Faculty and Staff Scatter to Watch Eclipse

Two photos showing people watching the eclipse from a pool.
Vacationers at a resort in Mazatlán, Mexico, watch the eclipse a minute before totality and during totality Monday (April 8). (Kat Kerlin/UC Davis)

Faculty and staff traveled thousands of miles for a few minutes of darkness Monday (April 8).

They scattered to locations as distant as Mazatlán, Mexico, and Montreal, Canada, to watch the total solar eclipse from the path of totality, the places where the sun’s light was completely obscured by the moon for a few minutes.

Becky Oskin, director of communications and marketing for the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement, traveled Friday to Grimsby, a small town near Toronto where she has family.

Group poses for photo before eclipse
Watching the eclipse from Grimsby, Ontario, were, from left: Happy the poodle; wives Jan Culpeper and Charlotte Charlton; and Julia, Becky and Noah Oskin. (Becky Oskin/UC Davis)
Group watches eclipse during totality
“It was amazing to see the sky darken so suddenly,” Oskin said of totality from her vantage point in Grimsby, Ontario. (Becky Oskin/UC Davis)

“We had two days of beautiful weather and then woke up to clouds,” Oskin said. “The first 20 minutes of the eclipse were mostly hidden by clouds, but they thinned just in time for us to clearly see totality. It was amazing to see the sky darken so suddenly! The birds quieted and Venus came out and was visible just below the sun’s corona. The horizon around us was pink and yellow and all the street lights came on. Truly worth the trip to experience a total eclipse.”

Lori Lubin, a professor of physics and astronomy, had been planning to travel to New York but redirected her trip to Montreal because of the weather forecast.

“Despite some cloud coverage, it was a spectacular celestial and, honestly, human experience!” she said, noting that she and her sister made friends and exchanged contact information with their “eclipse neighbors.”

Sun obscured by eclipse
The eclipse as seen from Montreal, photographed by Lori Lubin’s “eclipse neighbor.” (Courtesy TC Cagampan)

Kat Kerlin, a news and media relations specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, traveled to Mazatlán with her family.

Karla Fung in UC Davis hat holds up eclipse glasses
Karla Fung sports eclipse glasses before the big moment. (Karla Fung/UC Davis)

“No picture my phone can take can possibly do totality justice, but that was one of the most beautiful, powerful experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “Now I get it.”

Karla Fung, director of social media in Strategic Communications, watched the eclipse from the backyard of a Texas Airbnb.

“Super duper cool to be here for this,” she wrote on social media, posing for photos in a UC Davis hat.

Also traveling to Texas was Melanie Lansford, contracts and grants manager for the Center for Neuroscience. In 2017 she watched the eclipse from Madras, Oregon, an experience that hooked her on eclipse-watching but also taught her to beware of the post-totality traffic jams. This time she traveled to Kerrville, an hour outside San Antonio, hoping to experience another “magical and electrifying” show.

The clouds had other plans, blocking much of her view and allowing only intermittent glimpses at the eclipse.

Cloudy eclipse
Clouds obscured much of the eclipse in Kerrville, Texas. (Melanie Lansford/UC Davis)

“Once the totality started, we had about 10 seconds of visibility and then the blackest cloud I had seen in a while covered the sky until long after totality ended,” she said. “It was a letdown, but the few seconds of totality was incredible nonetheless. … I am bummed that we didn't get the show we have been looking forward to for years, but I am still glad we made the trip anyway.”

Gina Plessas, who works in financial services at Continuing and Professional Education, drove for two days to watch from Midlothian, Texas, and said the trip was worth the effort.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “The build up to totality is very interesting. Not just watching the moon begin to cover the sun but also listening to the local wildlife begin to get louder, the dullness of colors and light, and the temperature changes that were happening around us. Once totality happened everything went dark and silent. It was eerie knowing it was the middle of the day and you are standing in total darkness.
Eclipse and lake
Iris Chelaru shared this view of the eclipse from Vermont. (Iris Chelaru/UC Davis)

Iris Chelaru works remotely for Information and Educational Technology from her home in Massachusetts, and traveled to Colchester, Vermont. She described the traffic from eclipse-watchers as “nuts.”

Partial eclipse
Doctoral student Quazi Abir Hassan Roddur photographed the partial solar eclipse from a vantage point in front of Meyer Hall using his iPhone. (Quazi Abir Hassan Roddur/UC Davis)

In Davis, the moon covered about a third of the sun, making for some good photos but no mid-day darkness.

“This is my second time observing a solar eclipse,” said Quazi Abir Hassan Roddur, a Ph.D. student in the Animal Biology Graduate Group’s Quantitative Genetics Lab who photographed the eclipse in front of the Meyer Hall.

He added that he has been interested in interstellar phenomena since he was a child. “So, I was very excited about this too.”

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Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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