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You may have heard, but probably didn’t, that we had a solar eclipse in Queensland today. Turns out, it was the first total solar eclipse in Australia in a decade and will be the last until 2028, these things are pretty rare. In Queensland we won’t have another one for more than 200 years.
Needless to say there was a lot of hype around it. People were warned about UV damage and scorching their eyeballs out of their sockets, time-frames for the total eclipse ETA were given, cameras and tripods were setup and most importantly, iTunes downloads for ‘total eclipse of the heart’ increased 74%. Okay, I made that last bit up.
In Tropical North Queensland (i.e. Cairns for the internationals among you) the eclipse was stellar. Resident’s woke up to a beautiful shining sun which was slowly replaced by a gorgeous golden hue then blocked out casting an eerie darkness over the city and creating a ‘ring of fire’. Fabulous! You could say that it’s exactly what you want and expect from any solar eclipse, total or otherwise.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m preparing to view a total solar eclipse I generally expect to not see the sun for a while. So you can imagine my disappointment when this didn’t happen. Oh no, while everyone up north was holding bits of paper with pin pricks in them up to their faces eyeballing the wonderous eclipse, we were standing on our balcony, scratching our heads, saying “Is that it?” when all we were graced with was a dull, yellow skyline and a full view of the sun.
I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what it was supposed to look like. Now I’m sure you can get all technical and say that because of the trajectory of something or rather and the angle of the strato-blah-blah-thinger we won’t get the full effect in Brisbane. Either way, I feel ripped off.
This thing was hyped for days by the media and always followed up with a stern warning to not look directly at it, which makes absolutely no sense. “Attention Queensland! There is going to be this really amazing thing happen to the sun next Wednesday, it’s AWESOME and it only happens once every 200 years so you will definitely be dead next time it rolls around. Seriously magical stuff, NOT to be missed. But ah, don’t look directly at it or you’ll fry your seein’ balls”. Thanks, that’s just great. Now not only do I think it’s going to be awesome but I want to look at it even more just because I know I’m not supposed to.
Matt had the smart approach of looking at it via his iPhone camera. He held the phone in front of his face, blocking the retina scolding rays out and enabling him to look right at it and take a few photos. After staring at the screen for some minutes he put it down and proclaimed “Argh! My eyeballs feel burnt and sore from looking at the eclipse”. Now readers, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how seeing things works so I’ll explain it another way, just because I saw a photo of an STD doesn’t mean I have contracted it. So you can rest assured that you won’t get sunburnt eyes or even a tan from looking at a photo of the sun.
This whole eclipse thing got me thinking about ancient cultures and how we share information nowadays. We all knew the eclipse was coming thanks to the internet and those laser beam things the smart people at the horoscope-tarium shoot into the sky or… whatever. But spare a thought for the Mayan’s some 4000 years ago. They would have had no idea that this thing was coming and given their spiritual beliefs you can imagine they were freaking out when it suddenly happened.
Imagine for a moment that you are a Mayan. Your rooster goes off at 4am so you casually wake up and strap on your loin cloth, step outside and ‘OH MY GOD where is the sun? Why is the village bathed in this eerie orange hue and WHAT have I done to deserve this? I painted my mud-hut red, danced around the stupid fire pit for like 5 hours last Tuesday and got a blister, I wore the bone through my nose and I sacrificed at least 4 goats this quarter. FML.’
You can be certain that there would be utter chaos in downtown Maya that day. Women would be screaming, men would be throwing chickens at volcano’s and first-born children would be hiding, terrified of being sacrificed, “Gukumatz, wake up man… the sun is doing that thing again and Dad is freaking out. Grab your clay pots, we got to bounce. Being sacrificed to the Gods can suck my cacao beans’”.
I love a good eclipse just as much as the next person but I’m telling ya, it’s a dangerous business. So next time you or an ancient civilization you may or may not be affiliated with find yourselves in the middle of an eclipse just remember to be alert, not alarmed and no matter how pretty it is, do not look at any photos of it or you and your sacrificial chicken may go blind.