Sometimes things really are all they are cracked up to be ...
Some items on my personal list of such things are the miracle of birth, Uluru and the Roman Forum. This morning I added another one: a total eclipse of the sun.
This morning at around 6:39am we had a total eclipse of the sun here in Cairns. As the photographic evidence shows, my camera equipment is not quite up to the task of documenting such an event, but please indulge me. Being the build up to the Wet Season, it was also really cloudy here in Cairns itself. Apparently it was clear about 60kms south and on the northern beaches, about 20kms away. While I could, in theory, see the sun from my front deck, I was pretty convinced I was going to miss the actual moment of totality due to the cloud cover. The quality of light, however, was just incredible. If it is possible for grey to glow, it did this morning. I went and stood out by the creek in the middle of the street and I had the whole eerie place to myself.
As it got darker and darker in the minutes before totality, the street lights started to come on and a few neighbours finally wandered out. Then, click, the sun went out, but also at that moment it popped out from behind the clouds. Totality was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. And, just like when I first saw Uluru, I was awestruck and, in response to all I've ever seen or heard of it, could only manage to think the words: It is true!
It takes about an hour from the time the moon first touches on the edge of the sun to totality, then about another hour until it has fully passed off it. As luck would have it, about 10 minutes after totality the clouds had thinned significantly as the morning warmed and the sun had also risen above the thickest part of them. I was able to watch the remaining 50 minutes or so as the moon passed off the face of the sun through my flimsy yet surprisingly effective special eclipse viewing glasses ($5 to $6 a pop this week for something that looks remarkably like an old-fashioned pair of 3D viewing glasses). I almost think it was better with the cloud cover, either way was just as remarkable.
If you ever get the chance to see this phenomenon, even if you have to travel a way, go!