An Interview With The Eclipse Chaser, David Balch, Before Heading To The Oregon Eclipse Gathering.
By Autumn Feldmeier
Can you feel it?
On Monday, August 21st at 10:16 PST, the shadow of the moon will touch down in Lincoln City, OR and run across the US to the Atlantic Ocean. Rumors abound as to what the eclipse will do and what effects it will have.
Luckily, I was able to connect with Eclipse Chaser, David Balch, who is giving a talk at the Oregon Eclipse Gathering titled: How to Stand in the Shadow of the Moon-Everything You Need to Know About Observing a Total Eclipse of the Sun.
David has witnessed 18 total and annular eclipses including one in Mongolia <which was unfortunately clouded out.> He has even traveled 67 hours, 37 of which were on an airplane, to get to Turkey for an eclipse
How did your obsession with eclipses begin?
In 1979, I was in Lake Tahoe and there was a total eclipse in Portland and I thought, 'I could have gone to that!' So, I made a promise to make the next one which was in Africa. My first eclipse was in Kenya in 1980 and it was such an overwhelming experience, I knew I had to have more. It became very addicting!
A complete solar eclipse has been called, the most awe-inspiring event in all of nature. And I've heard, while it is short, time feels non-existent and it's like 'standing in nirvana'. Is this true and what have you learned from following eclipses around the world?
It's very humbling. Eclipses by themselves haven't changed me, but the passion for them has changed me. It always gives me something to look forward to as there is always another one in the future.
Have you had any intense experiences while observing an eclipse?
Yes, there was one in Hawaii in 1991 and I was watching from a pier surrounded by birds who made a deafening racket. And then during totality, they were completely silent.
Will there be anything surprising for those of us watching the eclipse?
Yes, 3 things will be surprising!
How big the eclipse is. You see pictures and it fills the frame but that's not what it looks like in person. It is like a professional sporting event, the feeling you get the first time you walk into a stadium. That's what this is like! You will be surprised at how overwhelmed you will be by the sheer size of it!
You will be surprised by how you feel. When my wife saw her first one, she mainly came because she wanted to go to Hawaii, but within a second of it going into a total eclipse, she was crying. It is very emotional and overwhelming and sometimes you feel a little fear. Intellectually you can rationalize it but it's also a little scary. It made me wonder what primitive people must have thought.
You will be surprised at how fast it will go. It's important to know that. Don't do anything impulsive, like taking a picture! You might miss it. It's a lesson in just being present.
What advice to you have for eclipse watching?
Just stand there. Drink it in. Look at the horizon all the way around you, it will look like a sunset. It will be life changing and my goal is to educate people. "Nobody gets it until they SEE it!"
Eclipse evangelists like David insist that before you die you must see a solar eclipse. The sense of wonder is inexplicable. After speaking with David, I could not help but think of the quote by David Baron, "My existence may be temporary, but look at what I am a part of…”
CLICK HERE for a full map of the 2017 eclipse.