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Monday 1 April 2024

Eclipse of 1979 - A Spectacular Sight

One week from today on March 8, 2024, there will be a Total Solar Eclipse. News reports are full of the upcoming event and the State of Emergency that has been declared in Niagra Falls, ON due to it. I recall one on February 26, 1979 so I went back to the Reston Recorder archives online to find out what they had to say about that one.  The period of totality then began at 10:40 am and lasted two minutes and 47 seconds.  

Fort La Bosse School Board consulted with Dr. Roy Brown and discussed what they should do to prepare at a meeting on January 17, 1979.  The intensity of the light when part of the sun's surface is covered was thought to cause irreparable eye damage. Devices had been created for viewing that included boxes, welder's glass and special mylar glasses.  Dr. Brown stated the position of the Ophthalmology Society of the Manitoba Medical Association that the only safe way to view the eclipse is on television.  Given this advice, the school board passed a motion that viewing of the eclipse would NOT be allowed in any of their schools that day. Arrangements will be made to confine all students within the school in windowless rooms. (Pity to the poor teachers of the day!)  If parents chose to assume responsibility for their child's safety, they could keep them home that day with a signed letter to the school informing them. 

Text of the article above from the March 1, 1979 edition of the Reston Recorder:

It was an eerie feeling when darkness fell and the street lights came on Monday morning. This happened during the total eclipse phase when the moon blocked out the sun and left only a ring of light.
The eclipse seem to start slowly as the moon moved across the sun from the south and it became progressively darker, although even when total it was more of a twilight than a complete darkness.
Once the total period was over it seem to become lighter quite quickly.
During the over two minutes of the total eclipse one star to the right of the sun was visible. During the period of totality the temperature dropped noticeably, by ten degrees according to one observer.
For many the eclipse was a “once in a lifetime” experience and will long being remembered.
The event attracted many people to the district. At Pipestone there were two telescope set up for viewing and all along No. 2 Highway many people parked to watch the sight. A number from the United States chose Broomhill, which was right in the centre of the eclipse path, for viewing.
Birds chirped merrily before the eclipse but we’re noticeably silent during the darkness only to resume their activity when the sun came out again.
Clear skies prevailed during eclipse despite gloomy forecasts for cloudy skies.

David Braddell wrote a column for the Recorder called Outdoors Only at that time and after the eclipse, he called it "the unique experience of a lifetime".  He and his wife and their two children (junior members, fully authorized he said!) viewed the event on a ridge north of Reston, taking turns with 2 homemade viewers made with welder's glass No. 14 in box frames. He has a most detailed description in his column in the March 1 newspaper, if you'd like to read it for yourself. 

I vaguely remember being in the gym in my school in Oak River that day although some had cardboard boxes and went outside to watch. I don't recall a televsion but if there was it would have probably been a 12 inch portable one with rabbit ears and tinfoil! The diagram to the right can be found in the same paper with instructions for assembly.  
Just a disclaimer for my readers - I will not be responsible for any problems as a result of faulty assembly of the Sunscope.  You might be able to find coverage on television that day! 

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