I wasn’t too thrilled to be going to Shanghai in the July. Shanghai in July (actually, Ningbo, a few miles south, across the bay) is almost as hot as Beijing in January is cold, although I am always excited to travel, even if most of my time will be spent in business meetings or, in this case, peering inside a coal-fired boiler and sweating liters of water in order to survive the heat.
Auspiciously, the Chinese would say, I was very lucky for this trip. I was here to see a dog eat the sun! Personally, I think people have always known that solar eclipses were not actually mythical animals eating the sun, only to birth it out again moments later. Early humans were very keen on locations of the sun and the moon as their harvests of crops and fish depended on them. It wouldn’t be difficult for anyone paying attention to the moon’s location to notice how close it was getting to the sun and to guess what had happened. I think the legends were simply fun and it’s still fun for our modern egos to smugly think how much smarter we are now.
Overcast skies with cloud rolling in, and steam from the power plant stack threatened to block out the show, but we could still easily see moon slowly eat away at the sun through our welding glasses. A few kids with dark glass gazed upward and played as their parents took a break to admire the rare spectacle.
As the sun was nearly consumed, streetlights came on along the road leading to the power plant and birds started chirping. For a brief moment, cicadas started their evening concert at 9:30 in the morning. A few miles north and the total eclipse would last for up to four minutes, but here, the glowing rim of the sun, and night in the middle of the day, lasted only about a minute. The solar corona was only barely visible in the haze and my camera shutter struggled to keep up with all the photos.
The children seemed pleased with the show while the sentries guarding the plant entrance snapped photos with their cell phones. I wasn’t much more prepared than they were to photograph the eclipse and while I write this I am not yet sure that I got a single interesting shot, but even if there is only a blurry shot attached to this post, I am excited I got to see it. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and the clouds have turned black and rain is falling. Auspicious indeed.