DARKNESS fell on Brisbane this morning at 6.55am when the moon covered 83 percent of the sun. While it obviously wasn’t the full totality as enjoyed by eclipse watchers in north Queensland, it was still pretty spectacular.

The solar eclipse from Mt Coot-tha. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The anticipation in Queensland over the last few days has been palpable. Radio, television and other media have reported the preparations, the weather, the best vantage points and so on.

And so yesterday afternoon I decided to join the eclipse watchers and rushed around the city trying to locate the last solar glasses in Brisbane along with hundreds of other people, and get some protective paper for the camera lens.

Solar eclipse glasses needed to see the sun safely. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Here’s a timeline of events and some photographs illustrating the eclipse.

5.30am
Woke up and looked out the window – clear and sunny already. Thank God. There had been some talk of it being cloudy in Brisbane. Ran through the checklist – bicycle (to cycle to the vantage point to avoid traffic and parking problems), backpack containing camera, special paper, solar eclipse lenses, food for breakfast, newspaper with eclipse times.

5.56am
Still at home but try out the glasses as the partial eclipse begins. Frankly can’t see if anything is happening yet but jump on the bike and head off.

6.15am
Half way up Mt Coot-tha and there’s already far more people up here than normal. Telescopes, solar lenses, cars; everyone has found a spot and is gearing up for action.

It’s clear, even with the naked eye, that the sun is starting to disappear.

6.30am
Make it to the top of the mountain. There are cars everywhere in the parking lot. Find a posy amongst the hordes and enjoy the mood. It is ripe with anticipation as people prepare for maximum eclipse. Take a good look at the sun – it is definitely disappearing. It’s very hard to photograph however, even with the paper, and I keep getting ghost illumination perhaps from other light getting in. I decide to leave the photography to the eclipse pros.

Anticipation builds just before maximum eclipse. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

6.40am
There’s a doctor next to me using xray paper (2 sheets) to show his kids the eclipse.

“I don’t think it’s completely safe,” he says, “but I remember my father showing me this when I was a kid.”

“Such ingenuity,” the Channel 7 news reporter watching him says to me.

The doctor and his children. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

6.45am
Television cameras keep passing through the crowd interviewing anyone of interest. I spot two guys holding up photographic paper to look through. There are enormous telescopes all trained on the sun. Most of them come from the Brisbane astronomers club and they’re happy to let anyone look through them.

A man adjusts his telescope. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

6.55am
Maximum eclipse. Glasses are shared around as everyone enjoys the special moment in a display of community spirit. Strangers come up and ask to use our glasses. It’s fun to share the moment. It is truly spectacular, and I can safely say I’ll be back for another.

The viewing platform at Mt Coot-tha. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

7.00am
The crowd already starts to dissipate. I chat to a telescope owner; he’s only brought his “little one” today but it’s still about two metres long. He’s seen several full eclipses, a couple of partials and numerous other astrological events.

7.15am
Partial eclipse is by no means over yet but the mountain is suddenly largely deserted and we depart leaving the telescopes, the pros and the eclipse die hards to stay right until partial eclipse ends at 7.59am.

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