In 2017 I was invited to make a skydive during the totality of the solar eclipse, which at the time seemed interesting but not overly exciting. I decided to sign up for the excursion because it was on a Monday and making a skydive sounded way more fun than working. So, on August 21, we loaded three airplanes for a flight to Lusk, Wyoming. Upon arrival, we landed on a long runway surrounded by an unimpressively flat expanse of fields in every direction, as well as high winds.
We waited on the ground for close to three hours before the eclipse was supposed to start, and while standing around, an old-timer walked up to me and introduced himself as “Brooks.” He was from Minnesota, and had driven for two days to view the total eclipse in Cheyenne. The reason he ended up at this airport, in the middle of nowhere, was to stop and ask for directions. But when he arrived, he saw us skydivers and had to come say hello. It turned out Brooks had a D license and around 600 jumps from 1968-1973.
He shared a few jump stories, then started to talk about an eclipse he saw in 1979 in southern Alberta, Canada. With vivid details of that event so many years ago, Brooks told us about how the whole world changes while looking into the trance of an eclipse. After driving for two days to see the second eclipse of his life, then serendipitously finding an airport with skydivers in the absolute middle of nowhere, it seemed like he’d found the right place to watch.
Though it was midday and sunny outside, we received a briefing and were told to gear up. Forty-four jumpers loaded three airplanes and started the climb to altitude, trying to time the skydive perfectly. On the ride up, we all looked out of the windows with our eclipse glasses to see the moon passing more and more across the sun.
We saw the green light, we exited and everyone pulled high. Everything was good upon opening, so my dreams of being the only person with an eclipse cutaway were spoiled, but at that time I was just happy to feel relaxed under my Sabre 2. With strong uppers out of the west, I pointed my canopy into the wind, which was toward the shadow that would come in the next few minutes.
As the spectacle began, turning day into night, visuals of the ground began to disappear. Lights within the small city below began to turn on and it was evident that “it” was happening. A sense of peace swept over me and the rushing sound of air on the canopy became deafeningly silent. The air around me was tranquil, and the air temperature cooled drastically. Stars and planets began appearing in the daytime nighttime sky. Knowing the full totality of the eclipse was close, I turned my canopy towardthe southeast to face the sun.
Then it happened—one of the most amazing things I will ever witness in my life. On the left side of the nose of my canopy, the corona! It was an intense blackness filled with an incredible white force of light penetrating cylindrically around the moon, and I felt as though I could reach up and touch the heavenly bodies crossing paths. As it has been described by many others: It was indescribable.
I turned my canopy back to the west to see a wall of light rushing toward me, and as quickly as darkness came upon us, daytime sprinted at my face and filled the sky. Knowing it was now over, I popped my brakes, cruised to the landing area, and touched down to the sound of voices screaming wooo-hooo! The jumpers joined together on the ground, and there was a purely electric feeling among us.
When I got back to the main staging area where we started the day, Brooks was sitting there, waiting to hear all about it from his sky fraternity. Everyone was excited to share.
Eric Daniel | D-35963