2003 - Ackergill, Scotland
"The next eclipse, an annular one, occurs in the early morning of 31st May 2003. We will be in Scotland - in Durness, if weather permits. We will be staying by the shores of Loch Ness, and we will have our own transport to get us to whatever eclipse site is forecast to be clear."
This is what we wrote before we left for Scotland. Note the bit that says "if the weather permits". Hah! Little did we know that the weather was not going to permit even a glimpse of the partial stages. Why do we put ourselves through such grueling drives to get a glimpse of the moon crossing the face of the sun? There were a number of points about the failure of this chase which brought home to me the reason why our hobby is so addictive. Its all about the people who travel with us.
I knew that this could be a really beautiful annular eclipse with the sun rising out of the sea with the moon already covering it. My disappointment at the weather conditions were soon put to one side by the spontaneous humour which was shared by us all as we stood on that little pier at Ackergill. Dave Seales christened the occasion "The Wee Dimmin". There is nothing I can add to that because that phrase perfectly describes all that we saw. Someone else commented that the seabirds did not even interrupt their breakfast.
Another comment was "Are you sure we are looking in the right direction?", at which point we laughed but then one by one looked over our shoulders just to be sure. A group of local astronomers sat in their chairs with all their cameras ready, only to give up and switch on their lap top, pour a few glasses of wine and proceed to admire the eclipse courtesy of Starry Night Pro."This is a much better view", " It looks great over Stockholm" and on and on the comments went. I also must pay great compliments to Chris O'Byrne who guided our two mini buses along the foggy roads in total darkness with his GPS to this remote little harbour in North East Scotland. The shame of it all is that it was a truly beautiful site to have witnessed such an event. Ackergill has lost its place in history, for the present anyway. Liam Staunton stepped out from behind his normal photographic duties to do some brilliant driving in atrocious conditions. Dave Seales did what all great brothers do and took over at the wheel from Brian who had eventually succumbed to the sheer exhaustion of, well, everything.
View some of our photos.
1.Great breakfast at the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel after arriving back at 8.30am from our night long search.
2. Mark(Dowling) and the Muffins with his hit song "Foggy Beach". Yes we still had a fit of giggles at the same breakfast despite the tiredness.
3. Drumnadrochit and it's Nessie exhibitions.
4. The Fiddlers in Drumnadrochit. A great restaurant run by wonderful obliging people.
5. John Bateson's surprised face when his Loch Ness Monster shaped "birthday cake" was produced on Saturday evening 31st May. It was John's birthday on eclipse day so it was a shame we saw nothing.
6. Loch Ness is a weird lake. I do plenty of lake fishing here in Ireland but this lake is different, somehow. I can't quite put my finger on it. Every photo I took of the lake later showed something that I do not recall being there at the time the photo was taken.
7. Fort Augustus. A beautiful picturesque town at the far end of Loch Ness. Great name!
8. Glencoe. Spectacular scenery in one of the most famous and historically notorious beauty spots.
9. The Commando Memorial. High in the mountains this bronze memorial erected in the area where these special soldiers were raised as a unit, and then trained during WW2, is a fitting tribute to them. It is a stunning piece of work, you felt like they were going to come to life all over again. I kept thinking of the Bronze statue that came to life in the film Jason and the Argonauts!
10. Urquhart Castle. A bit too touristy for my liking but hey what a great place to build a castle in the first place.
A personal view by Brian Seales.