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Total Eclipse Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Under the Moon's shadow
From under the Moon's shadow, BBC correspondents relay their experiences of the eclipse

Justin Webb was with an animal experiment in Soisson, France.

Here in Soisson what they did was gather a group of animals at an aerodrome on some high ground.

Special report
Special report
11 August
Wallpaper
Media
They were farm animals, about a dozen of them, with their hay and little pens. A lot of people came and looked at them. It was anything but an ordinary day for the animals right from the word go because they were being poked and prodded in a manner that they probably weren't used to on an ordinary day on the farm.

Anyway, when darkness fell, people were moved away from the animals because there was a feeling that they might behave oddly, might even be dangerous. But I have to say nothing untoward happened, indeed nothing much happened at all.

People gather in Paris for the eclipse
View from the Arc de Triomphe
The animals simply looked as if they were preparing to go to sleep in a quite sensible fashion and that is what one or two of them did. The chickens stopped clucking and the donkey stood very still and so did the cows. When it got light again they just seemed to wake up again.

I talked to a vet afterwards who said that, frankly, in his view the result of the experiment was that animals do not behave oddly in eclipses. He said that all the literature saying that they do was mistaken. It was probably the result of non-objective people looking at these things.

Certainly, from the point of view of this experiment in northern France, the lesson of the day is that animals do not do anything strange. There is a bigger question mark, I guess though, about the humans.

Caroline Wyatt felt the downpour in Munich.

The omens weren't good. Early morning sunshine in Munich rapidly disappeared behind gloomy skies with weather forecasters predicting just a 30% chance of viewing the eclipse.

The tens of thousands of tourists who had flocked to the main city for the event found themselves in need of umbrellas and raincoats alongside their eclipse viewing glasses.

Eclipse festival in Munich
A damp day for Munich
In Munich's Olympic stadium, where the main event was held, families huddled together under umbrellas to watch music and dance from around the world.

Even the efforts of the Ghanaian drumming group appeared to be in vain. But then, just as the moon began to pass across the face of the sun the clouds cleared and people rushed to put on their viewing glasses.

In town, shops and factories shut punctually at mid-day to give employees the chance to see the developing eclipse. But it was not to be. Just as the totality reached Munich, the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour.

In the eerie twilight that enveloped the city, spectators were forced to watch their television screens broadcasting pictures from above the cloud cover. It was the closest most people in Munich got to view the only total eclipse in this region within their lifetimes.

Jeremy Cooke in Ramnica Vellcea, Romania.

After a cloudy start to the day the conditions for viewing the eclipses here in the town of Ramnica Vellcea were perfect.

The total eclipse here lasted longer than anywhere on Earth. The crowds, many of them in traditional Romanian costume, clapped and cheered as the Moon shadow completely covered the Sun.

National dress for the eclipse in Romania
Romanians dress for the occasion
And then there was a strange quiet for some two minutes and 23 seconds until the first solar rays could once again be seen.

During the eclipse the Sun's spectacular atmosphere was clearly visible, causing delight not only for Romanian people but for the thousands of overseas visitors, some of whom had travelled thousands of miles to be here for an experience which lasted less than three minutes.

It was, though, a truly remarkable sight and one that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

Romanian officials will be delighted that everything has gone so well. The country drew great pride from the fact that it was to be the sight of the longest eclipse.

Major initiatives to increase tourism seem to have been successful in a country that so badly needs to improve its fragile economy.

Chris Morris in Turkey.

From a high mountain path in Central Turkey, hundreds of people cheered and clapped as a wall of darkness rushed towards us across the plain below.

Turkey eclipse viewers
Turkey takes a peak
For about one and a half hours, the Moon had been eating away at the edge of the Sun. Suddenly it was dark - not the deep darkness of night, but a cloak of grey. As the Sun disappeared, the temperature dropped. A halo of light danced around the edge of the Moon.

The planet Venus was visible in the sky - it was mesmerising. In a little more than two minutes the total eclipse was over. The first narrow crescent of the Sun reappeared from behind the moon.

The darkness gave way to a strange purple half-light. Everything seemed luminescent. As the darkness raced away from us towards the Iranian border, the immense power of the Sun quickly brought normal light conditions back under clear blue skies.

The farmers in the fields below us resumed their work.

Sanjeev Srivastavav in Hudco village near Bhuj, India.

Astronomers and amateurs shouted in joy at the time of the total solar eclipse. For more than a minute there was near total darkness and an eerie silence as the Moon completely covered the Sun.

There was also a perceptible drop in the temperature, and the breeze blowing over this desert village suddenly felt a lot cooler. As the Moon's disc began to leave the Sun, it was light again, and birds, which had flown to their nests only minutes earlier, came chirping out again.

In India, there are several myths attached to an eclipse. According to some religious texts, the solar phenomenon is a sign of the Sun's anger and is followed by widespread destruction. Pregnant women and children are discouraged from seeing the eclipse, and in conservative families across India, even food is not cooked on the day of the eclipse.

In the run up to the eclipse, a concerted effort was made to dispel these myths and special lectures were held in schools and colleges across India.

The campaign to spread positive awareness seems to have had an impact, and together with scientists and astronomers, thousands of amateur stargazers and students turned out to watch this amazing celestial event.

Links to more Total Eclipse stories are at the foot of the page.


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