August 21, 2017 marked a day where thousands of people witnessed one of the most awe inspiring natural phenomenons: a total solar eclipse. There has been much buzz and media build up to this event for weeks now and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Thousands of spectators gathered at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. The roads were packed, beaches were crowded but for a few hours it was like nothing else mattered. All eyes were on the sky; people were excited and many memories were made.
Huntington Beach State Park experienced 99% totality slightly north of complete totality. What started out looking like disastrous viewing conditions turned into quite the day. Early in the morning, the Myrtle Beach area woke up to scattered thunderstorms and overcast skies. As the afternoon went on, clouds became scattered with sunshine breaking through and many had their fingers crossed. Right when a partial eclipse began at 1:18pm ET, clouds were still scattered and the sun was playing peek-a-boo. As the afternoon rolled on, conditions improved and the beach started getting really packed with eager eclipse watchers.
Kids and families came from all over for the eclipse, including other countries. One family decided to road trip all the way down from Toronto, Canada. The mother along with her husband and two daughters said, “after our 8 year old and 6 year old girls found out about the eclipse from their teachers in May, they begged us to come see it so we made it into a family vacation.” This was a common theme among many families, using an iconic event like today’s eclipse to spend time together. The two young girls both said they want to grow up and be a scientist like their mother, who works in the Astronomy department at the University of Toronto.
All beach activities came to a freeze as totality approached. Many spectators got out of the water, put the boogie boards away and had their eclipse glasses in hand. With less than 30 minutes until totality, scattered clouds still left many uneasy and hoping they would hold off until totality at 2:47pm. Thankfully, just minutes before totality clouds dispersed and darkness ensued as the moon moved in front of the Sun, covering 99% of it. The beach erupted in loud cheers and everyone was on their feet just taking in the moment.
Just minutes before and after totality, there was a noticeable drop in the temperature as expected. It became so dark that the lights in the parking lot were turning on as if it were night time. Some spectators were also pointing out that they thought some of the birds seemed to be acting different around totality, which is one thing scientists were interested in studying. The wildlife response to the eclipse was sure to amaze scientists and citizens alike. As darkness set in, wind speeds also seemed to pick up setting the mood that had spooky feel to it almost.
It seemed like for a few hours today, many were focused solely on the eclipse and nothing else mattered. One family made the trip across seas from the United Kingdom and it all started when the mother of two experienced an eclipse when she was 9 years old. “I will never forget seeing a total solar eclipse as a kid and I knew that my son and daughter should get the same experience so we decided to plan a vacation around this day.” It was really special witnessing thousands of people all coming together and bonding over such a beautiful event. The park hosted a nice area for children to make eclipse bracelets and had educational materials available to teach the public more about the what was actually taking place. It’s safe to say that a lot of young scientists were inspired today by such a breathtaking phenomenon.