You're Kidding, Right?
Sunday, 9 March 1997
I didn't see this eclipse, but, of course, neither did most of the people who went to Mongolia or Siberia and froze. Yes, I did a little research on how I might get there, but I gave up the thought of going pretty early in the game, and ended up spending that day here at home, tutoring and planning my upcoming wedding. If going to India had been a little crazy, then the thought of traipsing to that Siberean and Mongolian part of the world in the middle of a tortuous winter was, well, let's just say that the clothing I would've had to take didn't fit into the airline's baggage weight allowance, and I heard that the Ulaanbaatar Hertz ran out of yaks….
Die-hard eclipsers will say that I definitely gave up on this one too early. I mean, if it's true that you should mortgage your house to get to one of these, and if I'm really as gung ho on seeing every eclipse I can possibly get to, why did I give up on it so easily?
I don't really have an answer to this, except to say that my sense of adventure may just not have been strong enough to outweigh all the other things that were going on in my life at that time. I had a wedding (my own!) scheduled for a little over three months from eclipse day, and to spend the money I would've needed to, on top of everything I was already doing, didn't seem like the wisest thing in the world to do. The part of the world it was in didn't bother me, but all the tours I checked into were very expensive. That, combined with the dismal weather prospects, and the almost complete lack of things to see in the area (make sure you have a good trip even if you're clouded out!) made it so that I never really caught the fever for this one.
As an aside, let me put in my two cents worth on the subject of how I think tour companies handle these eclipse excursions. I know they have to arrange for nice accommodations, since those hotels are normally the only ones where it makes sense to book groups into. But, when I travel, I don't mind sleeping in a small place that gives me more of a feel of the country I'm in. I'll gladly trade any comforts I might be missing out on for the extra $100 per night or so that I know I'm spending unnecessarily. Where is the tour company that offers economy, doesn't make you pay for four-star hotels, and has science and eclipse-viewing as its primary objective, instead of throwing eclipse-day in as an afterthought among much-too-lengthy cattle-car-like tours of every ruin within a thousand miles? Those things are interesting, but if you can do away with some of the frills, cut the price by 60-70%, and get that many more people involved, why not do it? It's just a thought….
An interesting note - I believe this was the first eclipse to be broadcast live on the Internet. It's funny how technology comes and goes, and people change the way they live, work, and even think, but eclipses just do the same thing, every time. They do their thing, when and where they want to, and if you want to be there to watch, you can. It's been the same way for thousands of years, and it will continue to be that way for thousands of years to come: they'll just be there, in the Arctic, over the ocean, Mexico City or the middle of the Sahara, it doesn't matter. They'll be there. With or without us. They're just too perfect to change….
© 1998 Dan McGlaun