Eclipse watchers flock to Erie’s shore for once-in-a-lifetime celestial magic

Eclipse watchers flock to Eries shore for once in a lifetime celestial magic

Swarms of eclipse watchers flocked to the southernmost edges of Southwestern Ontario Monday to catch a glimpse at a celestial oddity

The weather. The crowds. The sun and the moon.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Everything lined up perfectly.

Article content

Swarms of eclipse watchers flocked to the southernmost edges of Southwestern Ontario Monday — packing parking lots, backing up traffic and gazing skyward to catch a glimpse of a celestial oddity.

“It was incredible,” said James MacNeil of Chatham, who went to watch the eclipse at Erieau. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve seen in recent memory. . . . For a brief second we were all as one.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

Eclipse watchers from Essex to Elgin gathered hours in advance to stake out a prime viewing spot along the Lake Erie shoreline. In Essex County, Point Pelee National Park, directly on the path of totality, reached capacity by about 11 am, West Region OPP reported.

Signs on the roads into Port Stanley urged drivers to expect delays. Hundreds gathered on the main beach hours before the eclipse was set to begin, a sizable crowd you’d expect to see on a summer long weekend – not early spring.

Andrew Crawford, who traveled to Port Stanley from Toronto to be in the path of totality, said it was “unbelievable.

“Just life-changing. I came to take photos and enjoy the view. But I just wanted to stop taking photos because it was so beautiful,” he said.

Advertisement 4

Article content

After an overcast start to the day, the clouds cleared out just in time for the main event starting with a partial eclipse at about 2 pm and totality — the moon completely blocking the sun — for about three minutes around 3:15 pm

Advertisement 5

Article content

Folks in the region who ventured outdoors to see the eclipse enjoyed pleasant, springlike daytime highs hovering in the mid teens.

“I’m 76 years old (and) I’m never going to see another one,” said Dan Copeland, who came to watch the total solar eclipse at Rondeau Provincial Park in Chatham-Kent with members of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers club.

“I got to see it now or forever hold my peace.”

Eclipse glasses in hand, the Bloxam family traveled from London to Port Stanley to be in the path of totality.

“It’s nice to see the kids get excited about science,” Liane Bloxam said.

The Bloxam family traveled from London to Part Stanley for the solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. They used paper plates to help keep their viewing glasses in place and add extra protection. (Brian Williams/The London Free Press)

It wasn’t just Southwestern Ontario residents captivated by the eclipse. The Aziz family from Vancouver traveled to Erieau to see the eclipse, ditching their planned St. Catharines sojourn last-minute because of more favorable weather in the Chatham-Kent town.

Advertisement 6

Article content

The family of four saw a total eclipse in Oregon in 2017 and has been awaiting this one ever since.

“Once you see it you will want to go again,” Asim Aziz said. “You see the solar system in motion in real time.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

London, which is not in the path of totality and experienced a 99.6 per cent partial eclipse on Monday afternoon, had several minutes of noticeable darkness around 3:15 pm

While total solar eclipses happen about every 18 months on average somewhere in the world, it’s rare to be able to see one in your own backyard.

The last total solar eclipse in southern Ontario was January 1925, when the path of totality was visible in Toronto and Niagara Falls. The next time the path of totality will cross over London is 2144.

Armed with eclipse glasses and a welder’s mask, Pain Court residents Norm and Yvette Caron made the 40-minute drive to Erieau to see the moon pass in front of the sun.

“It’s amazing, it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Yvette said of seeing a full solar eclipse so close to home. “It’s something bigger than us.”

[email protected]

– with files by Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News, and Brian Williams, The London Free Press

Recommended from Editorial

  1. Skywatchers gathered on the Port Stanley beach to watch a solar eclipse on Monday April 8, 2024. Mike Hensen/The London Free Press

    RECAP: Our live coverage of ‘incredible’ Southwestern Ontario eclipse

  2. The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse Monday, Aug.  21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky.

    Solar eclipse: Online livestream, London-area forecast set stage for skywatchers

Article content