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Crowds stand in awe, cheer 'unforgettable' total eclipse

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)


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RIGBY, Idaho — Everything and more. That was the unequivocal reaction to Monday's spectacular total eclipse of the sun by sky gazers gathered in a pasture in this small rural community.

"My world is complete now," said Phil Harris, who traveled from Georgia to experience the Great American Eclipse in the "zone of totality."

Some folks came from even farther away to watch the eerie event unfold.

"It is an unforgettable thing," said Chris Bussicott, who traveled from England with his wife, Melanie, and friend David Gayther.

"It gives you a real sense of scale of our place in the universe," Bussicott said.

Added Gayther: "It is like the sun turns inside out. You gasp for breath and can't believe it."

About 27 camping parties rented space in the field next to Darin Lords' home to witness Monday's total eclipse and celebrate the occasion with friends and strangers — and strangers who parted ways later Monday as friends.

The Busicotts were planning to tour the American West, including Yellowstone National Park, for his birthday but moved the trip up a month so they could watch the eclipse.

Some folks donned tinfoil hats to revel in the natural wonder, while Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" played in the background.

Atmosphere of an eclipse

It was almost like church in the grassy field early Monday as the eclectic crowd of eclipse enthusiasts waited for the natural phenomenon to unfold.

"The excitement is building. The energy level is increasing. People are bustling and totally looking forward to it. It's awesome," said Shirley Long, of Forestville, California.

Across the way, Tim Murphy and company from Lakewood, Colorado, were positioning sophisticated camera equipment to capture the total eclipse.

For added effect, one member of his party was wearing a colander on his head, and Griffin Hau was sporting a tinfoil hat.

"It's just for fun," Hau said.

As the sun began to disappear behind the moon in the path of totality, the campers grew exceptionally quiet. Any words spoken were in hushed whispers.

The temperature dropped 22 degrees when totality was reached, and the crowd erupted in applause.

"This was probably even more exciting than I thought it would be," said Laura Mills, who made the trip from California.

Mills' husband, Gene, was flying a drone to capture photographic moments of the eclipse party on the ground.

And just like that, it was over.

One camper noted that Hau was suddenly gone, which led to much playful speculation among the sky gazers.

Just minutes after the eclipse, people were breaking down their camps and heading for the road.

The brief show by Mother Nature was over, leaving behind the memory of the singular unifying moment among those with a front-row seat.

And even though it felt like the day after Christmas, somehow those who witnessed the event together knew they would always be connected.

Pre-wedding party

Elien Wijns, left, of Brussels, Belgium, and Liam Dorney, of Brisbane, Australia, take in the total solar eclipse at Mann Creek Reservoir near Weiser, Idaho, on their wedding day, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.(Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
Elien Wijns, left, of Brussels, Belgium, and Liam Dorney, of Brisbane, Australia, take in the total solar eclipse at Mann Creek Reservoir near Weiser, Idaho, on their wedding day, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.(Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

At Mann Creek Reservoir near Weiser, Idaho, Liam Dorney and Elien Wijns were dressed for a wedding — their own.

Dorney and Wijns met in Australia in 2012, where they separately witnessed an eclipse. They met shortly afterward and since have been traveling the globe experiencing the natural phenomenon together.

They got engaged while taking in a solar eclipse in the Faroe Islands in 2015, and then last year witnessed another in Indonesia.

"It's a very special event," Wijns, of Brussels, Belgium, said prior to Monday's eclipse.

"It's out of this world," added Dorney, of Brisbane, Australia. "We loved it a lot, and we both seem to not let go of the memory of it."

Later Monday, the couple was set to wed in McCall — "in the evening while the sun is still out," Dorney said.

A family affair

Seasoned eclipse watcher David Plows also chose Mann Creek Reservoir to view Monday's total solar eclipse.

Plows, who hails from the Seychelles off Africa's east coast in the Indian Ocean, said he was able to drag his wife, daughter, son-in-law and young grandson to the reservoir — a location he chose for its natural beauty and position along the path of totality.

"It was very, very enjoyable, very wonderful to see nature operating without our help for once," he said after witnessing his fourth eclipse Monday.

"It's a sort of feeling of amazement as the sun's outer atmosphere blossoms into life," Plows said. "It's something you just never otherwise see."

The youngest member of the Plows party, 4-year-old Rowan, summed up the event best, his mother said.

"When totality was there, he said, 'It's turned into outer space," said Fiona Plows, who lives in the Bay Area. "It finished, and then he said, 'That was awesome.'"

David Plows also noted the change in temperature during the total eclipse, saying it reminded him and his family "how much we need the sun."

"Two minutes, and it was getting freezing cold," he said. "It was quite an eye-opener."

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Contributing: Spenser Heaps

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