I hope we will be able to sit and watch the sun rise on 11th August at 06:10. If holidaymakers are being welcomed to the islands then BradLad and I will be sitting on Pulpit Rock at dawn. We'll enjoy sunrise and then head off home for our birthday breakfast for my son. There will be no problem with socially distancing, so the event is Covid-19 friendly as long as we can get to the islands. If things don't work out then I will wait to archive the event until only a few days before the 11th, if the islands specifically are still "closed" to tourists or if the full lockdown is reinstated. If we have to cancel then hopefully we can have a 22nd anniversary event in 2021.
Why have an event here and at this time? On August 11th 1999 at 11:09 the Isles of Scilly was the first landfall of the total solar eclipse. Totality lasted for 1 minute 46 seconds and, being lucky enough to be out on Peninnis Head that morning, they were one of the most impressive 1 minute 46 seconds of our lives.
I first heard of the eclipse in 1982 in the "space" section of my first Guinness Book of Records. This would be the first total eclipse in the U.K. since 1927 and the next one wouldn't be until 2090. (For younger cachers, that one will also be visible from the Scillies.) We went on holiday every year to the Isles of Scilly and I realised that the eclipse would be visible from there and that it would be a fantastic location from which to see it. Fast forward 15 years and it was time to start planning. Various family and friends expressed interest and early in August people gradually arrived until the house was bursting with eleven occupants, with eleven more camped in the garden.
We had decided to go out onto Peninnis Head to watch and as the sun's disc shrank we walked out to the headland with me pushing my 95 year old grandpa's wheelchair. There were maybe 100 others who had had the same idea but at 10:30 it was still cloudy. We later heard that most of Cornwall and Devon was overcast but, with just a few minutes to go, the sky suddenly cleared in exactly the right place and we saw the tiny sliver of sun that was left. Then the shadow sped towards us across the sea from Gugh and the eclipse was upon us. Birds seemed to be unsure whether to go quiet or squawk and we could remove our protective glasses and look directly at the corona. I would reallly recommend it as something that everyone should try to see once in their life. I'm hoping to take the family to one in Gibraltar or at the pyramids in August 2027.
Here is a report from Scilly News: http://www.scillyarchive.com/1999/08/solar_eclipse.html and another about watching the eclipse from Tresco: https://liverpoolas.org/1999/11/04/solar-eclipse-11th-august-1999-report-andrew-ann-bate-tresco-isles-of-scilly/
Returning to 2020, we hope that we'll be lucky with the weather then too. If it's fine then solar position calculating tools suggest that we will see the sun rise on a bearing of 069.7 degrees. By my reckoning that means that we'll see it come out of the sea but almost touching the airport headland, which should be spectacular. https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/sunrise.html