Yesterday, at exactly 7.21 AM, one of my biggest dreams came true. Ever since my first experience with a Total Solar Eclipse in Faroe Islands, where a huge cloud covered the sun at the totality stage, it has been my dream and my goal to see totality. Therefore, I decided that I would fly to Indonesia to watch it this year and start my journey around Asia with an eclipse.
Because of cheap flights and hotels and decent weather forecasts, I chose Pulau Belitung as my eclipse destination. What could be more amazing than to watch such a rare event on one of the most unknown islands in Indonesia – an island that to this date has still not been included in the Lonely Planet guide.
Before coming to Pulau Belitung, I didn’t know where to go for the eclipse or what to do for the four days that I was there. Luckily, on my first night, I met Latvian Janis and English Ian and we shared some great moments together. One of those moments was during the Total Solar Eclipse.
We had debated where to go, talked to locals to find the best spots and checked the weather to see where the clouds most likely wouldn’t be. We were undecided until the evening before, where the choice between the East coast, Kaolin Lake and the Bukit Berahu mountain was finally decided.
We chose to watch the eclipse from Kaolin Lake, due to the amazing scenery. We checked the weather for different locations all over the island, but they were more or less the same. So all we could do was hope. Hope that we had made the right choice and that the clouds wouldn’t get in the way.
Kaolin Lake is the remains of an old kaolinite mine and is a very unusual sight with its bright light blue colour and white rocks surrounding it. It’s every photographer’s dream place and a perfect location to watch a solar eclipse.
Janis chose to stay on a small hill with Malaysian Ahmed, while Ian and I searched for the perfect place with a view of the lake. We were running backwards and forwards and climbing up hills to try to figure out where we’d get the best pictures, before finally settling down at the banks of the lake facing east towards the Sun.
We arrived at 5.30 PM, just in time to watch the sunrise. The eclipse would start at 6.19, about 30 minutes after sunrise, but we wanted to experience all of the magic of the Sun. The sky turned orange and there it was, the Sun rising above the horizon, ready to be the center of attention for everyone waiting there in anticipation.
Soon, the Moon made its way to the Sun and slowly started covering its surface. I had experienced this before in the Faroe Islands, but it never gets boring. As we stood there watching the Moon take away the sunlight, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky we are to be able to see such a spectacular thing. Not only were we in one of the most unspoilt places in Indonesia, we were also witnessing a phenomenon that most people can only dream about.
While much of my attention was on my camera during the partial eclipse, I also took the time to enjoy it. It was amazing to see the locals being as excited as the eclipse chasers that had chosen this remote location. And I felt blessed to have Ian to share it with at such an incredibly beautiful place.
The partial eclipse seemed to go on forever, and I was anxious and scared that unexpected clouds would enter and block our view of totality.
But before I could think any more about it, the moment came. As the moon took place right in the center of the Sun, covering all of the surface, we saw an impressive sight that I will never forget. All we could see was the corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, with pearly white rays surrounding the dark Sun.
While the crowd was cheering, Ian was shouting excitedly and I was crying my eyes out. It was such an emotional moment and I am sure that this is the biggest thing any human being can experience. The overwhelming feeling while seeing totality is hard to describe; it’s an otherworldly feeling, a feeling of being a part of something major, a feeling of completion.
As day turned to night, the birds went to sleep, only to be woken up by the approaching sun a few minutes later. It didn’t get quite as dark as in the Faroe Islands, where a dark cloud blocked more of the light from the corona, but it was magical and myserious nonetheless.
I couldn’t help thinking what an amazing experience this must be for the locals on the island. This is something that so few people get to see and for people who don’t have the means to travel to eclipses, having it in their own backyard must be sensational. The people of Pulau Belitung are the kindest people that I’ve ever met and they deserved this moment of pure happiness and amazement. I am so happy to have shared the experience with them.
We stayed to watch as the Moon slowly moved away from the Sun, taking in every little bit of this enchanting moment that we could.
And then, at 8.31 AM, the eclipse was over. The biggest moment in my life was over, although it still all seemed too good to be true. I know now that an eclipse chaser is what I’ve become. An eclipse chaser is what I am. Nothing can beat the feeling that I got while watching totality and that’s why I just need to experience it again.
My expectations for the eclipse were low, as I had a feeling that I would be third time lucky in USA 2017. But thankfully, the universe allowed me to be second time lucky and gave me an experience that I will never forget. I have later found out that most of the island was overcast during the eclipse, so we had been extremely lucky. This was my first actual total solar eclipse and everything about it was just perfect.