Canada Flashback – Winnipeg Total Solar Eclipse

In honor of the January 15th African annular eclipse, I thought it apropos to flashback to the only total solar eclipse I’ve seen in person, the February 26, 1979 eclipse in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

About a dozen of us, all junior and senior high school boys, and very loosely chaperoned by our Physics teacher, made the three hour drive north and spent the night in a Winnipeg hotel.  In our room, I remember Alan Parsons Project’s Pyramid and (naturally) Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cassettes playing in the background.  Probably some cards were played, and possibly we actually slept, too.

On the big morning, we set up near the Winnipeg airport, along with a couple other cars of people also parked along the barren road there. 

Dono don’s his snow gear as others monitor the eclipse’s progress

“The Stallion” & Jon set up a camera, while Clark (?) tries to stay warm in the assault vehicle

As second contact approached, we tried watching for the moon’s shadow racing across the ground towards us, but didn’t have any luck.  When totality was (finally!) reached, there were several exclamations, and if I remember right, we had just over two minutes to enjoy a naked eye view of the awesome spectacle.  Three distinct prominences were visible around the perimeter of the sun, and a very beautiful corona.

totality, in wonderful 110mm!

If there was one thing I remember about the eclipse, it was the temperature change: while it was a chilly winter morning to begin with, it felt like it dropped another 10°-15°F by the time totality ended.  I remember everyone piling into the yellow Pacer after totality and huddling together waiting for the heater to do its job.

I hope Winnipeg enjoyed their total eclipse, because the next one to occur there will be on September 16, 3356.  I know I enjoyed it.

Postlogue: Fertile, MN had several inches of snow on the ground at the time, so some quick snowblowing allowed Taylor to park his pickup off the street while we were up north. Of course, some quick thinking led to a phonecall to a fellow conspirator with the request, “When we leave, get over here and bury his pickup!!”

When we returned home from our expedition, I think we’d forgotten about it (or at least didn’t know if the prank was followed through), but suddenly we heard, “Where’s my truck? What did you do with my truck!?” Dale had done a terrific burying job — the pickup and topper were completely buried; only the aerial antenna on the top of the cab was visible sticking up from the snowpile.

We helped shovel Taylor out, and then did a couple laps with him on the main drag with only a couple small openings cleared out on the windshield…and the shovel still sticking up from the snow still piled on the hood!

Taylor’s pickup, with aerial barely visible just left of center


3 responses to “Canada Flashback – Winnipeg Total Solar Eclipse

  1. Wow! Does that bring back some memories! I’ll never forget how COLD it was up there – and how much COLDER it got when the sun disappeared and the street lights came on! My poor little Pentax ME froze up solid in the middle of the event – makes me wish we had digital photography back then!
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. Grade 6 students in Manitoba learn about the solar system. While teaching about solar eclipses, I found your blog and showed it to my students. I was only 5 when it happened, but I still have many memories about that day that I shared with the students. Your pictures helped put the time / day in context for them. Thanks for posting!

  3. I hope some more people comment on this post (tomorrow). Very cool one to share, with great photojournalism. Nice Pacer, too!

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