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The amazing heavenly event today in the US stopped millions of Americans in their tracks and for many, as media photos show this evening, this seems to be from a beach. Then en masse tanning stopped for the short time it took the moon to pass across the face of the sun.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The Guardian newspaper reports on American excitement over the solar eclipse today.
I've visited the US often enough, and competed in a singlehanded round-the-world race which left from the East coast. For all of its appeal, I haven't longed to visit again, not till today.

How wonderful to have witnessed that extraordinary phenomenon.

The Guardian reported tonight, 'After weeks of anticipation, the sight of the moon’s silhouette passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona and causing a precipitous drop in temperature, drew whoops and cheers from onlookers gathered in Madras, Oregon.

Eclipse glasses

“First contact!” someone yelled. Horns honked. Eclipse glasses were popped on to faces, all of which turned eastward to the sun.

As the sky grew dark ... eclipse viewers started to shout and cheer. The most common exclamation was: “Oh my God!” A ring of light glimmered around the black moon – the long-awaited corona, finally safe to view with the naked eye.

As quickly as it came, the eclipse receded, as the umbra – the location of the total shadow – bolted across the continent at an average speed of 1,700 miles per hour.

When all is said and done the “totality” will have engulfed a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, joined temporarily by millions more who traveled to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path for the spectacle.'

Watched by rather less than millions

In the story of my swallowing the anchor voyage, Sailing to Purgatory, I report a similar event, albeit on a rather less grand scale, and watched by a few million people less. I was sailing alone, and a very long way from any other human.

I radio’d the St Helena authorities to give my ETA and came up into the cockpit on a wonderfully clear evening to enjoy a rare sky event. It seemed a fantastic way to end my final voyage.

With a view right into the heavens, I watched Venus and Jupiter merge in conjunction, seeming to dance with each other. Your narrator nearly strained his even older neck enjoying the wonders of Space from these latitudes.

St Helena has been a major location for astronomy since the 1760s, of course, hosting such celestial notables as Neville Maskelyne, Edmund Halley, and Admiral Duperry. Now I understood why.

- from Chapter 44, Sailing to Purgatory.

The photo on Facebook by Jesse Belleque on Unsplash.

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Links:
The Guardian reports on the total eclipse