China - at last! 
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Nine Dragons Resort

Near the town of Jiaxing, China (near Shanghai)
30° 36' 4"N - 121° 7' 46"E

Totality: 5m53s


(well, in reality we were RAINED OUT!)



After having missed the chance to see China in my 20s, this eclipse represents the only other opportunity I've had to be able to go there.  I had been booked on a trip to Iwo Jima (wow!) to see the eclipse, until many many eclipse chasers started hounding the Japanese government to the point where they decided to close down the island completely.  That was not a good day when I found out about that.

So, I was with a tour group in eastern China, holding out hope that the forecasts of clouds would not come to pass.  And with the Swine (H1N1) Flu scare that we're currently going through, it remained to be seen whether I would actually even be allowed to leave the airport on arrival!  (China was screening everyone coming into the country.  If you had the bad luck of sitting anywhere near someone with an elevated temp, they put you in quarantine until they decided the person was clean.  That might be that night, or it might be 7 days- who knows?)  Insurance was purchased against this eventuality, and if it happened I was going to try to get a room in my "guest lodgings" with a southeast-facing window!

To help prepare me for this, I enlisted the aid of Abacus Chinese Translation Services to prepare for me dozens of potentially useful phrases that might come in very handy for me during my "stay".  I wanted to give them a link because of the help they gave me.




Well, what can you say?  You win some, you lose some, and this one was definitely 50/50 going in.  As it turns out, even the people who went to places where the weather was likely to be good still had to observe the eclipse through pretty good cloud cover.  For us in Eastern China, it was an absolute no show, no where, no how.  Everyone on the ground in all the locations that had been staked out were reporting the same thing, and the only shot we had was that a very slight break in the cover (not a hole, but only a slight thinning) would move over our location by eclipse time provided that favorable winds turned up and held.  They didn’t, and they didn’t.

West in Wuhan (center of the country), they saw part of the total phases of the eclipse, but again generally this was through cloud.  Further west in Chonqing turned out to be one of the best places to observe from, and I heard that there were people who saw the eclipse in clear skies!  In Bhutan and Nepal, clouds ruled the day, and for some lucky folks in India (Varanasi, to be exact), the monsoons broke and the eclipse reigned.  For us, only the clouds rained.

Generally, I keep a small portion of the ground at my feet after an eclipse, to have something tangible to take home that shared the eclipse with me (don’t tell Customs).  For this eclipse, I set out a couple of drinking glasses, and collected eclipse rain.  I brought it home, and now have it safely filtered and stored in little glass vials as a memento of when plans don’t always go the way you expect them to.

Further east, I’m told that most of the Japanese islands saw totality, as well as Iwo Jima (where I would’ve seen the eclipse from, but for circumstances well beyond my control).  Even futher east, Enewetak and Kiribati had glorious skies, and all eclipse parties (and quite a few non-eclipse parties) in those casual climes were highly successful.



Here are some satellite photos to show you what we were up against.  You can see in every one of them the huge horizontal swath of cloud that settled in right over the eclipse path, and didn't budge.  And the morning of the day before eclipse day had been so perfect...!


day before the eclipse, 2:00pm local

day before the eclipse, 5:00pm local

day before the eclipse, 8:00pm local.  Rain was about to start.

day before the eclipse, 11:00pm local.  Downpour.

Eclipse morning, 2:00am local

Eclipse morning, 5:00am local.  Totally socked in.

Eclipse morning, 8:00am local.  Totality in an hour and a half,
and no holes to be found except far to the Southwest!

Eclipse day, 11:00am local.  Still socked in, the eclipse is over,
and we've left our viewing site for good.

Note the small hole in western CHina, and the HUGE hole over eastern India!  No one had predicted that one!

Here is another, closer picture that also shows the eclipse path.  You can see that the only way we would've had a chance was to hit the road west.
Of course, no one could have predicted that that hole would've stayed there, and we're talking over 120 miles!
No, this one was out of reach from the word go.



© 2009 Dan McGlaun