Search Santee Cooper
Power Source
Fall 2017
Environmental Report

................

South Carolina Notable State

................

All Stories Letter from Editor Download PDF Past Issues
Just a sliver of the sun shows through the clouds before the point of totality.

"It’s Like the Moon Eating the Sun."

Young George Hammond had a summer of firsts. The English sandy-haired, blue-eyed 8-year-old from Manchester was visiting America for the first time with his family. He and his brother Ben eagerly described stories of looking out at the mammoth buildings in New York City from the top of the Empire State Building, watching the White Sox take on (and lose to) Kansas City and whitewater rafting in Georgia.

Their next big adventure was just ahead of them – the Great American Eclipse. Or, as George imagined it, “the moon eating the sun.”

There were hundreds of families that came to Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner for its Total Eclipse party on Aug. 21. There was an impressive line, with some queueing up more than three hours before the gates opened at 9 a.m. Certified solar eclipse glasses were a much sought-after commodity, and Old Santee Canal Park had them for free for the first 1,000 visitors to the park.

Ben, Tim and George Hammond from Manchester, England, view the eclipse at Old Santee Canal Park.
Ben, Tim and George Hammond from Manchester, England, view the eclipse at Old Santee Canal Park.

Betsy Goldsmith of Manhattan was one of the first in line. At 8:45 a.m., she stood patiently, holding on to the park’s gate with anticipation.

“We knew that Charleston is a beautiful city and a great place for a destination,” Goldsmith said. “The number one thing we wanted to do, though, was see the eclipse here. We found out about Old Santee Canal Park by reading about it on the Stargazers’ site.”

James Ross with the Lowcountry Stargazers views the beginning of the eclipse with a filtered telescope.
James Ross with the Lowcountry Stargazers views the beginning of the eclipse with a filtered telescope.

Overall, around 3,200 people dotted the grounds of the park, lounging in camp chairs, lying on blankets and soaking in the sun on the lush hillside overlooking the historic Stony Landing House.

“It’s humbling that so many people wanted to share this lifetime event with us,” said Brad Sale, park director. “There are people here from all over the country and from other countries. They could have seen the eclipse from anywhere in the region, and the fact they chose our park as a beautiful backdrop for this solar eclipse is an honor.”

The free, fun, family-friendly event featured the Lowcountry Stargazers, a local club of passionate, amateur astronomers. They brought nine solar telescopes, fitted with special filters to protect viewers’ eyes, to the park for public viewing of the event.

On the shore of Lake Marion, faces and cameras look to the sky during totality.
On the shore of Lake Marion, faces and cameras look to the sky during totality.

Around 1:15 p.m., as the moon began its slow dance with the sun, people of all ages lined up at the Lowcountry Stargazers’ telescopes to get a closer view. Others put on their glasses and pointed to the sky.

One person stood out in the crowd. With a welcoming smile and an affable personality, James Ross with the Lowcountry Stargazers effused a genuine and heartfelt enthusiasm about the eclipse that was contagious.

George, Ben and Tim Hammond talk about visiting Old Santee Canal Park for the eclipse.
Amateur astronomers flocked to Lake Marion and Old Santee Canal Park for their chance to view the eclipse.
Amateur astronomers flocked to Lake Marion and Old Santee Canal Park for their chance to view the eclipse.

“What we want to do is make sure the eclipse is safe and fun for everyone. We have scopes set up for people to use, and we’re giving presentations in the visitor’s center. They learn about astronomy, eclipses and the wonderful things that are happening in the heavens,” said Ross.

Unfortunately at Old Santee Canal Park and the lower part of Lake Moultrie, a mass of storm clouds obscured the sun before totality began. Although there was disappointment at the park, there also was awe as day turned to night and crickets started to sing. One man stood on his car shouting in joy at the awesomeness of it.

The shore and waters of Lake Marion were popular for eclipse viewing.
The shore and waters of Lake Marion were popular for eclipse viewing.

Meanwhile, out on nearby lakes Marion and Moultrie, hundreds of boats bobbed in the water and, on the shore, people lazed on the grass or on docks and piers. For many on the lakes, the clouds parted just in time to watch the moon overshadow the sun, its corona the only indication it was still there.

While South Carolinians had a view from the surface of the Earth, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was watching the eclipse’s effects from the moon. According to NASA, as the LRO crossed the lunar south pole, the shadow of the moon was racing across the United States at 1,500 mph.

That may sound like an abnormal occurrence. According to NASA’s website, it was far from unusual.

These spectators were looking for a flawless view of the eclipse.
These spectators were looking for a flawless view of the eclipse.

“While the thrill of the total eclipse was in experiencing the shadow of the Moon sweep across us on Earth, on the Moon this was just another day. The lunar nearside was one week into its two-week night, while the Sun shone on the far side in the middle of its two-week day. Because solar eclipses do not affect the health or power supply of the spacecraft, LRO operated normally during the total solar eclipse.”

Whether on Earth, on the moon, or through photographs and video, the Great American Eclipse was one for the record books and quite a sight to behold.

A woman viewing the eclipse at Old Santee Canal Park shades her eyes with eclipse-viewing glasses as she looks to the sky.
A woman viewing the eclipse at Old Santee Canal Park shades her eyes with eclipse-viewing glasses as she looks to the sky.

For more information on the next eclipse over America on April 8, 2024, visit eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov.