out about a freshwater source used by the local indigenous population and a well built by the State Government decades earlier to serve a stock route through the area.
With this knowledge, Ross was able to convince the international community of astronomers that Wallal was a viable location for the solar eclipse expedition. He and his team successfully transported all the equipment needed to Wallal, built a sustainable camp, and observed the total solar eclipse on 21 September 1922.
The results of the expedition were a success and helped to confirm Einstein's theory of general relativity. The Wallal Solar Eclipse Expedition was a remarkable achievement in the history of astronomy, and it showcased the determination and ingenuity of the scientists involved in making the impossible possible. Today, the legacy of this expedition lives on and inspires future generations of scientists to push the boundaries of what is possible in the field of astronomy and space adventure.
Take a moment to appreciate the scientific and historical significance behind this event, and let it inspire you to learn more about the wonders of the cosmos and the sun, moon and shadows above.
If you are not heading this way, there will be another one in the area in 2038, Onslow this time. Or if you don’t want to wait that long, the moon will fully cover the sun in Sydney for 3 minutes and 50 seconds at 2pm on 22 July 2028.