RANGELEY — There aren’t a lot of things in this world that you can count on, but sunshine on a sunny day is one of them.

Except Monday, despite blue skies, the shine went out of the sun. As the moon passed in front of that reliable source of heat and light, the Earth darkened and temperatures cooled.

For two and a half minutes, a black circle — a void, really — replaced the swirling gas ball as night seemed to fall entirely too swiftly. Planets appeared in the sky.

A crowd of 2,000 or more people at Rangeley Town Cove Park cheered. There were many woos and aaaahhhhs as they took off special glasses that let them look at the sun and stared with naked eyes at the astonishing sight overhead.

Only the blue on the distant horizon provided clear evidence that night hadn’t descended across Maine in the middle of the afternoon.

“Phenomenal,” said Lisa Cowan of Cumberland. “Better than expected.”


Her daughter Marika, who lives in Brooklyn in New York City, said it was worth waking up at 4 a.m. to see it.

Dave Cowan, though, offered a different take as the sky darkened: “The first sunny day in weeks and now it’s ruined.”

August Muller, who plans to study astronomy in graduate school in the fall, said the show overhead was “very cool.” She said she spotted three planets in the darkness, including Jupiter and Saturn, but was disappointed she couldn’t see a comet that might have been visible to some.

“It was incredible” even so, Muller said.

Earlier, Muller and her mother, Stephanie Thatcher of Utah, said it’s a magnificent sight, one they caught seven years ago in Idaho Falls.


“Being in the path of totality is the important part,” said Muller, who graduated last year with a physics degree from Haverford College and is working as an astronomer on Nantucket in Massachusetts.

She said it is “just a really cool feeling” to see something so rare and interesting.

“It almost seems like you’re in space,” Thatcher said.

Another eclipse-watching veteran, Jim Iannone from Rhode Island, said he caught one as a child but that was a long time ago.

He decided to come to Maine for this one because he had the opportunity. “I’m a great lover of all things natural and celestial events,” Iannone said.

Geoff James of Camden looks through a pair of binoculars with a special sun filter on th lenses Monday afternoon at the Rangeley Town Cove Park while waiting for the eclipse. The modified binoculars were one of several pieces of equipment Rob Burgess of Brunswick, president of the Southern Maine Astronomers Club, brought. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The president of the Southern Maine Astronomers, Rob Burgess of Brunswick, set up a pair of properly shaded binoculars so people at Lakeside Park in Rangeley could see the sun in all its glory before it vanished behind the moon.


He said he is excited to see the total eclipse. “It’s very rare,” Burgess said, and an unusual chance to see “witness celestial mechanics in motion” as the moon crosses in front of the sun.

Most of the movement in the heavens is so distant that movements are tough to notice at all, let alone experience directly like an eclipse, he said.

Thousands of people descended Monday on Rangeley, many of them traveling long distances to reach the tourism-driven town. After a slow winter, the town’s business community was happy to see crowds.

“This is just a great way to end the season,” said Lisa Mejorado, customer service manager for the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Having so many people come, many of them new to the area, she said, offers the community the opportunity “to tout our town.”

Parked on a crowded overlook on the road to Rangeley on Monday morning, Josh Watson sat on the back of his rental car reading a book by Ernest Hemingway while he waited for a chance to see the second total eclipse of his life.

Watson came from Los Angeles because the first time he watched a total eclipse, in South Carolina some years ago, he found it “an incredible, life-changing moment. A top 10 moment.”


“It’s the day turned into night,” he said. “You can see this perfect void” surrounded by “this ring of pure white light.”

At the other end of the tiny parking lot with a view of snow-covered mountains and lakes, two women from Maine camped out last night, their little grill atop a mound of snow.

It’s perhaps the busiest day the town has ever seen.

A chamber of commerce official said the number of visitors easily overshadowed the tallies from Fourth of July festivities in recent years, always a big day for Rangeley.

Even so, traffic on the town’s main streets kept moving and, somehow, it appeared everybody looking to park was finding somewhere to squeeze in.

Viewing areas along the lake were crowded, but Lakeside Park, with its astonishing views, could easily have taken in thousands more.


Nearly everyone who spoke about the upcoming eclipse wondered why anybody who could come see it would pass up the chance.
“If there were cosmic tourists, they’d come to Earth to see this,” said Molly Stevens of Los Angeles.

She said that in the entire universe, there must be few places where suns, planets and moons are so perfectly placed that eclipses like the one heading for Maine could possibly occur.


Vehicles, tripods and people are packed in tightly Monday morning at the Height of Land Scenic Overlook near Rangeley as they wait for the eclipse. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Sue Leonard of Albany Township said they’re not sure what they’re going to see when the moon covers the sun completely about 3:30 p.m. today.

“We’re just excited,” Leonard said.

“We really don’t need an excuse” to hit the rural roads of western Maine, said Leana Gross of Woodstock.


“We go out in the middle of nowhere” often, Leonard said.

“We tried to get even further” into the woods for the eclipse, Gross said, “but we couldn’t find any plowed roads.”

Watson said everybody who can find a way to get to the zone of totality, where the sun is entirely blocked, should do so.

“Do it, Do it. Do it,” he said. “Do it now.”

He said he would “spend any money” to see a total solar eclipse. “Actually seeing the sun go away and seeing this ring in the sky,” Watson said, “nothing compares.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story