A hybrid solar eclipse took place on April 20, 2023 in a remote area in Western Australia, and Exmouth was one of the best places on the planet to observe the total phase of the eclipse.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the apparent diameter of the Moon is greater than that of the Sun. A hybrid solar eclipse on the other hand is a rare type of solar eclipse that changes its appearance from annular to total, then vice versa, as the Moon’s shadow moves over the surface of the Earth.
This eclipse was the first total solar eclipse to occur since the world has opened back up from the pandemic. Due to this, there was a lot of desire to observe totality. Most eclipse chasers and people interested in seeing totality chose Exmouth in Western Australia as their observation point. This is mostly due to the better weather prospects of the area, the modern infrastructure, and the almost 1 minute of totality.
Eclipse262728 decided to arrive at Exmouth in an international group trying to be under the shadow of the Moon. After several months planning for the trip, the dream came true and the team met in Perth to reach Exmouth by car. The team included 3 people from different countries who had never met before and thanks to the eclipse they got to know each other in Australia in order to experience the totality.
Jeramey Weston from the USA: Eclipse chaser, writer and director of the www.intheabsenceoflight.com project
Mohamad Sol from Iran: Amateur astronomer, astrotourism researcher and director of Eclipse262728
Paulina Hillebrand from Poland: Astronomy enthusiast, hematologist and adventurer
The road to reach the path of totality has lots of curves and stories. The road trip from Perth to Exmouth took 4 days, allowing the team some time to explore nature, culture and cuisine of the local towns and sites along the way.
The first night in Cervantes was a great chance to see a strange bright object in the sky. After observing and photographing that object they noticed that it was the launch of the ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer called, “Juice”, just as it was leaving the earth, beginning its long journey towards Jupiter.
Australia is a rich and beautiful land. Eclipse chasers were lucky to experience the totality in such a beautiful country. The Pinnacles desert, located just outside of Cervantes WA, was a spectacular natural attraction where you feel like you are on another planet.
Along the 1,500-kilometer drive to Exmouth there was lots to explore. The animals, the scenic landscapes, the sunrise and sunset with their spectacular colors were a sight to see. The starry night that are accentuated by the extremely dark skies were especially spectacular.
Site selection to observe the eclipse is a complex challenge and making the final decision according to the expectation of the team can be difficult, especially when there are limited places to observe the eclipse and limits to access the path of totality. The team arrived in Exmouth three days before the eclipse in order to explore the area and choose the best site to experience the eclipse. Each observer may have different reason to choose their point to observe the eclipse. Some prefer to be away from crowds, while some would like to share their emotions and be surrounded by others when the Moon covers the Sun.
Ease of access is very important to many people when selecting their final destination, but there are people who wouldn’t mind having difficulties to catch a better view with different landscapes. Some interesting locations both on the beach and also inland towards the mountains were explored during the days before the eclipse. Site selection was complicated when we learned that on the eclipse day there would be barriers on some roads towards the center line to control the crowds. One of the most interesting points to view the eclipse was Charles Knife Canyon right next to the center line, but the road was closed to this area on the eclipse day. Therefore, access could only be possible by walking a few kilometers beyond the barrier.
On April 19, the day before the eclipse, a series of strange incidents occurred that affected the planning and the final decision to get to see the eclipse. Around 5am Paulina and Mohamad were on Exmouth beach to watch the waning Moon rising over the sea. This moment was magnificent and unforgettable as the moon kissed the water separating from the horizon. The colors of the horizon before dawn are spectacular and unusual for many who come from other countries. After a while, a man named David, approached and asked if they had come precisely to see the Moon rise or if it was just a coincidence. Mohamad replied that he has been chasing lunar waxing and waning crescents for nearly two decades. David got excited and continued talking with Paulina and Mohamad about their plans to see the eclipse the following day. After exchanging numbers, they parted way with the plan to stay in touch.
In a few hours David called Mohamad and told him that a special permission could possibly be obtained for professionals in order to access Charles Knife Canyon by car. It was not confirmed, but the team would be informed later that afternoon. The team continued to explore other areas to view the eclipse in the western part of the peninsula. There are very beautiful landscapes near the center line, Charles Knife Canyon being one, but there were several issues that make their access difficult. Not only are they located a good distance away from the town of Exmouth by car, but once there, one would still have to walk an additional 3km in the earliest hours of the morning in order to arrive to the site. In addition, there are hardly any trees around and having the possibility to relax beneath shade seemed quite necessary since the sun is so intense during the daylight hours of the region. There were also flies everywhere that do not leave you alone. If they became a bother during the eclipse, you cannot enjoy your adventure.
Returning to Exmouth after a swim in the ocean and seeing another spectacular sunset, there are 12 hours left until the eclipse and we had to make the decision and choose the destination to observe the eclipse. The Iranian Mr. eclipse Hamid Khodashenas with his daughter Sayeh and another colleague Arshia Gerami arrived in Exmouth late that night, after driving over 16 hours from Perth. The team met them at Town Beach in Exmouth where David was also waiting for the group. Hamid, with more than 20 years of experience in chasing eclipses, prefers to stay on the beach sharing his experience with people. David also received word that no special permissions would be granted to access Charles Knife Canyon by. Luckily the area could still be accessed by hiking up the canyon road by foot. Jeramey and Paulina had not ruled out the western part of the peninsula.
Finally, Jeramey, Paulina, Mohamad and David decided to meet up at 3am to begin their trek towards Charles Knife Canyon. This decision was made because in order for Mohamad’s photography equipment to be set up to track the sun by day, the equipment had to be aligned to the polar star at night. At 4am, after parking their vehicles just outside the road blocks leading up the canyon road, they begin walking the more than 4 kilometers up the road towards the final site.
The group didn’t know the area, they just had a feeling the view would be very beautiful from the top of the canyon. Luckily an hour before sunrise they reach the top where there are a few trees, but they could hardly see the landscape as it was still dark. Mohamad took the opportunity to assemble his photography equipment. The rest of the team settled in and founds themselves a comfortable viewpoint. The sun was about to rise and the team had found themselves in a paradise with a view towards the sea. The canyon and mountains were situated just behind them.
Fortunately, the sky was clear and there were no cloud covering it. Jeramey started flying his drone over the canyon, recording videos of the beautiful scenery. The time for the start of the partial phase was approaching (10:04). David gave a hand to send live videos to the public waiting for the team on Instagram. There was little wind, the sun was getting stronger and the flies started to become annoying. The team was prepared to observe, capture and enjoy the eclipse.
Everything was ready to celebrate the alignment of the Sun, the Moon and our own presence in Exmouth! The partial phase began with the first contact and the Moon bit the face of the Sun little by little. The Sun had several huge sun spots, and the Moon rapidly approached them. As it got darker, the temperature dropped and the wind and the flies disappeared. The team had about eight different cameras and was capturing images and recording videos from different angles. A few minutes before totality, a live Instagram feed began to share that experience with the followers of Eclipse262728. Moha informed that it is only five minutes left to the totality, then the diamond ring, The Baily’s beads, and finally removing the solar filters during the totality. What unforgettable moments. Paulina called it the perfection of nature when the Moon appears in front of the Sun. David yelled, “Incredible!”. The duration of totality was so short (barely a minute) that everything went very fast and there was no time to observe everything that was happening around us. Jeramey recorded what happened on earth and Moha concentrates more on the sky taking photos of the eclipse. The totality is so unique that it cannot be described in all the details, it must be experienced! Baily’s beads appeared again, followed by the diamond ring. The shadows of the eclipsed sun passed between the leaves of the trees move on the earth.
The group was very excited and celebrated their success by sharing their experience and feelings. Charles Knife Canyon, less than two kms from the center line was a prime viewing destination for this eclipse and observers were very pleased they did their best to hike to this point early in the morning. Many people had seen the eclipse at Exmouth beach.
According to the Australian government, some 18,000 tourists visited the area to experience the eclipse and the government dedicated more than 22 million dollars for the preparation and improvement of the local infrastructure.
Australia’s Channel 7 carried out an interview with Jeramey and Mohamad about their adventure on the day of the eclipse. The eclipse is an opportunity to meet people who have a common goal: the experience of totality! We were fortunate enough to meet experts like Josep Masalles Román, “Mr. Eclipse of Spain”. As well as “Mr. Eclipse from Iran”, Hamid Khodashenas, and his team.
It’s time to say goodbye and the team would like to repeat the experience for the next eclipses. Eclipse262728 kindly appreciates support from many people especially Val, Chris, Sergio, Khosro, Ali Ebrahimi, Luis and everyone who supported us to carry out this mission.