Solar Eclipse 26 February 1979
The solar eclipse of 26 February 1979 covered much of North America and the path of totality crossed the south-east corner of Saskatchewan no more than 40 km by road from my home in Regina. The centre of totality was about 230 km away near the town of Portal on the Canada - USA border south-east of Estevan. The duration of total eclipse there was about two minutes while in the area between Weyburn and Estevan it was about one minute thirty seconds. Maps showing the eclipse path can be found at the following sites:
1) http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/solar_eclipses/TSE_1979_GoogleMapFull.html (May take time to load)
Regina would see a partial eclipse but the chance to experience a total eclipse of the sun was too good to miss. It was also a chance to show this rare event to my wife Agnes and my children, Lyn (12) and Colin (10). In the end we were a party of seven as we were joined by one of my geological colleagues John Buller and also by Colin's friend Callum Hill who brought along his father Alan Hill. John and Al brought along their cameras, tripods, filters etc. and the selection of eclipse photos shown here are my copies of their work. I took the photos of the group.
I had decided we would drive south to Weyburn (115 km) then south-east towards Estevan for a further 25 to 35 km and find a suitable spot to observe the eclipse. The onset of totality in that area was close to 10:40 am local time (Central Standard Time) so we left Regina shortly after 9:00 am and drove to Weyburn. We could see the eclipse progressing while we drove as I had obtained Solar Eclipse Filters (double layers of metallised Mylar) which were produced by science students at the University of Regina and cost 25 cents each! We were also gratified to see a substantial clearing of the thin hazy clouds present when we started from Regina. We stopped in Weyburn for a cup of coffee then proceeded towards Estevan. I am not sure exactly where we stopped (See Location Map) or what the exact time was but we eventually saw several other observers parked along a side road to the right of the Highway. One of our party noticed that there was a power line running along the edge of that road in front of them and suggested it could obstruct our view so we pulled off to the left of the Highway where the power line ran behind us and had plenty of time to set up and take some photos before totality. We could not have asked for better viewing conditions as it was a typical Saskatchewan winter's day at this point with an almost clear sky and a temperature about -10 degrees Celsius with no wind. A group of three people near us turned out to be teachers and as they had no Eclipse Filter I donated one of ours for them to share.
I had seen partial eclipses before but when the corona burst forth at totality it was a sight which filled me with awe. When combined with the other sights of that total eclipse -- the dimming light with dark shadow bands dancing on the white snow, the black shadow of the moon racing across the flat prairie towards us and the chill as it engulfed us, the false, circular sunset horizon in all directions -- it is an event which is beyond this meagre description. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Shortly after totality we packed up and returned to Regina. When we got there the patchy cloud cover afforded us a few last glimpses of the waning eclipse as the moon still covered a small part of the sun's disc. Altogether it had been a satisfying expedition.
The author wishes to thank Colin Paterson for advice and assistance and for space on his website www.mediacooks.com