Wyoming Attracts Eclipse Chasers As Prime Viewing Location

Aug 18, 2017

Isolation - Remote outer Mongolia for the total eclipse in 2008.
Credit Kate Russo

For most people, Monday will be the first - and possibly last - time they will ever see an eclipse. But for some seeing an eclipse is almost like an addiction. These people are called Eclipse Chasers. Think “Deadheads” for the sun; they’ll do anything to catch the next show.

David Makepeace, also known as “The Eclipse Guy,” said he was hooked after seeing his first total solar eclipse in Mexico’s Baja peninsula in 1991.

“When the shadow of the moon descended upon us and the sky went deep, deep azure blue and the stars and planets came out, and I looked up into the sky and the sun was gone. And it was replaced with this black disc of the dark side of the moon with the corona blazing all around the outside of it. During those moments I was really…I felt like I’d been transported to an alien planet. I could not believe what I was seeing or what I was feeling,” reflected Makepeace.

Makepeace’s is a film producer. On the side he runs an eclipse blog and has seen almost every single eclipse for the last 26 years, roughly one every 18 months. He said he saves every nickel and dime to make that happen, and that each trip is worth it.

“[I went to] Antarctica in 2003. I spent a month on a Russian Ice Breaker. And I also spent several weeks in the middle of the Sahara desert in Libya in 2006. And that expedition was really mind-blowing. It was quite challenging to do all that traveling and to spend all these days in 4x4s moving through the desert,” said Makepeace.

For this eclipse he is coming to Wyoming.

“I’ve actually always wanted to visit Wyoming, for some reason.  To me it’s the quintessential U.S. experience. And it just happened to be that it was also one of the states has this high likelihood of clear skies,” he said.

Makepeace isn’t the only one, either. Many eclipse chasers will be flocking to Wyoming for its normally clear August weather and expansive landscapes.

Kate Russo will be in Wyoming for the eclipse, leading a tour group of 33 international chasers to Grand Teton National Park. Russo is a psychologist by trade, but has published two books about her experiences as a chaser, and also consults with communities planning for eclipses. She said, like Makepeace, she felt transformed after witnessing her first eclipse in France in 1999.

“This darkness was coming, this creeping darkness. It felt ominous. It felt eerie. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up as the seconds to totality were counting down. I just couldn’t believe how exciting and exhilarating it was,” said Russo.

Seeing an eclipse was on her bucket list, but after it was over Russo said she didn’t want to check a box and be done with it.

“As soon as I saw it I thought oh my god this is not a once in a lifetime thing. This is something I’m going to have to do again.”

Since then, Russo has seen ten total solar eclipses.

According to Russo and Makepeace, there are fewer than one thousand “hard-core” eclipse chasers around the world – people who make an effort to see every single one. They stay in contact through an email list, always talking about past eclipses and the next ones. But as August 21st approaches there are groups popping up online filled with people eagerly anticipating their very first eclipse. Russo said she wouldn’t be surprised if, after Monday, there are lots of people asking themselves when they can see the next one.

“And as I say you know the eclipse chasing community welcomes every one of you with open arms.”