© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Away from bustling city crowds, spectators watch solar eclipse closer to nature

Eclipse watchers from the Syracuse Astronomical Society gathered under a pavilion at Rice Creek.
Evan Youngs
Eclipse watchers from the Syracuse Astronomical Society gathered under a pavilion at Rice Creek.

Two young women laid upon the grass, staring up at a cloudy sky through their protective glasses.

“This is so cool,” they both repeated. They were sarcastic.

From the view at Rice Creek Field Station, the nature preserve three miles from the city of Oswego’s official watch party at Breitbeck Park, the moment of totality during the solar eclipse was nearly impossible to detect, with or without protective glasses.

Instead, the darkening of the sky, the gradual chill of the already cold air of early spring, the chirping of spring peeper frogs, the sudden silence from birds and the brief appearance of a bat flying above the crowd all signified Rice Creek’s entrance into totality.

“It was really powerful,” Kristin Haynes, assistant director of the nature center, said. “I didn’t necessarily expect it to be so powerful, given that we didn’t have such a clear view. But I think we had enough of a view that it was still such an amazing experience and such a dramatic darkening of the landscape.”

A total of 12 telescopes streamed the eclipse live to a webcast on the nature center’s website. Anthony Krishock, president of the Syracuse Astronomical Society [SAS], arrived with his son Brian.

“Solar eclipses are not especially rare,” Krishock said. “We get four a year [around the globe], typically. But to have a solar eclipse to be in the path of totality, is a once in a century event.”

Krishock and Kamal Jabbour, also from SAS, spent the morning installing the telescopes.

“I’m here for the scientific element,” Jabbour said. “I’m an engineer, I look at the what, not the why. So it’s just the fun of watching it.”

Jabbour also runs the Pompey Observatory, where he brought three telescopes from for the occasion. With a doctorate in electrical engineering, a history of teaching at Syracuse University and experience being a scientist for the Air Force, Jabbour was the main point-person for the telescope project at Rice Creek. Volunteers referred to him as “Dr. J,” as did his name tag.

As a biologist, Haynes paid attention to the sounds of the wildlife during totality. A student-faculty team deployed remote acoustic recorders to track the effect of the eclipse on the local birds, amphibians and bats. The study was particularly special as the last research on the response from northeastern wildlife to a solar eclipse was in 1932. The 2024 team from SUNY Oswego plans to present their research at the nature center in November.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed, we can publish that research,” Haynes said.

In general, animals that are more active at night will make more noise during totality. Sure enough, while the clouds covered the eclipse from the view of humans, people could still hear the frogs, birds and bats during the three minutes of darkness.

“The cloud cover is a little disappointing, but it was fine,” Kate Maglione, an attendee, said. “We were just happy to be here.”

Maglione smiled to Fernando Faria to her left.

“It’s about the journey, not the destination,” Faria said.

This was especially true for Jose Camara. Camara biked 145 miles from Connecticut to Albany, then drove to Oswego to meet his old friend from college, Faria.

“The gotcha of this is that I came from there [Connecticut] because it was only 90% [magnitude] there, but blue sky beautiful when I left,” Camara said. “So I traded 90 for totality…”

“…For 100% in clouds!” Maglione said.

Carmen and Tony Wong drove five hours from New York City with their two young sons to watch the eclipse.

“It was a little bit anticlimactic,” Carmen Wong said, giving a hard laugh afterward.

When asked for his opinion of the eclipse, the couple’s son Micah simultaneously shook his head and gave a thumbs up. What satisfied him were the crafts available for young children, including pinhole viewers and mini time capsules.

The general mood after the big event was that while the cloud coverage disappointed those who wanted to see the black moon covering the sun, the image hyped by those who have witnessed it, the trip was still worth the ride that for many took hours.

“Oswego never fails to disappoint when we get clouds,” a young woman uttered over the crowd dissipating from the cold grass of Rice Creek.

This story was published in collaboration with Oswego Now, a website for journalism students at SUNY Oswego.