Images taken from Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, 11th August, 1999

Most of Cornwall was clouded out for the total solar eclipse of 11th August, 1999. Bryn's attempts to take pictures of the eclipse directly were therefore totally defeated. Nevertheless, despite nearly total cloud cover, that morning's events were spectacular.

Falmouth was chosen as a location for observing the eclipse because it lay on the central line of the eclipse. Totality was predicted to last 2 min 5 sec. Pendennis Castle (Castel Pendynas) was chosen in turn because it gave an excellent view across the the sea to the west. If the cloud did not lift, a view across the bay might allow the Moon's shadow to be seen advancing across a layer of cloud.

A large crowd of people had gathered at Pendennis Castle, reported to have been a few thousand in number (presumably to the delight of English Heritage which owns the site and collected the entrance fees). A few television and radio broadcasts were made from temporary platforms in the castle grounds and Bryn is reported to have been shown on that evening's ITN television news as he waited to get into the castle.

Daylight was noticably weak fifteen minutes before totality began. Five minutes from totality the clouds were turning a dark grey towards the west. Very soon the clouds to the west turned a grey-black colour. This darkness advanced. At this time, the general light level was falling steadily but slowly. The darkness to the west began to fill the whole sky. Suddenly the light fell, decaying over a period of one or two seconds as though the daylight had been turned off with a dimmer switch.

During the period of totality only a faint light reached the ground, similar in intensity to a clear moonlit night a few days away from full moon. Across the bay to the west, a mile distant, crowds of people on Gyllyngvase and Swanpool beaches took photographs with automatic cameras and their flash guns flickered continually. There were low, dense clouds to the west, north and east, but to the southwest there was only a high layer of cloud, thinning in places. The light from outside the Moon's umbral shadow, from outside the zone of totality, could therefore be seen to the south. The sky in this direction had a light orange-yellow colour, similar to a normal sky at sunset.

After two minutes had passed, the sky began to lighten to the west. Light returned to the clouds, advancing up across the sky. Suddenly the light on the ground rapidly returned, increasing over a period of one or two seconds, again with the smooth increase that is given to artificial lamps by dimmer switches. The grey-black darkness retreated across the clouds to the east. The general light levels slowly increased for many minutes more.

The pictures shown here were taken by Bryn Jones during the total solar eclipse on the morning of 11th August, 1999, from Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall. They were recorded with a video camera. The original video shows significantly more detail during totality than the images shown here: the conversion from the video film to these still images produced pictures significantly darker than the original film for hardware reasons (adjusting the brightness or contrast levels of the still image data does not help). All but one of these pictures shows the view looking west from the castle grounds, across the bay towards Gyllyngvase and Swanpool beaches, and into the direction from where the Moon's shadow came. The one exception (the first picture from 11.13 a.m.) shows the scene towards the southwest where the light from beyond the umbral shadow is visible. The exposure on the camera was readjusted at 11.13 a.m.: as a result the lights across the bay can be seen more clearly in the later pictures. Note in particular the light at the extreme left of the first two pictures from 11.14 a.m. - this was a giant television screen set up in a field to relay live pictures of the eclipse.

11.09 a.m. BST 11.09 a.m. 11.10 a.m.
11.10 a.m. BST 11.10 a.m. 11.11 a.m.
11.11 a.m. BST 11.11 a.m. 11.11 a.m.
11.12 a.m. BST 11.12 a.m. 11.12 a.m.
11.13 a.m. BST 11.13 a.m. 11.14 a.m.
11.14 a.m. BST 11.14 a.m. 11.14 a.m.
11.15 a.m. BST

Although cloud cover was total over most of Cornwall, colleagues in a few locations in Cornwall have reported seeing the eclipse during totality through breaks in the clouds, such as the vicinity of Newquay and at Lizard.

For the record, total solar eclipse in the old Cornish language is dyffyk cowal an Howl.

Other pages about eclipses by Bryn Jones include:


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