Idaho History August 20, 2017

History of Solar Eclipses in Idaho


There have been 15 total eclipse events to affect at least a portion of the continental U.S. over the past 150 years (since the year 1867). These were in 1869, 1878, 1889, 1900, 1918, 1923, 1925, 1930, 1932, 1945, 1954, 1959, 1963, 1970, and 1979. Of these, only one traversed the entire country coast-to-coast: the event of 1918.
source Weather Underground
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Boise has a history of solar eclipse totality paths missing it. The 1918 eclipse which occurred on June 8 was slightly more northwest to southeast than the the upcoming 2017 eclipse. It entered thru Washington and exited thru Florida and also barely missed Boise as did 2 other eclipses on April 28, 1930 and July 9, 1945. The 1945 eclipse in fact began just north of Boise near Cascade and went clear across the globe before ending in central Asia. The eclipse of February 26, 1979 occurred farther north in the southern panhandle so that Lewiston and Moscow saw that one.
By John Alder
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Solar eclipse of July 21, 1618

1618 – This eclipse finds us in Idaho in the midst of the Shoshone Nation. Back in the Old World, Johannes Kepler announced his Third Law of Planetary Motion on May 15, 1618.
source NASA
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A total eclipse of the Sun occurred on Saturday 21 July, 1618
source moonblink
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The Eclipse Petroglyph (?)
Petroglyph at Horsethief Lake
Eclipse Petroglyph at Horsethief Lake

Is it possible that the 1618 eclipse was recorded by some ancient artists here, on a bluff overlooking the river? A total solar eclipse would have been a totally unexpected and an awesome sight to any residents of the area.

Occurring in the middle of summer, on July 21st, the weather would have most likely been clear for this midday event. Indeed, Horsethief is just a couple miles from the eclipse centerline. The area was the site of dozens of fishing camps where thousands came from across the region to fish the summer salmon runs. July would have been the height of the season for those fishing the river. The event would have been a looming memory in the mind of everyone who witnessed it.

Interpreting any image like this is fraught with hazard… Is it possible that this design is merely a random geometric figure? Sure. On the other hand there are very few random linear or geometric images at Horsethief, almost all are of specific things. Could it be something else? Sure. I can not think of anything specific. I am pretty sure this image represents a total solar eclipse. I could be wrong, there is no way to truly know what that ancient artist was attempting to portray.
source The Darker View
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Solar eclipse of January 1, 1889

1889 – This eclipse finds us in Idaho. During this time, the region was part of an unorganized territory known as Oregon Country, claimed by both the United States and Great Britain.
Eclipse drawing by E.L. Trouvelot near Creston, Wyoming. Also known as the Rocky Mountain Eclipse.
source NASA
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Idaho Falls, Idaho on 1/1/1889 at 4:01pm lasted 1m 36 sec.
source Museum of Idaho
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It was visible across western United States, and central Canada.
source Wikipedia
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Solar eclipse of June 8, 1918

1918 (June 8): The most recent great transcontinental total eclipse traversed the U.S. from Washington State to Florida. Totality was observed in Denver.
source Weather Underground
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(link to larger size)
Credit: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
source NASA
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The Denver Post June 8, 1918


(link to larger size)
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War efforts overshadowed 1918 eclipse

Peter Jensen Jul 21, 2017

The 1918 event has a more detailed history. It seems the total solar eclipse that happened on June 8, 1918, brought little fanfare to the valley. At that point, Ketchum was a hub for the sheep business and Idaho had about six times more sheep than people residing within its borders – 2.65 million animals to 432,000 people. More than a million sheep would be trailed through the valley annually between 1910 and 1920, according to Blaine County records. The county’s population in 1920 was 4,473 people.

America had entered World War I in 1917, and the war efforts – not the eclipse – dominated the front page of the Wood River Daily Times in the weeks leading up to June 8. The newspaper reported on May 23 that “blindness is feared” from people staring directly into the eclipse without the proper safeguard. The author recommended holding a piece of smoked glass up to view the event, or better yet a photographic negative.

Articles about the eclipse were shuffled into the back pages of the newspaper’s daily editions, so the front page could be turned over to lists of the men who had registered for the draft in Hailey or patriotic exhortations to help the war effort. “Work, fight or go to jail,” was how one article put it in the June 6 edition. “This is the dictum of the government which will go into effect all over the nation July 1.”

… “A total eclipse of the sun is one of the most impressive sights nature offers,” the Daily Times reported. “One should be in an elevated position commanding the widest possible view of the surrounding country, especially in the direction from which the shadow is to come. A majestic darkness will be observed to sweep forward with impressive swiftness.”

Residents viewed the June 8 eclipse in Hailey by climbing on the roofs of homes or businesses, or ascending to the top of Della Mountain. The newspaper gave no indication that a mass influx of tourists witnessed the event. The only out-of-town visitors reported by the newspaper were the Rev. C.A. Varnum of Jerome, who joined a brother from Oakland, Calif., to see the eclipse. The story didn’t provide their reactions. “Since he left Camas prairie, C.A. Varnum has been farming in Jerome and does not intend to take up preaching again,” the Daily Times reported.
source The Wood River Journal
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From 1918 Idaho Statesman

(link to larger size)

by Rick Just – Speaking of Idaho

In recent weeks speculation about the size of crowds for today’s solar eclipse in Idaho has ranged from mild trepidation to hysteria. Ninety-nine years ago, people didn’t have the options of rapid travel that we have today, so talk about the June 8, 1918, solar eclipse that was to sweep across the state was more about what an opportunity it would be for local residents.

Newspapers published maps (pictured) of the path of totality then like the one we’ve seen recently on TV, social media, and in print. Lucky Weiser residents would be in the path then, as they are today. Much emphasis was given to the opportunity in Pocatello, the largest Idaho city within the path. Boise and Caldwell were just outside the track of totality.

The Idaho Statesman ran an article a few days before that included the subhead “Worth going miles to see.”

The Statesman article included long quotes from J.H. Moore, of the Lick Observatory eclipse expedition, then stationed in Goldendale, Washington to better observe the phenomenon.

“The temperature usually falls rapidly before totality and the chilliness is generally quite noticeable. It is of interest also at this time to watch the behavior of animals: chickens go to roost and other animals are apparently very much puzzled. All in all the experience during the total phase is a rather weird one.

“If possible one should view the approach of the moon’s shadow. For this purpose, a hill which commands an unobstructed view of the country to the northwest should be selected. Just before totality, the enormous shadow will be seen approaching with terrific speed from the northwest. In the region of Payette, the shadow will move with a velocity of about 2,000 miles an hour.

“Let me emphasize the importance of utilizing the unique opportunity of observing a total solar eclipse, which you of this region have, and weather permitting, do not fail to see it: especially have the children observe it, for in all probability this will be the only one they will ever see.”

Safety didn’t seem to be as big a concern as it is today. There was little mention of eye protection.

The Statesman had little post-eclipse coverage, probably because the best viewing was beyond the city limits. One tongue in cheek report from Salmon stated that the eclipse there was “almost a failure.” “Just when the face of the sun was about two-thirds covered, a dense cloud intervened, and completely obscured the show until it was over. Many claims have been filed demanding the money back.”

source: Speaking of Idaho
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Meridian Times, June 7, 1918


source: ID AHGP
[h/t SMc]
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Solar eclipse of April 28, 1930

1930 (April 28): This was a “hybrid” eclipse event, meaning that it started off and finished up as an annular eclipse rather than being a total eclipse for the entire duration. The path came ashore in northern California and exited the U.S. into Canada via central Montana. *
source Weather Underground
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Total eclipse of the sun

61062-2waywewere_p2-325x285caption: Salt Lake Telegram, Utah Digital Newspapers Collection Caption: “Foolish Chickens will seek their roosts,” the Salt Lake Telegram headline accompanying this diagram proclaimed in advance of the April 28, 1930 solar eclipse. The five drawings on the bottom show the percentage of coverage in Salt Lake (far left), Denver, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta (far right).

… Parkites turned their gazes skyward for a similarly dramatic display in April 1930. That path of totality for that particular eclipse passed first over the San Francisco Bay Area and then upward and over Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. A small corner in northwestern Utah was within the path, but Park City and the rest of the state missed out on totality. Instead, Parkites would have seen about 90 percent solar coverage.

In the weeks leading up to the event, scientists all over the country prepared. At the University of Utah, students and professors planned to watch from the astronomical observatory. In California, astronomers from an observatory in San Jose stirred up excitement with their plans to photograph the eclipse from a plane. As it was “a feat never before attempted by man” and promised “some of the best records ever made of an eclipse of the sun” if successful, the mission was highly anticipated all over the country. Preparations and results were reported by the Salt Lake City newspapers.

For the casual observer here in Park City and the rest of Utah, University of Utah professor Junius J. Hayes made sure to emphasize that safety should be the priority. He suggested “the use of smoked or colored glasses” to view the solar event, as looking directly at the sun puts people at risk for retina damage. Other experts suggested peering through exposed film.

As the moon passed between the sun and the Earth, Utah was bathed in “a peculiar shadow of purple darkness.” The eclipse started around 10:50 a.m. on a Monday morning. It reached its maximum at 12:20 p.m., “when only a slightly crescent appeared on one side of the moon where the sun was still peeking through.” The shadow was gone by 1:50 p.m.
source Park Record
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The Total Eclipse of the Sun, April 28, 1930

Authors: Moore, J. H.

A central eclipse of the Sun will occur on the morning of April 28, 1930, which for those situated in a very narrow track, extending across northern California, Nevada, and Idaho, will be total for a little more than one second. The eclipse begins at sunrise as an annular one for a point in the Pacific Ocean in west longitude 160° and latitude +9°, and, as the shadow sweeps northeastward, becomes total about 250 miles from the California coast. The path of the total phase across California, based upon the corrected elements derived at the bureau of the Nautical Almanac and at the Yale University Observatory, is shown in the accompanying illustration. It will be seen that it first touches land at a point five or six miles northwest of Tamalpais, passes northeastward over the Napa and Sacramento valleys, the Feather River Canyon, and the southern edge of Honey Lake. The total phase will occur at approximately 1011 59m P.S.T. on the California coast and about six minutes later in the Feather River region.

source: Journal: Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 41, No. 244, p.340, Bibliographic Code: 1929PASP…41..340M
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Solar eclipse of July 9, 1945

1945 (July 9): Only a very small portion of Idaho and Montana saw totality, just at sunrise and for only about an hour, before the eclipse moved into Canada.
source Weather Underground
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1945 … Eclipse in Gem

By Kelly Taylor Jul 26, 2017

Many Idahoans will remember the eclipse of July 9, 1945. One week before the atomic age began in the New Mexico desert with the first atomic bomb detonation, residents near Cascade awoke to the sight of a rising sun in total eclipse.
source Messenger Index
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Solar eclipse of February 26, 1979

1979 (February 26): The path of this rare wintertime total eclipse coursed across Washington State, northern Idaho, and Montana before entering Canada from extreme northwest North Dakota. A large Pacific storm was affecting the region, and the sun was never clearly visible along the route.
source Weather Underground
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The central shadow of the moon passed through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana (where totality covered almost the entire state), and North Dakota, the Canadian provinces Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, the Northwest Territories of Canada (the portion that is now Nunavut), and Greenland.

Many visitors traveled to the Pacific Northwest to view the Monday morning eclipse, as it was the last chance to view a total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States for almost four decades.
source Wikipedia
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(link to larger size map)

Map shows the path of all total (and annular) eclipses through the continental USA during the last 50 years of the 20th century. Besides the 1970 and 1979 eclipses, the only other USA total eclipses during this period were on July 20, 1963 (Alaska and Maine) and June 30, 1954 (Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan).
source Earth and Sky
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Chris Anderson Aug 16, 2017

The last total solar eclipse in Idaho was on February 26, 1979. The path of totality swept through the Panhandle, including Moscow and Lewiston.

… Partial eclipses are relatively common. Since the 1979 eclipse, fourteen partial solar eclipses have been visible in the Gem State.
source Magic Valley
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Last eclipse in 1979 was shrouded in clouds

By Tom Grote for The Star-News Aug 17, 2017

Sudden darkness was the only indicator of the last total solar eclipse in the area on Feb. 26, 1979. That was because a heavy cloud cover obscured any view of the moon crossing the path of the sun.

“Downtown, merchants and their employees stepped outside as the day became dark as dusk right after 9:15 a.m.,” according to a report in The Central Idaho Star-News, the predecessor to The Star-News.

“Most viewers were disappointed that the day did not dawn clear, but even so, each had his own feelings about nature’s great event,” the news story said.

The newspaper then quoted from reports by its staffers on their personal experiences that day.

“Disappointment came with the snow that morning,” Dan LeMaster said. “A plague on Mother Nature for teasing us, and curses to me for not driving to where the weather would be better for viewing.”

Tim Novoselski compared the scene to “The Twilight Zone, misty and worst of all, a total whiteout.”

Novoselski said the eclipse was not as dark as he expected. “We were attempting to determine whether this was really the eclipse or whether it was a few second coming,” he said. “About then, it got lighter.”

Karen Collar reported that her five-year-old son, Joshua, asked why “it got real dark outside and we didn’t even have to go to bed.”

“I told him what happened was called an eclipse and the moon came in front of the sun,” Collar wrote. “Next question from him, ‘Why did it do that for?’ ”

source: The Star-News
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Solar Eclipse 2017 August 21

second diamond

photo by Local Color Photography


photo by Local Color Photography

page updated Nov 24, 2018