Ken Larsen's web site - Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017


During August 19-22, 2017 I drove 11 hours round trip to see a total solar eclipse in Lake Greenwood State Park in South Carolina.  Driving 11 hours and waiting almost 8 hours in the hot sun to see an event that would last only 2 minutes and 35 seconds sounds like insanity, but it was worth it.  Below are pictures and comments on my trip.


7:15 AM

View of one of two asphalt parking lots inside of Lake Greenwood State Park.  The total eclipse doesn't begin until 2:39 PM, but cars are already arriving. 

I drove two of my friends, Lynne Trussell and her husband Joel.  We were all staying at the Comfort Inn in Greenwood ... 13 miles away.  We left just after 6 AM, because the hotel told us that town leaders were going to shut down Greenwood between 7 AM and 4 PM ... not letting anyone in or out, because the town was expecting gridlock from all the eclipse visitors.  Greenwood is just a small town.  That's why I chose it.  I wanted to be away from the population centers of Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville/Spartanburg. 

Due to a prior commitment, two of my other friends (Ed Harrison and his wife Pat Carstensen) were staying in Spartanburg and would not able to leave there until after 10 AM.  I feared that they would not be able to enter the park, because I was told that Park rangers would limit attendance to 400 cars.  
7:24 AM

A father with his two sons.  He arrived early and planned activities for a long wait.  Wise move.
8:16 AM 

Cloud cover.  We hope it burns away.  Eventually it does.

It was nice and pleasant during this time ... only 80 F according to my digital thermometer.
10:13  AM

Blue sky.  Cheers.

Temperature is rising.  It was 86.9 F at 10:04.  It rose to 92.7 F by 10:46.
10:30 AM

Part of the long line of cars trying to get into the park.  Cost was $ 2.00 person.  That's a heck of a bargain!  Clemson was charging people $ 50/parking space to see the eclipse from their campus.  One of the Clemson hotels was charging over $ 200/night.  I, Lynne, and Joel stayed at the Comfort Inn in Greenwood.  They charged their normal rate of $ 87/night.  Cheers to them.

10:30 AM

Second part of long line trying to get into the park.

Lynne, Joel, and I feared that Ed and Pat would never make it in, but they did at around 12:15 PM.  However, they had to park about a half mile away.  They eventually found us ... just as the partial eclipse was beginning.

As I walked along the line of cars people would roll down their windows and compilment me on my eclipse t-shirt and ask where I bought it.  I bought it on Amazon.   Here it is.
The Raleigh Astronomy Club (RAC) set up some telescopes and binoculars for the public to get magnified views of the partial eclipse.  It was free and safe [thanks to special eclipse filters].  Kudos to RAC.

One of the RAC members quipped that it was hard setting up all the equipment because of the heat.  "We usually work at night."
11:01 AM

Perfectly blue sky.

The eclipse will appear high in the sky to the left.

The Drummond Center is at the top of this photo.  The lake is behind me.
Lynne Trussell
Joel Trussell
Pat Carstensen, Ken Larsen, and Ed Harrison

I was wearing my eclipse t-shirt.
2:10 PM

The partial eclipse began an hour earlier at 1:10 PM.  It was beginning to darken ever so slightly.  The temperature had dropped 6 degrees Fahrenheit from its high at 1:22 PM. 
2:27 PM

Ed Harrison's wife Pat held up a leaf to demonstrate a weird eclipse phenomenon where holes in a leaf cause "partial eclipse/crescent shape" shadows on paper.
2:39:42 - 2:42:17 PM

Total eclipse.  Sun's corona is visible.  Stars come out.  This happens very abruptly at the moment when the last tiny piece of the sun gets covered up.  This is why there is a huge difference between a total eclipse (100% coverage) and a partial eclipse (anything less than 100% coverage).  The sun is so bright that 99.9% coverage is vastly different than 100% coverage.  Amazing!

The sky looks pitch black in this photo, but it really wasn't that dark.  We were disappointed in that regard.  I could see some stars along with planets Venus and Jupiter.  I was looking for Mercury and Mars, but couldn't find them.  I think my eyes were still acclimated to daylight.  By the time they could adjust, the total eclipse was over. 

Not visible in this photo:  The horizon becomes a 360 degree sunset.  That's a cool effect.

I could have watched this for hours, but unfortunately it was all over in just 2 minutes and 35 seconds.  That was sad.  The longest eclipse that is possible is just over 7 minutes.  It's all dependent upon how far away the moon is at the moment of totality.  The Moon's orbit is elliptical ... not circular.

The temperature dropped 16 degrees.  At 1:22 PM my digital thermometer read 102 F.  The low was 86 F at 2:51 PM.  My thermometer wasn't in perfect shade, so my measurements may be on the high side.

Just prior to the total eclipse, cicadas began chirping.  Their chirping continued until the sun reappeared.  The sun remerged via the famous "diamond ring" effect at 2:42:17 PM.

People began leaving soon after the totality phase was over ... taking with them a cherished memory.  Totality only lasted 2 minutes and 35 seconds, but it was worth the trip.

a more magnified view of totality
About 3:15 PM

Partial eclipse after totality.

Photo by Joel Trussell.
Audio of total eclipse - The beginning of this audio corresponds to 2:36:00 PM.  Totality begins at 3:42 into the audio and ends at 6:17 into the audio ... 2 minutes and 35 seconds of totality.  


Miscellaneous stories/observations

(6:05 - 11:05 AM on Saturday, August 19th) I drove down from my home in Chapel Hill, NC.  There were many signs in North Carolina warning of heavy eclipse traffic on Monday, but I didn't see any such signs in South Carolina.  Also, the traffic became lighter.  On some roads the only evidence of human existence was when I passed a cemetery.  For a while I wondered whether this whole eclipse thing was a giant hoax that someone was pulling on me ... like the movie "The Truman Show". 


I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Greenwood.  That turned out to be an excellent and serendipitous choice as the staff was super nice, they had a pool, the room was great, and they charged me their normal rate ($ 87 + tax/night ... hotels in Nebraska were charging $ 400/night).  The hotel was within walking distance of a great Mexican restaurant (Santa Fe) and a place to buy smoothies (Dairy Queen).  Amusingly, my Mexican restaurant bill was only $ 5.67.  That further comfirmed my Truman Show theory.  I wasn't in North Carolina anymore.  I'm tempted to move here. 


I booked my room on June 4th ... 11 weeks before the eclipse.  That was smart.  When I arrived, I learned that they were fully booked as of six weeks ago. 


My Greenwood Comfort Inn choice wasn't my only excellent/serendipitous choice.  I elected to view the eclipse from Lake Greenwood State Park.  That was a grand slam home run.  Except for the heat, it may have been the best viewing location in the entire United States:  blue sky + beautiful lake view + only $ 2/person + excellent ranger staff + excellent astronomy staff (Raleigh Astronomy club) + no intereference from street lights. 


I made an excellent choice in the people I hung out with:  four nerdy science loving friends from Durham/Chapel Hill (Lynne, Joel, Ed, and Pat).   I thank them for joining me.   They made my eclipse experience really special.


non-eclipse issue:  The Lake Greenwood State Park staff didn't arrange for porta-potties to be brought in.  The line to the ladies room grew long at times ... maybe 30 people.  The line to the men's room was always short.  If I were a woman, I'd might have been inclined to "switch genders" for that day. 


My hotel, the Greenwood town leaders, and the Lake Greenwood State Park did an excellent job of coping with an event that no one knew how many visitors the area would get.  Some of their coping mechanisms were to exaggerate the visitor count.  The Comfort Inn front desk told me that Greenwood was expecting 1.2 million visitors and that entrance and exit would be closed between 7 AM and 4 PM on eclipse day.  That turned out to be false information, but it was great way to motivate people to either stay away or plan better.  Rangers at the Lake Greenwood State Park told me they were limiting entrance to 400 cars, but they kept letting cars in.  They were super organized, because when I left at around 3:30 PM, I encountered virtually no traffic during my trip back to the hotel.


I smartly stayed Monday night in Greenwood.  There was a lot of traffic during my Tuesday return trip, but most bottlenecks were caused by construction traffic around Charlotte.  That place is growing like crazy. 


List of future total solar eclipses viewable from the continental U.S.



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