Our home in space

Guy Ottewell

Eclipse at Sayulita

1991 July 11 was the eclipse of eclipses: large moon fitting centrally over the sun exactly overhead in Mexico. I cycled from Guadalajara through mountains down to Puerto Vallarta, the last day through coastal jungle in rain, so that I arrived waterlogged at the enormous hotel where I had a room in exchange for some Astronomical Calendars given out by astronomer Tom Van Flandern to the guests on his Eclipse Edge Expedition. He was an advocate of seeing it from almost the southern limit of the path, so that the edge phenomena — shadow bands, Baily's Beads, Diamond Ring, red chromosphere — last longer. So on the day we sought the beach at a fishing village, Sayulita, and it was indeed so. In the days afterward I rode south along the coast under vertical sun to join others who had driven to a spot called Chico's Paradise, up a mountain river, and after some horse-riding Connie (Tom's daughter) and I did what the boy is doing if you look closely at the picture. Who discovered you could do this and survive? You have first to slide about six feet into a swirling basin, from which there is no turning back. At the bottom you are an uncertain distance under with the column of water thundering on your head as you struggle ive to paddle your way to the surface. Having done it once, you do it eighteen times.