The Hamilton Spectator

‘Worth doing extraordin­ary things to be able to see it’

Thousands to descend on city Monday for rare total eclipse


It’s been nearly a century since Hamilton had a total solar eclipse, so it’s no wonder Monday’s event is expected to draw tens of thousands to the region to take in what is for many a once-in-a-lifetime event.

For amateur astronomer Roger Hill, Monday’s will be his fifth.

In 1991 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, totality lasted a “spectacula­r” seven minutes. He watched the shadow of the moon race across Lake Winnipeg from Gimli, Man., in 1979. In 1972, he was lucky to find a sliver to clear among cloudy skies on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec to watch the event.

And, his most memorable, the 2017 total eclipse, which he witnessed in Nebraska with his wife and adult son.

Each, he said, has its own magic. “It’s like somebody’s turning a dimmer switch,” the 68-year-old said. “The effect on you is powerful. The hair goes up on the back of your neck.”

When the corona begins to show, “people burst into applause,” which is followed by foul language as people “run out of things to say to match the experience,” he said.

For Burlington-raised Hill, a member of the Hamilton chapter of the Royal Astronomic­al Society of Canada for more than a half-century, love for the starry skies began as a young boy in the U.K., before he saw his first partial eclipse near Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the age of 11.

Since then, he’s travelled all over North America and beyond to witness more than two dozen of the celestial events.

While partial eclipses are

‘‘ It’s like somebody’s turning a dimmer switch. The effect on you is powerful. The hair goes up on the back of your neck.


common all over the world, total solar eclipses are an extremely rare localized phenomenon, happening at specific locations only once in many generation­s — which is why, if you’re a committed eclipsecha­ser, “it’s best to be mobile,” Hill said.

“To my mind, it is worth doing extraordin­ary things to be able to see it,” he said.

Hamilton, for example, won’t experience another for 120 years.

What makes this eclipse special? From certain vantage points, there’s a chance of seeing a double diamond ring, he said, referring to the moment when the sun’s light bursts from behind the moon — something Hill has never seen before. The city says more than 100,000 people are expected to descend on Hamilton on Monday, but how much they’ll be able to see is unclear.

As Hill puts it, the “weather gods can be capricious.” The path of totality is narrow, meaning Monday’s “mainly cloudy” forecast for Hamilton and Burlington could bring with it disappoint­ment.

For weeks, the city has been abuzz preparing for the eclipse.

Organizati­ons like McMaster University, public libraries and the Bruce Trail Conservanc­y in Dundas were gifting paper glasses — similar in appearance to those that make a movie three dimensiona­l — with solar filters.

With classes cancelled for the day, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand and Norfolk are expecting to receive an influx of visitors looking for the best vantage points to witness this rare sight.

Hamilton-area residents are lucky to be in the path of totality, meaning most families will be able to see the eclipse from their homes and backyards. But not all neighbourh­oods are equal, and some will experience just moments of the full eclipse, while others get minutes of midday darkness.

Residents should view the eclipse from “wherever you happen to be,” advised McMaster planetariu­m director Robert Cockcroft. The city has also encouraged residents to stay home to avoid contributi­ng to crowds and traffic.

Viewers might want to consider doing like veteran eclipsecha­ser Hill, who ditches the camera to immerse himself fully in the spine-tingling moments when the moon passes between the sun and planet Earth.

“I want to drink in the entire effect of a 360-degree sunset … I want to see the shadow of the moon racing away from me. I want to see the ruby-red of the prominence­s sprinkled around the edge of the sun and the pearly-white sheen or the corona,” he said.

“I want to see this with my own eyes, not with the viewfinder of a camera.”

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