Sisters Corinne and Charlene Silverfox watch the August 21 partial solar eclipse from Shipyards Park in Whitehorse. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Whitehorse residents gather to watch solar eclipse

‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see.’

Solar-eclipse mania swept across Canada and the U.S. Monday and Whitehorse was no exception.

Hundreds of people gathered at Shipyards Park starting as early as 8 a.m. for a partial solar eclipse viewing party organized by the Yukon Astronomical Society (YAS).

At first, the forecast didn’t look very promising, with heavy cloud cover blotting out the sun. But then, minutes after the partial eclipse began just after 9:20 a.m, clouds parted, offering an unobstructed view of the celestial event for the rest of the morning.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see,” said YAS member Craig Carty, who was helping to hand out free solar eclipse viewers to those gathered on the hill at the park. “I’ve seen a few eclipses but to see it this long and to get the day we’re getting is perfect… It’s a good day.”

As the weather improved, more and more people began to arrive at the park, with dozens of people, viewers pressed to their faces, staring up at the sun at any given time.

Another attendee, Lillian Nakamura-Maguire, said it was a “pretty special day.”

“You don’t get to see an eclipse very often and I think the last time I saw one was a quite a while ago, probably the mid-’70s or so… And it’s not going to happen again for a while, I’ll be dead and gone,” she said with a laugh. “It’s great that everybody’s out here celebrating.”

As time went on, a dark disk could be seen slowly creeping across the sun; the YAS’ 200 free viewers were quickly snapped up. Some people, despite repeated warnings from the YAS members not to, tried to look directly at the sun with no eye protection. Most of them looked away again in seconds, rubbing their eyes. At one point, a man with a camera and lens not equipped with a solar filter could be heard swearing as he apparently damaged his sensor while trying to take a picture of the sun.

The eclipse peaked just after 10:20 a.m. Aug. 21, with the sun about 58 per cent blocked — not quite the total eclipse that was visible across the U.S., or the 90 per cent that Victoria, B.C., saw — but still an “incredible” sight to see, said Isabelle Duclos, who came to the park with her three children.

Duclos said she’d originally been reluctant to go watch, but was eventually persuaded by a friend.

“Now that I’m here, I’m super excited that my three kids can see the eclipse because it’s their first one,” she said, adding the last eclipse she saw was in the 1990s on the east coast.

Duclos added that she was pleased by how the event was organized.

“I think it’s great because we got some viewers and without that we couldn’t be able to see the eclipse and to be excited with a lot of people, that’s nice,” she said.

The partial eclipse concluded just after 11:24 a.m.

The next solar eclipse visible in Whitehorse will be in 2023.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com