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Total Eclipse Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
UK touched by history
All eyes: Rare sunshine in Cornwall ahead of the eclipse
Special report
Special report
11 August
For two minutes, Britain stood still in awe.

Millions of people stopped work to watch the last eclipse of the century and experience a once in a lifetime moment.

Cloudy skies meant observers in Cornwall - the only part of mainland Britain which witnessed "totality" - were unable to see the phenomenon in all its beauty.

But the eclipse's effects were dramatic nonetheless. The temperature dropped and darkness fell in Falmouth at 10.11GMT (11.11BST).

For some people it was a spiritual moment, for others a scientific one. But for everyone it was unforgettable.

Calls to hospitals

Despite warnings about not looking directly at the sun, some eye hospitals received calls from worried eclipse-watchers.

Across the UK, millions of people took a break from work to witness the eclipse and when they went back to work the National Grid reported a record-breaking power surge.

Hundreds of people who gathered on the Isles of Scilly were the first to witness the heavenly phenomenon. One holidaymaker described it as "awesome and incredible" because the event had "nothing to do with man".

As Cornwall was plunged into darkness for two minutes and six seconds, couples kissed on the beaches and drew suns in the sand.

Darkness greeted with fireworks

Crowds cheered loudly and celebrated the moment of totality with fireworks.

More than 300 people gathered at the feet of the Angel of the North in Gateshead
TV astronomer Patrick Moore, watching in Falmouth, described it as a "strange, weird experience".

He said: "The temperature dropped suddenly and the light dropped and there were strange atmospheric effects too, a strange kind of breeze I have not felt before."

Two women in Alderney, who had witnessed the last eclipse in 1927, said this time the sky had not gone as black and the temperature had not dropped as much.

The hoped-for view of the Sun's corona framed by the shadow may have been obscured by a band of heavy cloud and rain but skywatchers refused to let it dampen their spirits.

"It was absolutely fantastic, a wonderful experience," said Andrea Simmons from Penzance.

Wall of darkness

A wall of darkness swept towards Europe at 1,522 miles per hour (2,400km/h), closely followed at one point by two Concorde aircrafts, which had set off from London's Heathrow Airport early in the morning.

Two hundred passengers were treated to a trip of a lifetime as they chased the shadow of the moon at twice the speed of sound.

Earlier, 40,000 people in thousands of boats set sail from Cornwall to Hampshire to view the eclipse from the sea, setting a record for Britain's biggest ever maritime gathering.

In London, the eclipse was 96.5% of totality but eyewitnesses in the capital said they could see little because of the cloud cover.

But hundreds of workers and shoppers in Leeds unexpectedly witnessed the solar spectacle, after a lucky break in the clouds.

Weather forecasters said Yorkshire and Humberside was one of the best places to view the phenomena outside Cornwall.

The Sun plays hide and seek with the Moon
As the eclipse fever that had gripped the country began to abate, helplines at two specialist eye centres started to take calls from people worried they had damaged their sight by looking at the sun.

A schoolboy is recovering after plunging around 20ft from cliffs as people gathered to watch the eclipse at a beauty spot on Merseyside.

The 10-year-old was taken to hospital with abdominal, head and leg injuries after falling from a cliff at Wirral Country Park.

Back in the West Country roads are already becoming snarled with traffic as thousands of spectators make their way home.

How the RAF filmed the eclipse above the UK clouds
Listen to the eclipse: Reactions from two locations in Cornwall
The BBC's Jane O'Brien: "A moment of magic"
Peter Hunt reviews the day's events in Cornwall
Nicholas Witchell: "The story of the day"
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "One of nature's extraordinary experiences"
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "A once in a lifetime experience"
John Hegley offers his eclipse poem
Watch highlights of the BBC's eclipse coverage
Links to more Total Eclipse stories are at the foot of the page.

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Links to more Total Eclipse stories

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