For one day, sun, moon unite fractured country
The centerline of Monday’s total solar eclipse comes ashore about 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on the rugged coast of Oregon near a place called Depoe Bay, where 40-ton gray whales spout and feed in the shallow water.
At 2,000 mph, the line, like one down the middle of a highway, streaks inland south of Salem.
It goes over an extinct volcano in Idaho, a Stonehenge-like sculpture of junked cars in Nebraska and crosses the Missouri River blocks from where Jesse James was killed.
Weather permitting, the center of the 70-mile-wide band of
totality will deliver the most seconds of complete eclipse, experts say, as it links a fractured country for one day on a path of history, geography and the moon’s racing shadow.
“When the Earth reminds us that there are tremendous forces out there beyond our control, it helps us to remember who we are,” said Cheri Ward, 56, who has a blueberry farm outside McClellanville, S.C., near the path’s center.
Along its 2,500-mile journey, it crosses the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the route of the Pony Express. And it exits the country just before 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time over Five Fathom Creek, in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, with its two aged lighthouses, northeast of Charleston, S.C.
While the band of totality is miles wide, “it really matters how close you are to the center,” said Geneviève de Messières of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
“Along that centerline you have a better chance of experiencing the full glory of the eclipse,” she said.
One place that will see maximum time of totality is the old railroad hamlet of Makanda, in southern Illinois.
Totality: more than 2 minutes 40 seconds.
The event has “taken a little town that’s not on anybody’s map to ... the center of national conversation,” said Jeremy Schumacher, who works at the Eclipse Kitchen restaurant there.
Makanda, population about 600, now seems like “the center of the sun, and moon and Earth and everything,” he said.
This is the first coast-to-coast eclipse in the United States since 1918, the Smithsonian Institution said.
Millions of Americ ans are expected to converge on the zone of totality to observe, clog traf- fic and munch pancakes, barbecue and pizza.
Commemorative T-shirts and eclipse glasses by the thousands have been made.
Many schools will be closed, including at least one that has declared Aug. 21 “a snow day.”
Some locales are wary of the hordes of eclipsers, fearful that small communities and infrastructures will be overwhelmed by hungry people who also have to go to the bathroom.
Others see an opportunity to preach, make money or welcome visitors to forgotten waypoints of American history and landscape.
Arrow Rock, Mo. — population is 56, “on a good day,” said Sandy Selby, executive director of Friends of Arrow Rock — was once a thriving port on the Missouri River. The river has long since changed its course, and the village is now a historic site. But it is coming alive again for the eclipse.
“We’ve got someone coming in from Ireland,” Selby said. “We’ve got some people coming in from Canada . ... We’ve had people calling from all over. They want to be here. Or they want to be somewhere on the line.”
“If you’re coming from Ireland, you don’t want to be a mile away from the line,” she said. “You want to be on the line.”
“My hope is that when it happens, that people will be quiet,”
she said. “That for two minutes and 39 seconds we’ll have silence, and we’ll take that time to just reflect on how special this is.”
On the high plains of northwest Nebraska, north of Alliance, where Army pilots trained in World War II, a mysterious circle of gray objects rises from the flat expanse of farmland. The objects closely resemble Britain’s 4,000-year-old Stonehenge, a mystical place of pilgrimage for neo-druids, solstice watchers and legions of tourists. But this monument is made of 39 junked cars.
It’s Carhenge, perhaps the most cosmic spot in the country to watch the eclipse. And it has an impressive two minutes and 28 seconds of totality.
Carhenge was assembled in 1987 by Jim Reinders, the son of a Nebraska tenant farmer, to honor his late father.
Reinders, 89, plans to be at Carhenge on Monday, reportedly along with Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and thousands of others.
But the creator of “Stonehenge west,” as he calls it, sees no mystical aspect to the eclipse.
“It’s an astronomical fact that’s been predicted for hundreds of years, and they know when the next one will be,” he said.
“I don’t see any significance to it whatsoever,” he said. “It’s just an event that will happen every 99 years, or whatever.
“Let’s enjoy it.”
‘When the Earth reminds us that there are tremendous forces out there beyond our control, it helps us to remember who we are.’ Cheri Ward Owns a blueberry farm outside McClellanville, S.C., near the path’s center