Total Solar Eclipse
22 July 2009 — Hangzhou, China

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F. Espenak / NASA The 2009 total solar eclipse took us back to China less than a year after our previous eclipse trip in 2008. But this eclipse was a "can't miss it" opportunity because it would be the longest duration total eclipse for this century! Weather prospects were not good (historically, a 50% chance of cloud cover) and we were not eager to again immerse ourselves in the heat and humidity of China. So for this trip we flew into China just a few days before the eclipse and joined Twilight Tours for just the eclipse portion of their tour. The day after the eclipse, we left for Tibet seeking cooler, drier weather and new places to explore.

Tthere were additional worries for this trip besides the weather. Last year, our plans to visit Tibet were frustrated by the Chinese government closing access to Tibet around the time of the Olympics (and our eclipse trip) due to unrest in Tibet. This year, just prior to the start of our trip, unrest in the western part of China was threatening to ripple into a closure of Tibet again. We did see many Chinese troops in Tibet, including a line of amored personnel carriers, but with adequate paperwork we were not restricted in our tour, as long as we did not photograph the troops.

Another concern was that the additional threat of the H1N1/Swine flu was causing all China in-bound passengers to be screened. If officials found that we (or nearby passengers) had a fever or other signs of the flu, we could be detained and quarantined for a week! At both our lay-over in Seoul and upon arrival in Shanghai, we did have to fill out health questionnaires and have our temperatures checked, but fortunately we made it over those hurdles without problems.

And finally, there was our usual concern about getting all of our clothing (hot and cold weather!) and photographic equipment into our bags and under the weight restrictions (total of 40kg of checked luggage). For photo equipment, we ended up taking 1 tracking mount, 2 photo tripods, 3 35-mm film bodies (with 3 lenses + teleconverter), 2 digital cameras, 2 camcorders, a 4" Borg refractor, 2 binoculars, a netbook PC, and an external disk drive! Our suitcases were bursting at the seams, but we made it right at the weight limit (barely)!

Preliminaries  |   Arrival in China  |   Eclipse Day  |  Eclipse Views  |  Photos from Tibet
See also Full trip photo album