Meet the eclipse chaser who travelled 5,000 miles from Hainault to Salem
PUBLISHED: 17:31 01 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:38 01 September 2017
An avid astronomy buff travelled 5,000 miles from his home in Hainault to ensure he finally saw a solar eclipse.
Paul Gillary, 43, was downcast after failing to see two eclipses due to bad weather, including the total solar eclipse in August 1999.
He said: “It was so disappointing.
“I was in Cornwall and I couldn’t see it at all.”
So ahead of the total solar eclipse in the United States last month, Paul decided that he would make the journey abroad to ensure he wasn’t disappointed.
He said: “I had a two out of two failure rate and I was gutted.
“So I was determined to finally see one and this seemed like a great opportunity to ensure I finally saw it.”
Paul, who is a member of North Essex Astronomy Society, booked his flights six months ago after family and friends encouraged him to follow his dream.
He travelled to Portland, Oregon on August 18 ahead of the eclipse on August 21, which was the first total solar eclipse over the continental United States since 1979.
On the day, Paul, who works as a learning technologist at King’s College London, packed up his telescope in the early hours of the morning and travelled to Salem, to attend an event organised by the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.
He said: “It was an incredible day, I was really lucky with the weather.”
In order to ensure he was first in line when the event started at 6am, Paul left his hotel “extremely early” and ended up arriving at 4am.
He said: “I was worried about traffic but it turned out there was none.
“So I had a nap in the car and when the doors opened at 6am, a queue had already formed.”
As the sky grew dark, around 10.16am, the temperature started to drop, and a ripple of excitment spread across the crowd.
Paul said: “It was funny, people didn’t seem to realise at first and I had to draw attention to it!”
During the moment of totality - when the full moon’s shadow completely blocks out the sun, leaving only a fiery ring visible - the crowd started cheering.
And for Paul, he was “overwhelmed” to have achieved his dream of seeing a total eclipse in person.
He said: “It was amazing, I was totally awestruck.
“It was 20 years in the making.”