Total Solar Eclipse
21 June 2001
21° 44' 41" S 43° 21' 17" E
1st: 12:12:06 2nd: 13:25:55 3rd: 13:28:18
4th: 14:32:06 Duration 2m 22s. Sunset (allowing for refraction): 14:32:12
Members of the party:
Sheridan Williams, Frances Donovan, Derek Hatch, Mike Foulkes, Ann Callow,
Hilary Bradt, Janice Booth
Track of the eclipse
Malagasy eclipse stamp
Report by Mike Foulkes
Those listed at the top of this page decided to go to Morombe, Madagascar for
a three week trip and we arrived back in the UK Friday 6 July.
Apart from the potential of seeing a variety of wildlife, the major attraction
for us going to the SW of the island for the eclipse was the weather
prospects. Although Fred Espenak's guide for the eclipse indicated that the
weather for the central and eastern regions of the island were not too good,
the prospects on the south west coast were predicted to be almost as good as
Angola and western Zambia. Hence our choice of Morombe.
However despite these good prospects, I suppose the reduced totality duration
may have been a turn-off for many people. In addition, there appeared to be
other negative perceptions on Madagascar as a viable eclipse observing site.
On our flight down to Johannesburg, we met a large group going to Zambia.
Several members of the group were convinced that totality didn't even reach
Madagascar! I suppose at this point, some doubts did creep in to our minds as
to whether we had actually booked the correct air tickets..............
After our arrival in Madagascar, we found that the government had made a major
effort to bring awareness of the eclipse and its associated dangers to the
general public. Even in the smallest villages, there were eclipse posters
showing how to observe the partial phases safely with eclipse glasses. However
we obtained the impression that the vast majority of local people also
believed that that the danger during the partial phases also applied to
totality as well. Indeed as Johanna Kovitz has noted in an earlier SEML
e-mail, many people stayed indoors during the eclipse - probably out of fear
or due to official recommendation.
We flew into Morombe on the day before the eclipse and encountered a bit of
local bureaucracy. We all had to present our passports to a local police
official for review. This was the only time in our trip we encountered this
problem. We also noted plenty of locals out and about in the town and on the
beach at our observing site. A member of our party - Hilary Bradt - even
handed out free eclipse viewers to many locals to ensure that they could
observe the eclipse in safety. However during the eclipse, no locals were to
be seen, certainly around our beach observing site. A great pity really,
as it would have been good to show local people a view of the partial phases
through a telescope as at other eclipses.
Later during our trip we heard stories that in some areas, a siren was
sounded at first contact. Many local people (often children and older people
but not teenagers) then went indoors, only to re-appear again when a siren
sounded again at fourth contact.
So after all the waiting, the great day arrived.
The conditions we experienced at Morombe lived up to the predictions, without
a cloud in the sky. The only slight problem was a light sea breeze which may
have affected long exposure photography.
Another friend - Paul Coleman was much further east in Isalo National Park
where the conditions were less favorable due to some cloud. However after
chasing some clear patches of sky he and his friends also managed to see
I fully agree with Sheridan that this was a beautiful eclipse. The large
detached prominence and corona and coronal spikes were excellent.
One friend of ours - Derek Hatch - used a Fuji digital SLR with a 500mm lens
and tele-converter to photograph the eclipse. The achieved focal length was
approximately 1600mm. The images obtained with this equipment are absolutely
superb and there is of course the additional advantage of seeing the images
immediately after they are taken and correcting exposures as required. I
however was only using 'steam driven' technology (i.e. slide film) with
a Teleview Pronto giving a similar image scale. It will be interesting to
compare these photos (assuming they come out OK) with the digital images.
We nicknamed the large detached prominence the 'Dragon' as it did look like a
small dragon. This morning, I received a large blow up of Derek's digital
image of this prominence and the dragon-like appearance is very noticeable
indeed at this larger image scale.
Although we had a shorter duration of totality than mainland Africa, and the
Sun was only 13 degrees or so above the horizon at totality, there were some
Certainly observing the eclipse at a low altitude reduced neck strain and the
appearance of the eclipsed Sun over an ocean horizon was very pleasing.
Further, as totality proceeded, the sky below the Sun (which included
the easily visible Jupiter) remained dark but at some distance east and west
were bright arcs rising out from the ocean horizon which delineated the edges
of the umbra. This is one thing I will certainly remember from this eclipse.
For our location, fourth contact took place at sunset. Many of us also saw the
green flash. Yes we had already had drunk some wine and Champagne in
celebration of totality but I don't think this was the cause of us seeing the
flash!!. Derek also managed to capture this on a digital image, although very
On returning to the capital (Antananarivo) we found the local press coverage
(both in Malagasy and French) of the eclipse rather interesting. The
newspapers only seemed to cover the appearance of the eclipse as seen from the
capital (where it was partial). There didn't appear to be any coverage of
totality at all. There was also frequent references to the eclipse as the
President's Eclipse (presumably referring to the president of Madagascar
although I'm willing to stand corrected on this, as my French isn't great.
What he did to have the eclipse named after him I'm not too sure).
Probably like everyone else who went to see the eclipse, we were treated to
some dark skies and fine views of the southern milky way. One place that I
approve of very much is the Berenty reserve in the south east of the island.
Here all power is turned off at 10 pm and so with no lights, dark skies.
Finally we were treated to a bonus. On Thursday evening (5 July) while waiting
in a bar at Johannesburg airport for our flight home to London, we saw the
partial lunar eclipse. People in the bar must have wondered what was happening
as we, and some German observers returning from Zimbabwe, all rushed to
the lounge windows with binoculars and cameras to observe the event. Two
eclipses in 14 days is pretty good.
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