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Opposed to many equal conditions and points I will pronounce here the ones, which are different especially from the 1999 eclipse. After that last of 11. August 1999, the last of the old century, the first total solar eclipse of the new century and millennium occurs on the 21. June 2001.

First two remarks about facts, which nobody from us will like: both deal with big dangers for our life and health!

The African continent has by far the highest number of extremely dangerous, infectious diseases globally. While HIV is for us at most a minor problem (behave rationally and nothing will happen to you), others pose major threats, like the long known Malaria (Anopheles carries it) and the devilish infectious fevers like Ebola, West-Nil, Lhassa and so on, which are generally deadly for you, when you are infected with them --- some people survive, but your chances to do so are marginal and no doctor of the highest developed countries can help you anyway, if you are infected with one of these last few. They can at best make you suffer less from pain! No protection against these last fevers is available (other than carrying a space-suit like system), to make it really horrible. For the Malaria problem, a treatment before the voyage helps and of course the nets against their carrier (Anopheles) can prevent you from infection.

And due to the low or non-existant hygiene in these countries other diseases, which are present also (but seldom!) in Europe and Northern America, are a much bigger threat; often we lack therefore (and for laziness) adequate protection against them. Therefore I strongly recommend, that you refresh all necassary vaccinations before travelling in this dangerous region!

The other warning is human caused: in most of these countries governmental murder and torture, civil war and other extreme violations of human rights occur regurarly, which leaves many of these countries as "forbidden" regions. This last point limits severely the number of countries for the 2001 eclipse, which is recommendable for safety reasons at all. At the moment only two remain: Zambia and Madagaskar. And of course, even there theft is a certain threat, as always in poor countries --- but I have to warn you. And the transportation systems are very much underdeveloped, so a voyage can easily become an adventure for hard doing, experienced travellers of such regions.

If you are still interested, here is an evaluation of this possible choice: Madagaskar would deserve a travel also for its unique, endemic fauna. Cynical spoken, you should visit it, before most species there are wiped out --- a big danger for that country, which can't survive without its natural resources. But population growth and irresponsible behaviour of politicians and economy are a very big threat to that nature. Regarding the eclipse, the sun will be already very low in the sky, when the moons central shadow touches the big insula. Also the duration is only about 2 minutes there, no longer than 1999 in Europe and parts of Asia. Besides this, you have to choose the Western part of Madagaskar, because in the East the humidity and cloud cover are too high for an acceptable observation chance.

The better alternative in my view is Zambia, which has a considerable civilisational standard only in the capital Lusaka. If you want not to take the mentioned travel with the usual expedition equipment for regions without modern streets, railways and so on, than you may join a group, which will charter a Airbus jet for a two day trip to the Lusaka airport? For more informations for this Austria based venture you should look at that site, which is feasible especially for Europeans from the central parts of the continent.

Regarding duration, at least about 3.5 minutes totality are there available, about the half of the possible maximum and compared to the 2001 maximum of 5 minutes in the Atlantic Ocean western from the African west coast (of the extremely dangerous Angola). These regions are generally not safe, so I can't recommend a ship voyage into the maximum totality region, despite this would be a chance to get the most (at least in terms of duration) out of it. For precise measurements a tumbling ship is not very suitable anyway... The air is very dry, the threat by clouds similar low (about 30%) as it was in the better regions in 1999 --- but of course even a 90% average chance to see the event would be no guarantee, do you remember the disaster of 1991 on Hawaii? The season is "winter", but in that latitudes, in the vicinity of the southern limit of the equatorial region of the Earth, this means virtually nothing: the Sun will still be relatively high in the sky, it will be warm and generally dry. Therefore not only during direct observation of the sun a good protection of the eyes with sunglasses and of the skin with sunblocker is required.

Special remark: the media sometimes did a little bit to much in warning the public of the sun observation in the past, like don't look with the eyes into the reappearing solar glare immediately after the end of the totality. But generally speaking, as long you watch with the eyes only and obey your feeling of "too bright" or even hurting, your eyes will take no damage from such a short moment. Occasionally, for very short time (less than one second), I had glances into the sun, and this causes no damage to the eyes. Important final remark for this: this changes completely, if you are using any instrument for observation. Because of the light collecting effect of any hand-held glasses and of telescopes, then your eyes will immediately get permanently damaged by any incoming, focused (!) solar light. That's the reason, why you have to take much care with instruments, if you are looking through any potential sunlight catching optics without an adequate strong filter. I know about experienced astronomers, which got major, irreparable eye damage after one moment of lack of caution and unintentionally contact with focused sunlight! A number of years ago I pushed away with brute force a relative of me not for nothing, who wanted indeed look into the ocular of the telescope (obviously unaware of the danger), which was ready for solar projection only!

If you are new or unsure in this "business", you may read my otherwise dated hints for the 1999 eclipse, which are mostly still valid.

The temperature decrease especially if conditions are good (no clouds) during the eclipse will be much more pronounced than 1999 of course, despite even with total cloud cover and rain an obvious temperature decrease of several degrees of centigrade occured than!

The landscape is well suited for watching the moons shadow come and go and for observing the strange "dawning" resembling and air stirring effects during and just before and after totality.

Stars and some planets should be well visible when clouds are absent, due to the mostly low regional pollution of the atmosphere --- but fire in woods and plant covered plains can ruin this, if you have bad luck.

If you decide(d), to hunt after this interesting total solar eclipse anyway, I wish you good luck!


 

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remarks etc. to: stefan.urbat@apastron.lb.shuttle.de

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