Around 100 people lined up on Cascade Avenue in Langley Monday morning for the partial solar eclipse, peering through everything from cereal boxes to welding masks to witness the rare event.
The day began with thick fog, but that didn’t deter the crowd from celebrating to eclipse-themed songs such as Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” As the moon gradually covered a large portion of the sun, the crowd’s size and excitement grew accordingly. When peak eclipse was reached around 10:20 a.m., everybody made sure to look up.
The eclipse covered 92 percent of the sun.
“It’s peaking!” Clinton resident David Welton shouted. “This is the time everyone! It’s not going to get any better!”
People brought handmade gadgets and made creative solutions to safely stare at the sun, and extra eclipse glasses were frequently passed around. Some made pinhole projectors made from cardboard boxes, while others used old film reels to look through. John and Sandy Burnett, visiting Langley from Adna, Wash., even used his welding mask.
“I’ve worked as a welder, and the mask is perfect for this,” John Burnett said. “It’s safe and if you look through the mask, it gives it a green hue that’s much different than what you see through the glasses.”
Langley Main Street Association organized the neighborhood watch party after realizing there wasn’t a community gathering planned in the city, Program Manager Lorinda Kay said. Once somebody asked what the city was doing, Kay said the group promptly bought extra eclipse glasses and advertised on social media.
The extra glasses ran out before too long as the street overlooking Saratoga Passage became lined with curious spectators who came to witness the rare experience. The large crowd gathered despite the initial fog, although much of it burned off by peak eclipse.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience, so we thought we might as well bring the whole neighborhood to experience it together,” Kay said.
The Northwest last experienced a total solar eclipse 38 years ago.
For Clinton resident Tricia Bozin, the eclipse was “a wonderful sight to see,” even if she wasn’t getting quite the same experience her husband was down in Dallas, Ore., where the sun’s rays were totally eclipsed by the moon. She had her doubts about the crowds and weather in Oregon and decided to stay on Whidbey, although neither proved to be an issue as her husband sent proof with photos.
Still, she said the solar eclipse in Langley had its own character, as the elements put a twist on the viewing party.
“It’s wonderful. How often do you get to see this layer of mist, the view of the mountains and a solar eclipse?” Bozin said. “It gives it something extra, it really does.”
Others around South Whidbey also viewed the eclipse. People in Freeland stepped out of their offices as the eclipse neared its peak. Fortunately for the small crowd gathering near Whidbey Performance Physical Therapy, Clinton resident Ellen Edwards had a few extra eclipse glasses handy so they could view it without harming their eyes.
“It looked really neat,” Edwards said. “It sort of looked like a crescent moon, but it was different.”
It was the second time Freeland resident Wendy Johnson had seen an eclipse, the last time being in 1979 at Deer Lake. Johnson noted that temperatures dipped slightly as more and more sunlight was obstructed by the moon.
“I understand it a little more now and how rare it is,” Johnson said. “This is pretty amazing.”