There went the sun, in midday eclipse

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After a cloudy morning with intermittent rain showers, the sun almost miraculously appeared over Oslo just as Friday’s solar eclipse was getting underway. On Norway’s Arctic islands of Svalbard, viewing was perfect, but cold.

After a gloomy morning with dark clouds and rain, the sun actually peeked out just as Friday's solar eclipse got underway. This photo was taken from downtown Oslo at around 10:50am local time. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

After a gloomy morning with dark clouds and rain, the sun actually peeked out just as Friday’s solar eclipse got underway. This photo was taken from downtown Oslo at around 10:50am local time. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The countdown began 20 seconds before the sun over Svalbard was totally covered by the moon for more than two minutes, and spectators broke into cheers when darkness descended at midday. It didn’t last long, and the cheering resumed when the sun returned in full force.

Nearly half of country missed the eclipse because of cloud cover, though, and day care centers all over Norway kept their young charges indoors, when the eclipse blocked out up to 95 percent of the sun from where it could be seen on the mainland. Day care officials feared the children wouldn’t pay attention to warnings against looking at the sun, and could thus damage their eyes for life.

“Eclipses are dangerous, especially for children,” warned Dr Jan Håkon Juul, who heads health services at Vågan in Lofoten, where the eclipse was blocking out around 93 percent of the sun in an event that hasn’t occurred  Norway for more than 60 years. “If you look right at the sun, it can burn your retina in a matter of seconds and result in serious, lasting visual damage.”

He was among health care officials around the county who had advised schools and day care centers to keep children indoors because their eyes are even more vulnerable to damage and won’t understand the danger. Their advice was being taken seriously in Oslo, where the eclipsed sun did peer out from behind the clouds on Friday morning.

“The children have been excited about this (the eclipse), and very interested, but we can’t possibly control all of them if they’re outdoors,” one day care center leader told state broadcaster NRK. They kept them inside, even though that meant missing the unique event. NRK, however, provided live coverage of the eclipse from Svalbard that likely resulted in record numbers of Norwegians staring at a completely black screen.

In Oslo, the sun suddenly resembled a crescent moon in the mid-day skies, blurred by clouds. On the Arctic islands of Svalbard, the weather cooperated without a cloud in the sky, much to the relief of around 2,000 tourists who had managed to secure accommodation on the remote archipelago long in advance. Two men from Japan who hadn’t told newspaper Aftenposten they had paid around NOK 40,000 to make the trip and spend two freezing nights in a tent.

Eclipse fans came from far and wide, including groups who have traveled the world for years to observe eclipses. The two men from Japan, aged 69 and 71, said they’d once traveled to Uruguay to see the phenomenon, and ended up staring into fog.

Meanwhile, another tourist from the Czech Republic was recovering in the hospital in Longyearbyen after being attacked by a polar bear while out camping with five others. Jakub Moravec, age 37, told Aftenposten he was awakened by the bear that had dug its way under security fences around the camp, torn into his tent and bit into his arm, dragging him halfway out of his sleeping bag.

The bear was shot by another camper, who saved Moravec’s life. “It’s sad that the bear was killed, but it was him or me,” Moravec said. He escaped with flesh wounds.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund