Solar eclipse 2017: British 'eclipse chasers' spend thousands of pounds to secure best viewing spot in Wyoming

Total eclipse expected to bring US to standstill on Monday

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Sunday 20 August 2017 23:32 BST
Eclipse 2017: Britons spending thousands to secure best views

Hundreds of British eclipse-chasers have spent thousands of pounds to reach the remote US town of Jackson, Wyoming, where they have gathered to witness an astronomical phenomenon that will last just 140 seconds: the 2017 total solar eclipse.

In 90 minutes, from landfall on the Oregon coast at 10.16am Pacific Daylight Time, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the heart of the US before heading out over South Carolina's Atlantic shore at 2.46pm, Eastern Daylight Time.

The event is expected to bring America to a standstill as millions watch on television, online or - in their millions - in person. Almost the entire 48 continental United States will see a partial eclipse, but in addition a dozen states are in the line of totality, where anyone who is on the ground will witness the moon blot out the sun completely.

Jackson is popular partly due to its proximity to some of the finest scenery in the US, in the shape of the Grand Tetons National Park, but mainly because the weather data for the third week in August shows it has very good odds for clear skies.

As anyone who was in Cornwall for the last British solar eclipse in 1999 will realise, an unobscured view is an essential ingredient. The far south-west of England was the only place in the UK on the “line of totality” for that event, but cloud cover meant it was a disappointing experience for many.

Tom Morrison, an accountant from Darlington, has been following eclipses with his wife, Jacqui, since the 1999 event.

Simon Calder is in Wyoming for the solar eclipse

“We’ve rearranged our life to track eclipses across the globe, and whenever we get the chance to go and see one, we take it,” he said.

“We camped on a beach in Libya to see one,” said Jacqui, who works in HR.

“We’re just hooked, and meet lots of interesting people.”

They have travelled independently to Jackson for their seventh.

The couple are paying $270 (£220) a night for a Super 8 Motel in Jackson. “It’s all we could get - prices are crazy,” said Jacqui.

They are planning to wake at 4am to walk for an hour to their chosen viewing site.

In contrast, Intrepid, a leading tour operator, has booked exclusive use of a nearby ranch for the event. Eclipse-chasers are paying upwards of £1,500 for a one-week trip, with another £1,000 for air fares.

Arminel Fennelly, a teacher from London, was spurred to sign up for an organised trip after the disappointing March 2015 partial eclipse over the UK. “I refer to myself as an eclipse virgin,” she said. “I’m here for the experience, I’m not here to make good photographs, I feel a complete novice.”

She is staying in the Lexington Hotel, which is largely booked up with UK tourists on organised tours. The first enquiry was made in 2013, and the hotel has been fully booked for eclipse eve for two years.

With many other hotel rooms fully booked for months, rooms have been selling to latecomers at 15 times the normal rates. The Lexington has one room available for Monday night, after the eclipse, which is selling for just over $1,000 (about £800).

At the official eclipse viewing site at Jenny Lake, just north of Jackson, a special viewing site has been set up, with special eclipse glasses being sold “until they run out”.

Every total solar eclipse is a cosmic coincidence, but the 2017 even is extremely rare in that it is passing over only one country: the United States.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in