Solar Eclipse 2021 December 4: Meet the man behind the Facebook group that connects Eclipse Hunters
The Solar Eclipse Chasers group on Facebook has had a busy week. First, there were discussions about travel plans and the best places to catch the Solar eclipse of December 4. Then there were enthusiasts who recalled and shared photographs of their past eclipse hunting experiences.
A couple of umbraphiles (people who love eclipses), who traveled to Punta Arenas in Chile, joined the group to share exquisite photographs and offered to meet other enthusiasts in the area. Another member of the group shared photographs of the eclipse stamps issued by the Chilean Postal Company.
On the day of the eclipse, online and on-site eclipse watchers gathered in the virtual space to debate the merits of NASA’s live stream versus Lindblad’s or share disappointing photographs of the Fog-covered Amundsen Bay in Antarctica (“The life of an eclipse hunter. Win it, lose it,” one user wrote in response).
When he created the group in 2010, UK-based Ian (who bears his first name) envisioned it as a space where he can stay in touch with his fellow travelers from Easter Island to Polynesia. . Over a decade later, the group has over 8,200 members and is a space for eclipse hunters to make plans and share information, experiences and photos. As the world tunes in to watch the last solar eclipse of 2021, we catch up with the man behind the scenes via email.
How did you get interested in solar eclipses?
I saw my first total solar eclipse in the UK in 1999. However, the weather was not good at that time. So, at the summer solstice of 2001, I saw my second total eclipse in Madagascar. This time the conditions were perfect and I was hooked. After that I then decided it was a good way to travel because it means you let the eclipse decide where you go.
How did the idea of ââcreating a Facebook group come about?
I created the Facebook group to keep in touch with my fellow travelers who I joined to view the solar eclipse on Easter Island in July 2010. We were a group of people who chased the eclipse in one of the most remote regions on the planet.
How has the group evolved over the years?
Over the years people started to join and it naturally became a global hub for those interested. A large number of people joined the solar eclipse in August 2017. [The total solar eclipse was nicknamed the âGreat American Eclipseâ because it was visible all along North America in a path spanning from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina].
As a result, too, there was a constant flow of messages and photos, and the group grew too large for me to manage on my own. So I appointed a handful of key members to help and facilitate the admissions process. These days, you can find some of the most interesting eclipse conversations, trip planning, and spectacular photography in this space.
Have you had in-person membership meetings?
So far, my interaction with the group is purely online. I love the group experience, but I haven’t planned to meet any in person. Maybe in the future I will.
What’s your favorite eclipse experience?
The experience in Madagascar was important as it started a new hobby and replaced my usual summer activity that year. I also fell in love with Madagascar. The 2010 eclipse was also special. Standing on a volcano on Easter Island and watching the moon’s shadow approach the Pacific Ocean was a very special experience. I had wanted to visit Easter Island all my life so it was a dream come true.
There are a lot of things I love about watching eclipses. I like to watch everyone prepare for the process, set up complex cameras, and anticipate first contact. The wonder of the eclipse cannot be described and I hope those who cannot catch one in person can enjoy the photos shared on the Facebook group.
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