It didn’t draw the applause of a Menemsha sunset, but Monday’s eclipse drew some “oohs,” “aahs,” an “oh my goodness,” and a “so cool” or two.
“The sun is actually the moon,” Michael Lawrence Leahy, 4, of Edgartown said as a peeked through a pair of glasses borrowed from Bryan Langlands of Manhattan.
Michael and his family went to Menemsha armed with homemade cereal and cracker box viewers to project the eclipse, but seeing the real thing was pretty special. Mr. Langlands and his friends Christopher Windom and Lisa Adams made sure anyone in the general vicinity had a chance to view it through glasses. The trio from New York City went to Menemsha Beach to enjoy a lunch of lobster rolls, chowder and the rare darkened skies of a solar eclipse.
“It’s amazing, you’ve got to see it,” Mr. Langlands said handing the glasses off again.
The actual eclipse was almost, well, eclipsed by dozens of red jellyfish in the water. Chilmark lifeguards Luke Sausville, 16, and George Katilus, 19, hauled about 20 of the stingers out of the water in nets at the urging of children at the beach.
“It’s pretty cool,” Luke said, after looking through glasses at the eclipse. “I thought we were going to miss it.”
One young girl was sadly disappointed as her mother ushered her off the beach about a half hour before the eclipse began. “You ruined my only life-chance of even doing this,” she said.
Some on the beach continued to toss a Frisbee, build sandcastles and read, ignoring the light show.
Not Hallie Offen of Washington, D.C. who got a chance to see the eclipse as she was leaving the beach. “This is amazing,” she said, looking through the borrowed glasses.
Solar eclipse on South Beach
On the Island’s south shore, it wasn’t your average beach day. Though only a few had proper eclipse viewing glasses, murmured questions from surrounding beachgoers were all about the eclipse. Was it happening right now? Will you go blind if you look at it? How dorky do these solar shades make me look?
Some families were more into it than others, the Davidson and Rothman family being one of them. Each member had their own pair of eclipse glasses and would eagerly put them on every few minutes in between runs down to the choppy surf.
Jane Davidson recalled seeing a total eclipse in the summer of 1970 in Norfolk, Virginia, which was in the so-called “path of totality.” Ms. Davidson remembers a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the event. “It was all very religious for me,” she said.
Since solar viewing glasses were not around yet, Ms. Davidson used a shoebox with white paper and pinholes to look at a reflection of the sun. There were other methods, as well. “We filled up a baby swimming pool and watched the reflection,” she said. “It really was amazing. Every family in our apartment building came out. I thought it was great to be apart of it, just like this is.”
Her son-in-law Jeffrey Rothman remarked that while the eclipse was spectacular, he was happy to be sharing the experience with other people, including his two children Hugo and Josie Rothman.
Another group of people nearby didn’t come prepared with solar viewing glasses, so they borrowed a pair to witness the event. As each member of the group viewed the eclipse, they let loose a fair amount of expletives.
The first person in her group to put the glasses on, Emily Owen said, “It looks like a moon.”
“That’s because it is the moon,” said her friend Samuel Barker. “We’re so ignorant.”
The group had no plan to witness the historic event, but were disappointed when they learned they wouldn’t be able to see the eclipse with just their sunglasses. They were, however, awestruck by the sight.
“Oh my god, that’s amazing. That’s incredible,” Charlotte Watts said as she placed the shades over her eyes.
Throughout the afternoon, more people on the beach passed around solar shades or lifted up their cellphones, attempting to see the sun’s reflection in their selfie cameras. Others continued to splash in the water, play spike ball, or doze off, unaware of the moon’s slow but certain sojourn across the sun.
Huge turnout at Vineyard Haven library
Several Island libraries held events on Monday complete with free eclipse glasses and other ways to safely see the historic moment.
With glasses in such high demand, about 800 people flocked to the Vineyard Haven Library to try and score a pair of free glasses and observe the eclipse.
“We had a line going out the door, it was crazy,” said librarian Betty Burton. Although not everyone received a pair of glasses, everyone had a chance to view the eclipse out of a variety of tools, including glasses, cereal boxes, paper plates, and giant cardboard boxes.
Kate Wiswell, a visitor from Los Angeles, held two paper plates towards the sun, one with a pin-sized hole in it. As she moved the plates, a projection of the sun sliver grew and shrank in size. “The paper plates are great. They’re transportable, easy, and cheap,” she said.
“It’s like a proto-cinematic thing,” said eclipse viewer Drew Bucilla, describing the homemade cardboard box-based viewing device. “You angle the box to the sun so when light shines through it it shows the projection on the other side.”
As the eclipse began to reached its apex, people buzzed with more excitement. “Three more minutes!” someone shouted at 2:45, leading to a collective gasp from the crowd. People rushed around to get their hands on any solar viewing tool they could find.
Christian Dasilveira, Samantha Caldwell, and Ethan Hall hung around a statue together and took turns peering up at the eclipse with the glasses pasted to their faces. “I came to the library to get the glasses,” proclaimed Ethan as he passed them over to Christian. “Like right now it’s just the color of the normal sun, but when you put on the glasses it’s really different,” said Christian. “Yeah, it’s just a tiny sliver right now, but the yellow and black look really good together,” added Samantha.
As everyone viewed the eclipse, kids and parents alike munched on themed snacks. “We had vanilla wafers and oreos that were gone in a second,” said Ms. Burton. “Minus the first half-hour where people were going crazy, it was a lot of fun because everyone was sharing and talking about the eclipse together.”
Monday’s solar eclipse prompted lots of innovation.
David Stanwood made a binocular projection device using a Priority mail box, a tripod and a binocular lens with a shade over it. “It was easy, took about five minutes,” he said.
Mr. Stanwood brought it by The Times office during the height of the eclipse. “It was pretty exciting, wonderful,” he said.
He, like many people, are already thinking about the next solar eclipse that will pass over the United States. “I can’t wait until 2024,” he said. “I’m going to go to Mount Mansfield.”