Libyan Eclipse Trip 2006
by Jean and Dave Kodama
(kodama@alumni.caltech.edu)

Libya Trip
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A total eclipse of the sun is one of nature's greatest spectacles. On March 29, 2006, we joined thousands of people in Libya in the path of the moon's shadow. Although the eclipse path stretched from Brazil to Mongolia, accessibility, weather statistics, and relative political stability made central Libya an excellent choice for experiencing totality. At our eclipse site, approximately 300 miles south of Benghazi, the eclipse lasted over 4 minutes, with the sun high overhead and free from obstruction (see animation).

In the middle of barren, flat desert, thousands of tents were erected to create an "Eclipse City". Among the multitudes present here were countless busloads of passengers from Mediterranean cruise ships, and many Libyans, including Colonel Qaddafi's son. The eclipse was magnificent, literally spine-chilling, and instantly addicting (see our merged video). Dave is still working on his eclipse photos (as Jean is still working on these write-ups!), so keep checking back for updates. However, it is impossible to fully convey the excitement, the flood of emotions, the downright spookiness of the experience. You'll just have to go witness one yourself!

Libya is on the north coast of the African continent between Algeria and Egypt, right below Italy. A week-long Sahara tour took us offroad in four-wheel drive vehicles through the spectacular desert scenery of southwestern Libya. Covering most of North Africa, the Sahara is the largest desert in the world. The amazing sights included the ruins of ancient medinas, incredible rock formations, 12,000 year old rock art, massive sand dunes, rocky flatlands, and palm-fringed lakes.

We returned to Tripoli to join the main eclipse tour. After camping in the desert for five nights in small two-man tents, this part of the trip felt very Mediterranean. Indeed, all of the great civilizations of the region, from the Phoenicians on, have left their mark in Libya. We visited several spectacular sites, including Leptis Magna (one of the largest and best preserved Roman sites in the world), Apollonia and Cyrene (Greek ruins dating back to 500+ BC), and Sabratha (pictured at left).

The touring far exceeded our expectations, but what really surprised us was the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Libyan people. After 36 years of post-revolutionary rule, the country appears to have settled into a pragmatic blend of traditional values and modern ideas. The generosity of the Libyan people, the majesty of its ancient sites, the beauty of its desert landscapes - how fortunate that the path of the moon's shadow allowed us these experiences!

Our journey ended with a one night stay in Milan, Italy. Well, that was us, our luggage enjoyed several extra days there. Despite this inauspicious end, we were thrilled with the trip. Many thanks to Spears Travel and Safari Tours, the tour company in Libya. Thanks also to the many new friends we enjoyed on the adventure, especially Pat Totten and Fred Espenak (Mr Eclipse), and of course our good friends Vicki and Greg Buchwald, all certified eclipse addicts (and now I understand why!).


Copyright 2006 by David A. and Jean Kodama, All Rights Reserved
Eclipse path figure courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center