Aruba Eclipse with 3rd Diamond Ring

1998 Feb 26

I had the joy of seeing the total solar eclipse from the Astronomical League's waterfront area on Aruba. My first time, and very likely not my last! After the second stunning diamond ring effect at the end of totality, I proposed to my girlfriend Christina and gave her a temporary engagement ring plus a loose diamond I had bought in St Thomas. We got interviewed by several camera and video crews covering the event, and I believe we were carried on some Canandian TV news show.

We have since learned that there were at least two other couples who become engaged at Aruba that day. One couple stayed aboard our cruise ship Carnival Fascination. He proposed during the middle of totality rather than afterwards, which Christina and I both thought was wrong-headed. They probably saw little of the conclusion of totality. Christina would have answered "Huh?" and kept on looking up...

For totality, I had with me various binoculars and a tiny 80mm f/5 Celestron refractor. The view thru binoculars of the corona detail and prominences was fantastic, but I was too excited by the view to hold my hands steady, and the dustcap kept falling back over one of the objective lenses. The little scope gave a much better view, even on a $20 tripod. I didn't have enough presence of mind to switch to a higher- magnifcation eyepiece.

This cruise gave the option of deciding at the last minute, whether to stay aboard the ship for eclipse day or to do it on land at Aruba. At sunrise the skies were mostly cloudly & discouraging. We went ashore briefly to try to acquire eclipse T-shirts (the ship had run out). The sky cleared so we madly went aboard to get our gear. We nearly remembered everything. Once committed to being on land, the skies clouded up again. The sun was fully visible for maybe 10% of the time between 1st and 2nd contact, with some moments of slight rain. I got some very nice partial-eclipse photos with an automatic pocket camera, using the thin clouds as a dramatically textured solar filter. The clouds finally openned up for good just moments before totality began, with a few moments of mid-totality obscured by one final tiny cloud. We felt extremely fortunate. I heard that people who drove to the south or east sides of Aruba had clear skies throughout, and the boats that went out to the centerline had suspenseful pre-totality clouds like us.

For those now thinking of next year's total eclipse in Europe, I recommend thinking twice (or more) of selecting a country like England or Germany with poor chances of clear skies.

Doing this year's eclipse as part of a large group was fun. The talks on board before and after eclipse day were great, as was talking & dining with eclipse-chaser veterans. The personal videos shown from prior eclipses were very funny, as the excited sound tracks sounded very much like the exclamations on an X-rated video. And now I know why...

Duane Sand; 1998 Mar 2