August 2017 - Totality

Aug 31, 2017
Captain's Log Starship 1XE,  42°55'23"N 106°18'39"W somewhere just East of Casper Wyoming, 11:42 Mountain Time, day 21 in the month August, Earth Calendar year 2017.
Photo by Pete McBride.
A stillness descended as the light flattened and turned to dusk and a temperature drop of 15 degrees brought out the goosebumps, together with a feeling of peacefulness mixed with awe and marvel. It felt prehistoric standing in the middle of a field, with a viewshed of 360 degrees of cloudless Wyoming sky, and a few taildragger aircraft and starship 1XE parked on a sandy dusty airstrip.
With the onset of darkness, distant lights of the oil refineries near Casper came into focus and my mind boggled at the diversity of wonders I behold on a daily basis. The technology of the oil fields, the mechanics of the airplane, the science of predicting eclipses, the open spirit of the humans on the land, and their desire to sometimes do the right thing.
Flying towards that small field of Harford, we encountered the best of modern technology and science as hundreds of aircraft converged on the ground zero of eclipse totality. The airspace was jammed, air traffic controllers were close to breaking point, but radar, gps and adsb signals provided accurate information, and communications were handled in a timely and professional manner. The science of aircraft travel and airspace control and the discipline to carry out procedures held the day. Not to mention the science of predicting the exact time and place of this solar and lunar phenomenon.
So, how is it that our current administration holds court and blusters about the most absurd things, and his minions are engaged in dismantling years of progress on climate change and environmental protection with total disregard to science? How is it that an expensive and elaborate campaign of "fake news" is spread to persuade people that our conservation concerns and priorities and our earth science should be disregarded in favor of industry demands and profits?
On this momentous day, everyone chose their specific location to watch the solar eclipse based on scientific predictions of where and when, and this incredible science even predicts hundreds of years from now, where and when future eclipses will occur.
En route home, we witnessed other scientific phenomena: large swaths of trees killed by climate-induced infestation of pine beetles, the decimation of glacial activity in the Wind River Mountains, (similar to Glacier National Park where recent flights with scientists and the Washington Post documented radically shrinking glaciers) and the aftermath of large scale forest fires. Indeed, our entire flight home was marginal VFR because of the dense smoke that has been pervasive in the West for much of the summer, caused by the massive fires of Montana, Washington and British Columbia. Lots of change on our planet and, for me and the scientists, that amounts to climate change.
An eclipse can teach us so many things, but the take away for me from this day of awe and incredible connection to the land, was the science that made it possible for us to view this shadow being cast over our precious planet, and to take serious stock of the shadow that is currently cast over our great country. So, as I say daily on the airplane, please educate yourselves, and advocate for what you believe in.
Bruce Gordon