Enjoying (and Surviving) Solar Eclipse 2017

On August 21, 2017, residents of a narrow swath through the United States will have a rare treat: The chance to observe a total eclipse of the sun. The path of totality will transit several major cities, including Greenville, South Carolina and parts of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Nashville. In the west, most of the viewing will be in smaller towns, since major cities, like Denver and Portland, are well outside of the path of totality.

Because this eclipse is occurring in mid-summer (with a lower chance of cloud cover), there should be good opportunities for viewing, if you are positioned inland of coastal fog. I have heard that many hotels and motels that are in or near the path of totality have been fully booked for the eclipse travel period since late 2016. And I heard that the hotels and motels in or near Jackson Hole, Wyoming were booked two years in advance. A State Parks official in Oregon told me that their reservation system was overwhelmed in the first 10 minutes after midnight on January 1st, 2017, with folks seeking campground site anywhere near the path of totality.

At this late stage, your best bet would probably be simply boondock camping on BLM or National Forest land. Of course, most SurvivalBlog readers are already well-equipped for boondock car camping. A few musts will be sleeping bags, tents or tarps, cooking gear, LED flashlights, a large plastic water can, a water filter (or better yet a self-filtering water can, and welder’s goggles. (I’ll discuss those more, later.) You will also need sanitary supplies—at least TP and a compact shovel or entrenching tool, but perhaps a bucket toilet lid and a 5 or 7 gallon bucket, if you want to attend to your boondock ablutions in comfort.

There will be so many people traveling to see the eclipse that I expect some major traffic snarls the night before and the morning of the eclipse, particularly on the I-65 corridor north of Nashville and the I-5 Corridor south of Portland, Oregon. (The latter will be crowded with masses of people traveling south from Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, all in the hopes of seeing the eclipse.)

Safety Warnings

The safety implications of eclipse viewing are obvious: retinal burns can cause permanent blindness and be self-inflicted by direct observation, or by insufficient eye protection. (Anyone who claims that “two thickness of regular sunglasses”, “smoked glass”, or “exposed photographic negatives” will suffice is a fool. In actuality, you will need very dark #14 (aka Shade 14) air-carbon arc cutting lenses. Less opaque gas brazing or welding lenses (typically #5) provide insufficient protection!)

Note: If you already own a welding hood or typical Hobart goggles with a #5 plate, simply buy a darker #14 shade plate , and retrofit it.

The Editors of SurvivalBlog recommend these lightweight glasses, which are also useful to subsequently keep in your welding and thermite kits.

Give any children near you copious safety warnings, and provide them with the means of safe viewing. For example, see the many online instructions on how to build a long cardboard box pinhole eclipse projector. (The longer the box, the larger the projected disk.)

There might be the risk of a few idiots foolishly attempting to “chase” the path of totality on east-west highways, so I don’t recommend parking close to the shoulder of any of those roads, for fear of a high-speed rear-end collision. The ground track speed of the sun is 1,100 miles per hour near the equator and nearly 5,000 miles per hour near the poles so it is foolish to think that you can “chase” the eclipse totality to extend your viewing time in anything slower than a Turbo Mooney Type S airplane running at full throttle at 25,000 feet, whilst sucking oxygen. I suppose that some millionaires will be chartering jets for this event.

In Closing

Book your flights early to the eclipse region, and buy your #14 glasses, goggles, or mask early. I predict that many of the Internet vendors of welding supplies will be sold out of #14 goggles as early as May or June. – JWR