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1954: Visions of totality

The first piece of sky to go dark on 30 June 1954 was over Nebraska, North America, at 1208 BST.

Over the course of the next two hours and 50 minutes the shadow swept eastwards, passing across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and finally to the Indian state of Punjab.

Millions of people from three continents witnessed the phenomenon of the full moon passing in front of the sun and turning day into night.

Your accounts of the eclipse:

I saw the partial eclipse on June 29, 1954 from Northern Illinois. It inspired me to become an astronomer and author of astronomy books.

Thanks for reminding me of that awesome event which literally changed the course of my life. Since that event I've chased nine other eclipses all over the world.
Peter L. Manly, USA

I was 10 and we were all shepherded into the school yard in South Wales. I remember the teacher making us coat pieces of glass with soot from burning candles to make sun filters: not a safe way to look at the sun, but at least it was better than nothing.
Tim, UK

I was six years old at the time, and I remember standing on a small stone hill in southern Sweden, watching the sun through special protection glasses. I think they where made of black plastic of some sort.
Georg Larsson, Sweden

I remember watching the eclipse from the school playground - I was almost 11 at the time.
Patricia Dilley, England

I was a 13-year-old long-stay in-patient in the boys' ward at the Wingfield Morris hospital in Oxford. Most of us were bed-ridden and immobilised on our backs, able to move only our heads and arms.


" We were wheeled out of the ward and onto the terrace an hour before the total eclipse was due "

Derek Maule, UK

We were wheeled out of the ward and onto the terrace an hour before the eclipse was due. It was a fairly bright day with scattered sunshine and some cloud.

The hospital ran a scout troop. The scout leader spent some time explaining what was about the happen and produced smoked sheets of glass and put them on the ground for the more mobile patients to view the reflection of the eclipse.

Those like myself who could not look on the ground were given very dark film negatives through which to view the sun at the crucial time.

As the eclipse started, I remember seeing the dark shadow on the Sun starting to become larger. The clouds prevented us seeing the eclipse, but I do recall the atmosphere becoming very dark and still, and noticed that the birds had stopped singing.

As the daylight became brighter, the birds started to sing again and the clouds cleared to reveal the dark shadow on the sun moving away to leave a pleasant sunny day.
Derek Maule, UK

I was 21 in 1954 and saw the eclipse in Clacton-on-Sea.

As I was an amateur astronomer I had worked out that over 99.9% of the sun's surface would need to be covered for there to an appreciable loss of daylight.

We saw the eclipse with the aid of dark film negatives.
Ron Williams, USA (expat)

It chucked it down around the time of the deepest partial phase as seen from Normanton, Yorkshire, where I was a 10-year-old pupil at the time.

It cleared up in the afternoon so that I and the rest of my class still had to sing the "Skye Boat Song" at the School Garden Party in the Vicarage grounds - Worse luck!

Incidentally there will be an almost exact repeat of the 1954 eclipse, with totality occuring north of the British Isles, on March 20th 2015.

The deepest partial phase visible from mainland Britain will take place just after 9am on that morning!
John Harper, UK

The 1954 eclipse was the second of nine Gerard Foley has witnessed. His photographs and account follow:

"In 1954 our family went to Copper Harbor, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior. This was the easternmost point in the United States on the path of totality of that year's solar eclipse.

"A few minutes before totality, the clouds which had covered the eastern horizon (in the first picture) lifted, only to be replaced by the fog you see in the next two, taken just before and just after totality."
Gerard Foley, USA


Web Links
Gerard Foley: Total eclipses of the sun
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