Eclipse Day

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Total Solar Eclipse in the Libyan Sahara Desert

2006.03.28 - Tuesday - Benghazi to Eclipse Camp - We leave at 8AM this morning on our bus headed to the Eclipse Camp, south of Jalu. After stopping to pick up some water and box lunches, we finally get underway at 9:30am. We make several pit stops along the way, including a lunch stop on the roadside. We seew some sheep and camels being herded beside the road. The closer we approach our Eclipse Camp south of Jalu, the more frequent the security check points become.

Our route from Tripoli to Jalu

The eclipse path
واحـ جالو ـــة سائح و كسوف
An Arabic language version of this page
by Wahtjalo Webmaster
(my material used with permission)
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Scrub and palm tree, Sahara Desert

Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Fruit and vegetable stand, Jalu

Camel herd in the Sahara Desert south of Jalu

Baby camel at truck stop south of Jalu

Camels being herded by a 4x4 truck in the Sahara Desert south of Jalu
Photo by Geoff Brown
Security Checkpoint in Sahara Desert
Photo by Geoff Brown
Security Checkpoint in Sahara Desert

Rest stop along the highway enroute to the Eclipse Camp

On the way down to the eclipse camp, we go through multiple security check points. Security has been high throughout this trip - we have a Tourist Police aboard our bus at all times, as well as our Numidia Tours guide and our driver. The Libyans are taking no chances of any "tourist incidents" happening for this Solar Eclipse event!

We have arrived! My GPS says we are at N28 13' 48" E21 30' 44". The eclipse camp is amazing:

bullethundreds of tents in several camps
bulleta commissary/dining hall
bulletsouvenir and coffee shops
bulletshowers and flush toilet latrines - running water coming from tanker trucks
bulletwireless Internet and telephones - electricity from a generator running 24 hrs/day

This evening the organizers in the dining hall lose control of the crowd of 500-1,000 who show up for dinner around 8pm. Libyans are crashing the line, pushing the tourists back - a bad scene. Most of my group eat dinner around 9pm. Needless to say, we are exceedingly hungry by then! I find a small stuffed camel in one of the shops, which will make a nice gift for someone special when I return home.

Our bus is stuck in the sand at the Eclipse Camp, but is eventually pulled out.
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
RASC Group disembarked from the bus, the Eclipse Camp in the distance
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Helicopters at Eclipse Camp
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Internet tent and other service tents, Eclipse Camp
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Showers and toilets, Eclipse Camp
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Commissary dining room, with RASC group occupying the centre table, Eclipse Camp

There are perhaps 500-1,000 people at our camp, and I can see at least two other camps nearby. Everyone is pretty excited to finally be at our destination - the reason for our long journey.  After some supper, most of us adjourned to a coffee shop setup in the desert, and shot the breeze for awhile, then retired to bed. We were all tired after being in the bus and on the road for 8 hours.

Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Some of the RASC group relax with some coffee by the Eclipse Camp shops

Ali and Mahmood Poonja, Bestway Tour organizers smoking the Water Pipe

Commemorative Libyan Eclipse stamps

2006.03.29 - Wednesday - Solar Eclipse, then travel from the Eclipse Camp to Benghazi - The following morning, everyone is well-rested and ready to go. Breakfast is a bun and some cheese from Mahmood Poonja (Bestway Tours & Safaris). Then a few of us go over to the coffee shop for our morning coffee before setting up for the eclipse.

First item of business for most of us is equipment checks and setup. We have lots of curious Libyans and fellow campers from around the world asking us questions about ourselves, our equipment, and (in the case of the Libyans) what we thought of their country. The atmosphere is very energized! We have two weathermen with us, as well as a half dozen experienced eclipse chasers who I find personally very helpful.

Patrick, Marvin and I all wore our Ghutras, which caused all sorts of fellow eclipse chasers and Libyans to either take our pictures, or want pictures taken with themselves standing beside one (or all) of us. We ditched the Ghutras after the eclipse was over.  Lunch is served around 3pm, which is very well organized today.

Scout troop & Patrick MacDonald on 2006 Solar Eclipse Day

Libyan Scouts dance and sing during the 2006 total solar eclipse from JoeTourist InfoSystems on Vimeo.

Photo by Geoff Brown
Lucy copes with her ever-present group of young Libyan men. Stephen talking to Libyans about the eclipse.
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Patrick McDonald, Marvin Goody, Joe Carr modelling their Ghutras

Ralph Chou, Jim Low, Doug Bulgin & Marvin Goody setting up for the eclipse. My telephoto camera setup is just outside the second tent from the left.
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Joe Carr setup and ready to photograph and view the eclipse
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
Row of RASC Eclipse Chasers setup and ready for the eclipse. Ralph Chou in foreground.
Photo by Geoff Brown
Joe lending his binoculars to a keen Solar Eclipse observer.
Photo by Lucy Winnicke
The eclipse has started and the RASC observers are busy.

Lucy Winnicke setup and ready to observe the eclipse

Eclipsed Sun images projected onto Lucy Winnicki's face through her straw hat
Photo by Geoff Brown
RASC members observing the eclipse between 1st & 2nd Contact.

As we count down to First Contact, people are really getting excited. Finally, "first contact" is shouted out, and we all look up (through filtered glasses) to see the first chunk of the Sun being eclipsed by the Moon. What a strange sight! Over the next few minutes more and more of the Sun is eclipsed, until we feel the temperature of the Saharan heat start to drop. Next comes a strange change in the colour of the surrounding light. As things start to darken more, the temperature drops more - a total of 7 or 8C by the end according to one of my fellow observers, Jim Low, who is measuring the temperature throughout the eclipse.

2006 Total Solar Eclipse in the Libyan Sahara Desert composite covering 1st, 2nd and 3rd Contact2006 solar eclipse in the Libyan Sahara- full eclipse HDR processedAt Second Contact, the Moon totally eclipses the Sun, and the Diamond Ring (see image below) appears for a brief few seconds, closely followed by Bailey's Beads and solar prominences. What a site, and it happens so quickly! Then for 4 minutes we have the total eclipse to enjoy and photograph. The Sun's corona was magnificent, streamers of plasma flowing outward from the Sun (see image to right). I was taking photographs all through the sequence. The full eclipse phase is so strange, since no solar filters are needed to observe the Sun while fully-eclipsed by the Moon.  I can appreciate why some people become so emotional during an eclipse.

2006 solar eclipse in the Libyan Sahara- diamond ringToo soon we come to Third Contact, where we have to again use solar filters, since the energy of the Sun is now back at close to full strength. Some of our group observe until Fourth Contact, making observations along the way. Being less dedicated, I stop photographing during this phase, and just enjoyed the occasional glance at the eclipsed sun through my filtered binoculars.

A solar eclipse can be enjoyed in many ways - direct observation, photography, and observing changes in the light, ambient temperature and wildlife in the area, or just sharing the experience with others. We have a great group, with everyone helping each other to enjoy the experience. We do a fair bit of ambassadorship for Canada, the RASC, and astronomy in general - Sidewalk Astronomy in the Sahara!

So I observe my first total solar eclipse from the middle of the Libyan Sahara Desert - very exciting! Bailey's Beads, the Diamond Ring, solar flares and the corona were all superb as viewed though my binoculars and through my Canon EF 400mm L series telephoto lens on my Canon Digital Rebel dSLR. The photos I took of the event turn out very well.

We depart Eclipse Camp around 4pm bound for Benghazi. We arrive back in the Garifuna Resort at about 10pm. After a quick dinner, I shower off that desert sand and then go to bed. It has been a long, but very rewarding day!  The eclipse was a tremendous success, with the weather being absolutely perfect.

A parade of SUV's leave the Eclipse Camp

Sahara Desert Sunset - no Green Flash!


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