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Eclipse Totality in Bronte Ontario

April 10th, 2024 · 13 Comments · Real-life Adventure Tales





It wasn’t just a big-screen spectacular — it was a nail-biting drama!

An old brother of ’70s shenanigans flew from Winterpeg to my place in Southern Ontario because I lived on the Path of Totality for the 2024 solar eclipse.

We had invites to a big acid test weekend with a bunch of pranksters in the center of things in Indiana, but we were gonna have the killer corona right here.  We planned to drive the short hop to Fort Erie next to Niagara Falls to join up with my Bronte astronomer pal and his dozen telescopes, but the Niagara Region government decided to officially declare a State of Emergency last month (!) because of the eclipse, and then announced they were closing most of the roads in town right when it was gonna be the most fun time to visit there, so they were really spitting in the face of people who just wanted to smile, and that ain’t my kinda party.

My house in Bronte Village on the shore of Lake Ontario was right in The Path of Totality anyway, and the town graciously built a giant harbourfront park right in front of my house for just such an occasion, so there was no reason to sit in traffic or visit a place that doesn’t want us when we could just walk out the front door.

But the drama in this action movie started days before the opening credits rolled when all the weather forecasts were predicting overcast skies.  I was disappointed for my eclipse fiend friend who flew half-way across the continent to experience it, but he was Buddhisticly sanguine.  “It’ll be what it’ll be.” 

This did not sit well with this proactive Bill Graham Gets Things Done New Yorker, and I had a dozen different weather sites open searching for clear skies, including Astrospheric that my astronomer friends turned me onto cuz it specializes in cloud cover.  But about the only place nearby that was lookin clear was Vermont, and that ain’t really that near by.  We settled on the simple walk-out-the-front-door plan cuz Dr. Sanguine wasn’t pushing for the drive, and I was happy staying in my happy place.

Like any good drama, the first sign of trouble appeared as soon as we entered the Theater of the Skies at 2:00 … only to find people leaving!  For all the folks still heading towards the harbour, there were as many walking away with their armfuls of chairs and blankets and coolers.  I pointed this out to Dr. Sanguine under the cloudy skies an hour from showtime, and he said, “Good.”  Huh?  “Culling of the herd.  There’ll be better seats for us.”

We went straight to where my astronomy brothers were safely ensconced in their nest of telescope tripods.  Always an optimistic bunch, I went straight to Sergeant Skies.  “So, what are we gonna see today?” I asked with a big smile to spark some buzz for Private Sanguine.  “Nothing.” reported the Telescope Telegraph, without so much as a comma.

I looked up at the white cloud cover.  “It’s not moving,” the sky expert told me.  This was not exactly the movie I’d been hoping to see for the last couple years since we first learned this star-studded premiere was coming.

We decided to go for a harbour walkabout, and I switched my focus from the big screen to the thousands of optimists still filling the theater.  There were families and friends and to my eyes a celebration of the diversity of humanity.  There were old folks sitting on their walkers and little kids running around below my knees.  There were turbans and toques, and bubble blowers and blanket bases.  There were tweens, teens and beauty queens, and parkas, plaids and prim & proper.  But mostly there were optimists — like an arena full of Leaf fans — all rooting for Team Totality.

While I was focused on the anthropological, ol’ Sanguine kept his eyes on the astronomical.  We saw the blue sky in the distant west, and the clouds were indeed moving above, but it didn’t look like this movie had time to play out to a happy ending.

Ol’ eagle-eyed Sanguine kept watching for any break in the clouds and suddenly yelled — “THERE IT IS!  I JUST SAW IT!” pointing at some pin-hole break in the white darkness.

The Pac-Man ball was eating the moon behind a curtain — and Sanguine got his glimpse — which of course made me jealous for missing out — but another bright spot was moving to the hot spot — and BOOM!  There it was!  Through a thin layer of clouds you didn’t even need your glasses to look at the bright white ball with a bite taken out of it!

With some remote hope of good things still happening, we headed back to the astronomers’ nest to cluster with the die-hards and their eyes to the skies.  One of them had a new high-tech Seestar telescope with a big video tablet that showed what it was capturing — mainly white noise — but if anything did happen he’d have a solar closeup.

We’d been there nearly an hour.  Our team on Earth had potted one lousy visual goal but we were mostly getting shut out with the game-clock ticking down.  Sanguine asked the time and I looked at my analog wristwatch — 3 minutes to 3 — with totality coming at 3:18.

Then BOOM!  It happened!  The sky opened!  And like a champion team down in the final minutes, we began to visibility score!  The whole field erupted in cheers!  The cardboard glasses came out.  All the time-filling chatter ended mid-sentence.  Ooos and ahhs and squeals of joy washed like waves through the lakeshore crowd.  Big baritones and tiny sopranos blended in a choir of ecstatic chaos.  Nothing else mattered.  The astronomers rushed to their eyepieces.  The hometown crowd cheered as the net opened up and the goals of the day were scored!  There was the half-eaten sun!  Two perfect circles bisecting — a quarter-million miles away our planetary offspring was having the better of the giant who always dominated the landscape.  For once the little guy was winning!

photo by Peter West

After the two-second glimpse earlier, the prolonged view was such a gift!  We all kept looking and we all kept cheering.  It seemed like it’d been going on forever, so I looked at my watch again to see how close we were to totality and it was only 3:01!  Two minutes of joy felt like two hours!

Sanguine sat beatific on his stool with a beam as big as the sun’s smile, and I went back over to the warmth of the astronomers’ nest and rested right next to Mr. High-tech’s video monitor.  The glasses propped on the top of my nose for looking up, but were narrow enough that I could look underneath at my fellow celestials.  The sky was spectacular, but people are my people.  I could simultaneously watch nature’s greatest show and nature’s greatest characters’ reactions — and also glance at one of our greatest inventions!  — the real-time high-def video monitor of the high-powered optical eye. 

The Pac-Man sun was disappearing — the packed park rejoicing — the pixel-perfect pictures revealing — then back to the top of the rotation — Boom Boom Boom!

The gasps and screams kept building as the sliver grew smaller and smaller and it really did feel like a sports crowd when the home team starts to pull out the win in the final minutes . . . or like a magnificent concert reaching crescendo.

And suddenly we were there — the last little diamond Baily beads (as we just learned they’re called) sparkled on the rim then disappeared — and POOF — real daytime darkness!  A “Dark Star” as the Grateful Dead sang it.  A full black filter perfectly filling the giant spotlight.  I happened to be looking under my glasses when the park lamplights suddenly turned on midday just like we were told they would. 
Everything the experts said would happen, happened — including the emotional.  I actually got choked up by the beauty and the moment — right there in a crowd of strangers.  There was the corona — there was the black ball in the center of the back light — there was the payoff — the golden goal victory in overtime!  Days and hours of a white sky blanket suddenly pulled back with minutes to spare!

Scientists enticed us with how animals would react — and I’m so happy I shared this with my favorite species!

Then the diamond ring effect appeared — the bright light gem on the edge of the circle ring — and what had seemed impossible only minutes before played out like a script from heaven — the dramatic tension and the glorious resolution we’d all been cheering for — something a clear blue-sky day could never deliver.  We waited, we believed, and we won!  The Cup came out, the home crowd cheered — the movie on the big screen had a happy ending!  The optimists’ faith paid off, the planning made perfect, and souls were empowered by seeking the glorious.

May we all remember forever how the sun can come out on the cloudiest of days.





Here’s a great related recent piece I wrote about the Bronte Astronomy group.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook page if you wanna join in there — 

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pierre Tanguay // Apr 10, 2024 at 11:50 AM

    Mr. Brian Hassett, you are the king of astronomer’s Poetry!
    Saying thank you is not enough for creating such a great poetry about astronomy and the sky.
    You made an enormous positive impact on my view of human nature and poetry.
    Thank you for being there, when we need poetry to define and enjoy the moments!

  • 2 Marc Fitkin // Apr 10, 2024 at 1:27 PM

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

  • 3 Natasha Eadie // Apr 10, 2024 at 2:08 PM

    Love it! So well written! A tribute to all the committed souls who “believed.”
    The last line … brilliant … “May we all remember forever how the sun can come out on the cloudiest of days.”

  • 4 Ashlee Rosko // Apr 10, 2024 at 2:37 PM

    Thank you for sharing your experience Brian! Love you! ♥️ I was lucky enough to also experience it from Bloomington Indiana with my parents, Johnny, Jeff, Kristi and Bradley, Tara and Eli and family, Mark, and the Wonderland crew. What a sight that I will always treasure. Majik, Mystery and Laughter ohh Yeah!

  • 5 Brian Hassett // Apr 10, 2024 at 3:09 PM

    Oh, fantastic, Ash! We were following the weather and rooting for you guys in Bloomington!

    How unbelievably spectacular that you could bring Johnny & the Ps to the Blooming lands!

    Just like the sun and the moon came together — so did your two planets!

    Huge Heart hearts, Hug hugs.

  • 6 Jonathan Bronder // Apr 10, 2024 at 3:14 PM

    Yes! We were all right where we were supposed to be. Shout out to all from the Spinray’s and Dawn’s farm viewing family! <3

  • 7 Rod Mizak // Apr 10, 2024 at 4:39 PM

    Sounds like you might be hooked, next one is in Iceland … let’s go!

  • 8 Linda Madon // Apr 10, 2024 at 8:06 PM

    I’ve seen a few partial eclipses. Not a big deal. But NOTHING compares to Totality. It’s a whole other thing. EVERYTHING changes at the moment of totality. Both in the sky and on the ground.

  • 9 Elizabeth Strong // Apr 10, 2024 at 9:27 PM

    Thoroughly enjoyed this description of eclipse day, including your observations of humans in the midst of this experience.
    Here, in Vineland, we had persistent cloud cover; although, I did experience amber tinged light prior to darkness. Would also say, the initiative by Marc Fitkin, has provided a unique experience at Bronte Heritage Waterfront Park … available to all residents. Goes to show, activity at the Park doesn’t need to depend on visitors during “high season.”

  • 10 Gillian Hill // Apr 11, 2024 at 10:19 AM

    Love it!!!

  • 11 Wendy Perkins // Apr 11, 2024 at 11:21 AM

    A lovely write up.

  • 12 Daphne Freill // Apr 12, 2024 at 10:11 PM

    I love this! Thoroughly enjoyed sharing this amazing experience with everyone in Bronte!

  • 13 Laurel Grasset // Apr 13, 2024 at 5:28 PM

    Great write up!!! I was there sitting on a rock at big circle Marc uses. Was great with all the people and the oohs and ahs.

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