The Great (Wet) Eclipse of August 1999

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Just as we decided that Cornwall was going to be too crowded to see The Great Eclipse, an e-mail dropped out of the blue from our friends Rudi and Michael in Stuttgart. "Are you going to come and see the eclipse with us?" they asked. We hadn't realised that their home city was right slap on the middle of the path of totality. "Are you kidding?" we replied. Within a few days we'd booked our flights and then smugly told our English friends that we were going to have a much better chance of seeing this great event than they were. We wouldn't be stuck on the M5 on our way to Cornwall.

When we arrived in Stuttgart though, it didn't look hopeful. Clouds and rain were forecast. Rudi and Michael suggested we should go to the top of a landfill site built fifty years ago with the rubble from Stuttgart's bombed-out remains. On the morning of the eclipse we joined hundreds of others seeking the best chance of observing the moon's shadow racing towards us - the view on a clear day was claimed to be as far as the Alps.

Starting up the hill Is it going to rain? Yes it is!

As the time approached, the umbrellas came out when the heavens opened.

Moon shadow approaching Strange light effects Total eclipse!

It got darker, but we couldn't tell if that was the eclipse or the rain clouds moving in.

The light was very peculiar and John grabbed a wonderful picture (second, above) as the colours changed around us.

Then it went very dark indeed, like a giant switch being turned off in the sky. If you'd like to get the same effect, find a lounge with a dimmer control and turn it down while someone pours water over you.

Beware the glare Light returns Absolutely soaked!

We were fortunate to have musical accompaniment from some hippies with recorders. Sadly, the musicians didn't seem to know any recognisable tunes and were just playing random notes very quickly. Hmm. Then some wag held up his eclipse spectacles next to a cigarette lighter and drew applause from the crowd.

After what seemed a very short time, (it was just over two minutes, actually), it started to get lighter again.

John, Markus, Rudi and Michael celebrated the return of the sun with a primitive yet powerful ceremony which involved standing bedraggled in a line under a convenient tree in rain-sodden clothing.

first glipse ofthe sun too late, though So what was the point of coming up here, then?

Everyone cheered when the sun appeared briefly - or was that because the recorders stopped?

Stereo recording Waiting for the bus On the BIG screen

One enthusiast was keen enough to bring a "dummy head" stereo microphone to record the ambience.
Afterwards we climbed back down the mountain and caught the bus back into the city centre to see the eclipse replayed on a giant video screen. While we were in the bus the sun came out briefly and everyone on the pavement stopped and stared at the sun with their eclipse glasses on. Our one chance to see the (now-partial) eclipse - and we were stuck on a bus!

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