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Exmouth eclipse: Meet the globe-trotting eclipse chasers coming to Exmouth by the thousands

Jamie ThannooMidwest Times
Janine Olah, the Roberts brothers, Megan Bronson and Mike Frost are gearing up for Exmouth's total solar eclipse.
Camera IconJanine Olah, the Roberts brothers, Megan Bronson and Mike Frost are gearing up for Exmouth's total solar eclipse. Credit: The West Australian

They’ve come from all over the planet, all for a moment that will last less than a minute — that perfect moment when the sun, moon and a small town in the Gascoyne align.

Known as eclipse chasers, people from many countries and walks of life and all driven by an urge to travel wherever an eclipse may take them are travelling to Exmouth in the tens of thousands.

Mike Frost, from the British Astronomical Association, has been following eclipses since 1995 and is leading a tour with the company Astro-Trails, with eclipse chasers from NSW, the US and Europe making their way together to Exmouth.

“It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t seen one, just how dramatic it is. You see the corona of the sun, the stars in daytime, sunset and sunrise, it’s almost overwhelming,” Mr Frost said.

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Some eclipse chasers caught the bug when they were lucky enough to have an eclipse in their own backyard.

Janine Olah, from Pennsylvania in the United States, first saw a solar eclipse over her hometown in 2017 and couldn’t get enough, travelling to Chile in 2019 and now WA to scratch that eclipse itch.

“When you see an eclipse, you realise the smallness of yourself, that you are a part of the universe and everything came together for you to see this black hole in the sky,” Ms Olah said.

For fellow American Megan Bronson, 2017 was also her first eclipse and the beginning of her love for eclipse chasing.

“I went to see it in my family’s farm in Idaho, and once I saw it and I experienced totality I knew I had to go again,” Ms Bronson said.

It’s a passion that requires commitment, but also one with a lot risk — all it takes is a cloudy day to miss out on an eclipse.

Eclipse chasers in Chile in 2019.
Camera IconEclipse chasers in Chile in 2019. Credit: Megan Bronson

This is exactly what happened to Mr Frost, in 1997 he travelled to Mongolia, only for the weather to get in the way.

“We missed the eclipse, but on the other hand, I always wanted to go to outer Mongolia. I got to see an extraordinary part of the world,” he said.

While the eclipse gives these cosmic chasers a reason to travel, exploring the world is a reward in itself.

“There’s always a risk, but for me it’s not just the eclipse, it’s the journey around it,” Ms Bronson said.

“I will have an amazing time in Western Australia, I don’t know if I would have come if it wasn’t for the eclipse.”

As they travel to the same places, talk online, and help each other plan their journeys, a spirit of camaraderie has developed among eclipse chasers.

“After my first eclipse I started a Facebook group and I met a lot of new people there, then I saw them in Chile, and now I’m meeting some of them here as well,” Ms Olah said.

“It’s great, it’s really interesting to have this community.”With over 7,000 visitors already estimated to have entered the tiny resort destination, Shire President Darlene Allston says the town is expecting to host more than 10,000 tourists and overflow accommodation is bursting at the seams.

“We’ve passed 7000 visitors and while we can’t confirm at this stage we are hopeful to tick over 10,000 tourists,” she said.

“We’ve had a few more people come in but we know there’s still at least 600 people to check into our overflow accommodation so it will get even busier.”

Tents are put up for the solar eclipse at Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Park in Exmouth Sabrina Roberts
Camera IconTents are put up for the solar eclipse at Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Park in Exmouth Sabrina Roberts Credit: Sabrina Roberts/Supplied

“It’s been pretty hectic it’s definitely picked up in the last 24 hours,” she said.

“We’re expecting it to be even busier tomorrow and it’s already the busiest I’ve ever seen the town.”

Those excited for the spectacular phenomena are buying solar glasses and filters in vast numbers and Shire President Darlene stocked up on glasses months ago.

“I bought about half a dozen glasses three months ago when they first came out so I’m all set for Thursday,” she said. Tourists are gearing up, including Ben Gartrell who posted on social media about joining a group of scientists from Hawaii who are setting up spectrometers and telescopes ahead of the celestial spectacle.

Preparations don’t stop there, with Twitter user @k8jbrooks testing the eclipse sunnies in anticipation and tattoo artist Jessi Mcfarlane who produced shirts for the event.

Facebook user Doriana Mangili posted a photo of locally made artwork in Carnarvon on the waterfront, made to commemorate the eclipse. The impressive ring is three metres in diameter and lights up at night.

Rockband Pink Floyd is giving a handful of fans an eye-watering experience — playing their iconic ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ album on an isolated Exmouth beach during the eclipse.

The once-in-a-lifetime music experience during the eclipse will be live-streamed.

The 42-minute album will be played in full, with Roger Waters’ closing lines “But the sun is eclipsed by the moon…” from the album’s final song Eclipse timed to align with the moment of total eclipse.

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