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Chasing totality, Long Islanders trek up north for solar eclipse — a photo essay

Ajay and Rita Patel from Melville, Long Island.
Eda Uzunlar
/
WSHU
Ajay and Rita Patel from Melville, Long Island.
Onlookers use glasses to view the beginning of the eclipse in 2024.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU
Onlookers use glasses to view the beginning of the eclipse in 2024.

Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, Harris Lake near Newcomb, New York, hummed with anticipation as travelers set out picnic blankets and telescopes to view the total solar eclipse. Warnings to children to keep their special eclipse glasses on mixed with excited chatter and music from personal speakers.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said estimates show that about one million people traveled to the state to observe the phenomenon.

Adelaide (left) and Jennifer Braunstein from Woodstock, N.Y.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU
Adelaide (left) and Jennifer Braunstein from Woodstock, N.Y.

The last solar eclipse in the contiguous United States was in 2017; according to NASA, the next total eclipse in the U.S. won't take place until 2044.

A member of the Patel family reclines, viewing the solar eclipse.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU News
A member of the Patel family reclines, viewing the solar eclipse.

The Patel family traveled from different parts of the tri-state area to meet each other for the eclipse. Rita Patel and her husband Ajay are from Melville on Long Island. She said it took them seven hours — with traffic — to make the drive, but they didn't mind.

"This was so close to home. It's not like we had to fly to another country. This was five, six, seven hours. Whatever, it was worth it," Patel said. "It was like a halo around the moon. You know, I can't describe it."

The Patel family, from New Jersey and Long Island, view the solar eclipse from the Harris Lake parking lot in upstate New York.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU
The Patel family, from New Jersey and Long Island, view the solar eclipse from the Harris Lake parking lot in upstate New York.

Ajay Patel sat in the driver's seat of his car about 15 minutes after the sun was completely eclipsed. The moon still covered a portion of the sun, but many cars at Lake Harris had already taken off. Rita said they weren't worried about traffic.

A view of Lake Harris near Newcomb, N.Y. during the 2024 solar eclipse.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU
A view of Lake Harris near Newcomb, N.Y. during the 2024 solar eclipse.

"I want to enjoy the few little bits left," she said. "We made few stops while coming because of the fear of not reaching it in time. Going home, we'll take it easy."

As the sky around the lake gradually darkened, a high, clear cry of an unidentified animal resounded from the nearby forest. A study published by the National Institutes of Health shows that wild animals also react to a solar eclipse; often, they exhibit anxiety.

Madeline Infantino, who made the trip up from Wheatley Heights on Long Island, said she felt something similar — a mixture of awe and fear.

"This sense of power just came from the sun," she said. "That ring lit up so bright, it made us feel kind of small."

The 2024 solar eclipse, taken near Newcomb, N.Y.
Eda Uzunlar/WSHU
The 2024 solar eclipse, taken near Newcomb, N.Y.

The moon blocked the sun completely for about three minutes in the region, beginning at approximately 3:21 p.m.

Ralph Infantino, Madeline's husband, said he felt humbled.

"I think we take our planet for granted," he said. "And coming out here, especially in such a beautiful setting, it really humbles you in terms of what joy and beauty there is on the Earth."

Eda Uzunlar is WSHU's Poynter Fellow for Media and Journalism.