A trip to Iowa this past weekend to visit son Jeff and his girlfriend Audra also included eclipse watching and a trip to the site of the Burkey sod house.
An eclipse isn’t the kind of thing that I ordinarily cover in my genealogy blog, but since it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, I’ve decided to make an exception.
Our plan was to view the eclipse somewhere in the Auburn or Falls City area in southeast Nebraska. The clouds looked rather threatening and on radar we could see bands of showers moving through the area. So we decided to drive as far west as we good where weather conditions appeared to be better.
We made it as far as Beatrice. Traffic was light coming from that direction, but we heard on the radio that there was quite the jam at the I-80 exit and heading south to Beatrice.
A local grocery store was offering free lunch which seemed too good to pass up. Choice of hot dog or bratwurst, chips, watermelon and a drink – it was perfect!
The weather seemed to be improving, so we decided to hunt for a viewing location that was better than the store parking lot.
We could see on Google maps that there was a nearby softball complex and decided that might offer some grassy areas and open space for viewing. It turned out to be an ideal choice.
There was plenty of room so we put our big orange blanket in left field in one of the ball fields. The partial eclipse was already underway. We had enough time to wander around and meet people. In our immediate vicinity there were a couple of women from Wheat Ridge, Colorado; a local guy with a fancy camera on a tripod; and three members of the Sudbury Astronomy Club in Ontario, Canada. They had some rather complex telescopes set up and seemed very focused on their work so we chatted only briefly.
We had bright sunshine during most of the partial eclipse and plenty of time for goofing around and testing out our glasses (which worked great, by the way).
It was interesting that as we approached 80%, 90%, 95% – there was little discernible effect just looking around the ballfields. If you weren’t paying close attention to the lighting, I’m not sure you would have been aware that an eclipse was underway.
The clouds started rolling in and we were getting a little nervous. There was a big black cloud straight west of us. One of the locals said it was probably directly overhead at the Homestead National Monument (about 10 miles away) where NASA and Bill Nye “The Science Guy” were hosting a large event. Bummer for them.
The moment that totality occurred was one I’ll never forget. The change was sudden and dramatic. Our view was unobscured. The corona, the pink and blue colors – it was like an electric charge. There were shouting and hollering and a collective gasp from the crowd. A church bell range and some fireworks went off in town. We could hear some confused locusts in the trees start to buzz. Greg captured this 360° view of the 360° sunset:
I was surprised at how emotional it was! Here are a few photos – a couple from our cell phones and others emailed to me by the Canadians.
During the totality, our view was briefly obscured by clouds – maybe about 30 seconds, only intensifying the darkness. The clouds parted and then we emerged from totality as suddenly as we entered it – it was like a light switch being flipped back on. What seemed like a normal light level returned in less than a minute. It was fun to walk around and share comments with the other folks. The Astronomy Club members were “over the moon”. They had chosen Beatrice solely on the basis of a Google Maps search of the path of totality and were delighted that the weather had cooperated.
I was able to call up our home weather station on my iPad and view the solar radiation and temperature effects back at home, where we there was something like a 95% eclipse. Looks like a nearly 10-degree temperature drop and of course a very dramatic hit to incoming solar radiation.
It looks like maximum at home (Weld County, Colorado) was 11:49 MDT. We had totality at 1:02 CDT in Beatrice, so it took 13 minutes for the shadow to move from home to Beatrice.
On the way back to Nebraska City, we listened to folks calling in to the local radio station sharing their experience watching the “ee-clipse” (apparently the local pronunciation). I think everyone had the same emotional reaction. What a fun day!
On our return to Colorado the next day, we took a short detour south of Julesburg to see where Dale’s great-great-grandparents Joseph and Ottilia Burkey had briefly homesteaded. For more information about their homestead, see these prior posts:
- The Burkey’s Sod House
- Annie Rademacher – life in a sod house
- Annie Burkey Rademacher – more about Julesburg
There is nothing there today but desolate fields and no evidence at all of homestead activity. It is flat and barren and seems like a very unlikely place to raise children. I believe Joseph and Ottilia stuck it out long enough to perfect their claim and then sold and went back to Crete. Someday I will look up deeds in the Sedgwick County court house and see how much they got for their land.
Here are a couple of photos – there’s not much to see. I’ve got the car door there just for scale.