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Islanders and visitors witness partial solar eclipse

Partial solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

Eclipse watchers view the solar eclipse with welding glass and special glasses at the Jolly Roger. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Connie Leinbach

All over Ocracoke, people were looking up from about 2 p.m. onward  to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event on Monday—a solar eclipse.

Even though Ocracoke was way north of the path of totality, a solar eclipse is not an everyday event. But this eclipse was historical as it was the only one since 1776 in which the path of totality went across the entire United States, starting in Oregon and exiting at Charleston, S.C.

Without the benefit of special glasses or pinhole cameras, the peak of the eclipse, at 2:49, was hardly noticeable.

Partial solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

A pie plate with holes creates the colander effect, showing a multitude of crescent sun shadows. Photo: C. Leinbach

On Ocracoke, the eclipse was 91 percent, said Ken Detweiler, a computer technician for NASA’s Langley, Va., office.

“Even at 91 percent, the sun gives off a lot of light,” he said.

He and Mary Pruitt, both of Hampton, Va., and Julie Gartman of Currituck took off work, traveled to the island and landed at the Jolly Roger.

The trio had brought solar binoculars, cameras with solar filters, and commercially made eclipse-viewing glasses that a clutch of islanders and visitors used to look at the eclipse.

“It beats sitting on the side of the road watching it,” Gartman said between sips of beer and brief looks at the sun.

Gartman’s original plan was to drive to Sumter, S.C., to be in the path of totality, but that trip was scuttled when her car broke down on Sunday.

“So we decided to come here instead,” she said as she took photos with her solar-equipped cameras.  “I just wanted to be part of history.”

The three passed their various viewing tools around to all who wanted to view the sun. Even with a gossamer cloud cover, the partial eclipse was viewable through glasses.

Luke Wrobleski had two pieces of welder’s glass people could look through and see the crescent sun as the moon passed between it and the earth. The welder’s glass showed a green sun while the commercial glasses showed the sun as silver.

“Wow! That’s incredible!” was the general consensus of islanders and visitors who viewed the partial eclipse through the welding glass.

Partial solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

Solar eclipse nerds and space cowboys Julie Gartman of Currituck, Ken Detweiler and Mary Pruitt of Hampton, Va. Photo: C. Leinbach

“As of today, we’re eclipse nerds,” Pruitt said while wearing cardboard glasses in the shape of cowboy hats. “We’re space cowboys.”

Gartman also had a pie plate pierced with holes for a “colander effect,” which is a variation on the pinhole camera technique of viewing the eclipse.

She held the pie plate over a white surface and a myriad of half-moon shadows showed the eclipse progress.

At the National Park Service Visitors Center, a few dozen people milled around outside as the eclipse made its appearance.

The Park Service had purchased 37 eclipse-viewing glasses for sale, and there was a long line of people waiting outside before the doors opened, said Judith Krauss, an NPS interpreter.

“We opened today at 8:55 and by 9:10, the glasses were sold out,” she said.

Diane Paradise and Jeff Hobbs of Wilmington, Del., were enjoying the Jolly Roger camaraderie with their friends Diana and Terry England of Salem, Ind.

The four made their first visit to Ocracoke for eclipse day during their vacation rental week in Frisco.

“It’s great to share something with family,” Paradise said.

“The eclipse brought people together,” Hobbs added. “Nobody harmed each other. America was one for a few minutes.”

Partial solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

From left, day visitors Terry England, Diane Paradise, Jeff Hobbs and Diana England view the partial solar eclipse on the Jolly Roger deck. Photo: C. Leinbach

Solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

Solar eclipse viewers at the NPS Visitors Center. Photo: C. Leinbach

Partial solar eclipse Ocracoke NC 2017

The crowd at the Jolly Roger thickens at the partial solar eclipse peak. Luke Wrobleski, who made viewers from welding glass, is at front left. Photo: C. Leinbach

An iPhone captures the partial eclipse through welder’s glass. Photo: C. Leinbach

The afternoon dims at the Lifeguard Beach as the partial solar eclipse passes overhead. Photo: P. Vankevich