1999 Turkey Total Solar Eclipse
Dvirigi, Turkey | August 6-15, 1999
Our small group of adventurers drove deep into the heart of central Turkey to witness a total solar eclipse from the small town of Divrigi, situated at the headwaters of the Euphrates. For the people of Divrigi, it is hard to say which was the more interesting event — the total eclipse or the arrival of so many strange foreigners.
Trip Details and Highlights
“WHAT IS YOUR NAME! HOW OLD ARE YOU! WHERE ARE YOU FROM!”
Our small group of adventurers drove deep into the heart of central Turkey to witness a total solar eclipse from the small town of Divrigi, situated at the headwaters of the Euphrates. For the people of Divrigi, it is hard to say which was the more interesting event — the total eclipse or the arrival of so many strange foreigners. In this village, as in every village we visited in rural Turkey, the local children provided an entourage. At first quiet and shy, soon one of the children would drum up the courage to ask in an exclamation “WHAT IS YOUR NAME!” A traveler would answer and all the children would laugh at the success. The questions would come more quickly as the rest of them gained confidence. “HOW OLD ARE YOU!” Each child needed to see if the magic phrases worked.
Travel and astronomy are perfectly combined in a solar eclipse. In the summer of 1999 more people than ever before lived along the path of a total solar eclipse. Millions of people throughout Europe, central Asia, and India were able to witness the stunning event from the comfort of their own neighborhoods. Thousands of people traveled from the rest of the world to places along the path, in particular Turkey, in an effort to spend a couple of minutes in the shadow of the moon as it raced along the surface of the Earth. Although more “first timers” viewed this eclipse than any other, many of the people who traveled to be in the path of the shadow were veteran eclipse chasers. Eclipses are so striking that they have stopped wars and influenced the decisions of rulers in every culture throughout history. They make day to day events seem small and insignificant. They give those that witness them a true sense of mortality by their magnitude and independence from human control.
As an eclipse occurs the first noticeable sign is often the sunlight through the leaves on a tree casting small crescents of light on the ground rather than the usual circles. As the sun is covered further the daylight seems to get harsher, an effect of the sun being eclipsed and becoming more and more of a point source of light; shadows lose their blurred edges, appearing clear and crisp. Only when most of the sun is covered does the light level appear noticeably dimmer and at about that time the temperature begins to drop. It will drop 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit before the eclipse is over.
The final descent into totality occurs very quickly. If you are standing on a rise and able to tear yourself away from the sun’s final crescent phase you would see the shadow of the moon rushing toward you across the land. Traveling at hundreds of miles per hour, the approaching shadow is a sight never to be forgotten. You might expect a sound or a shock wave to accompany it but instead it is eerily quiet, covering your world in a silent rush. When you look up again you see the last piece of the sun shining through a valley on the limb of the moon, the Diamond Ring. And then there is a hole in the sky where the sun was. Around the edge you see small pink flares from the sun’s chromosphere and great white streamers from the sun’s corona flowing away into space. Surrounding the eclipsed sun are the planets and bright stars and you are surprised to recognize a constellation that you haven’t seen for months in the nighttime sky. The horizon is painted in sunset colors in every direction and then, as you try to memorize every facet of the eclipse and its effects, the sun pokes through the lowest valley on the limb of the moon and the Diamond Ring reappears. Totality is over.
After witnessing totality from the mountain top in Divrigi, our group shared the excitement of the event over sliced watermelon (hot from the sun), each person describing to the others how the eclipse affected him or her most. We packed up our telescopes, cameras, and binoculars and began our trek down from the fortress. As we made our way, giddy and tired, into the village late in the afternoon, we were escorted in silence by a group of children. Suddenly one of the children exclaimed, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM!”
19:23 UT (15:23 CLT)
20:38 – 20:41 UT (16:38 – 16:41 CLT)
2 minutes, 33 seconds
21:46 UT (17:46 CLT)
Depart from NYC
Arrive in Istanbul, welcome dinner, overnight Istanbul.
Begin our exploration of Istanbul with a visit to the Spice market. Cruise the Bosphorus along the European and Asiatic coasts, passing ancient palaces, Ottoman mansions, and little fishing villages. Cross into Asia through the Intercontinental Bridge and view the city and Beylerbeyi Palace. Overnight Istanbul.
Visit the Hippodrome Plaze, the Basilica of St. Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. After lunch, visit the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman Empire which houses precious jewels, rugs, and china. The tour for the day ends at the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth with more than 4000 shops. After the bazaar, transfer to the airport to board your domestic flight to Malatya. Overnight Malatya.
After breakfast, drive to Divrigi. Overnight in Divrigi.
Day 6: ECLIPSE DAY!
After breakfast, drive to the eclipse viewing area and begin preperations to view the last solar eclipse of the millenium. Overnight in Divrigi.
Depart Divrigi to Cappadocia. Arrive in the afternoon. Observe the annual Perseid meteor showers and the night skies from amid the arid and surreal surroundings of Cappadocia. Overnight Cappadocia.
After breakfast, begin a full day tour of this mystical landscape. Visit one of the underground cities of the region, the Goreme “Open-Air” Museum with troglodyte chapels decorated and Biblical frescoes, the Citadel of Uchisar, the Zdelve Valley, and Avanos, a town famous for its pottery. Overnight Cappadocia.
Depart Cappadocia to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Enjoy a city tour of Ankara, including the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations with its Hittite, Assyrian, and Phrygian exhibits, and the Mausoleum of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic. Afterwards, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Istanbul. Overnight in Istanbul.
Depart Istanbul for New York