Eclipse Arcs across Pacific

Article excerpt

HANGA ROA, Chile (AFP) - A total solar eclipse drew an 11,000-kilometer (6,800-mile) arc over the Pacific Sunday, plunging remote territories into darkness, but drawing thousands of curious tourists and their dollars.

The skies grew black in the middle of the day as the Moon slipped in front of the Sun and aligned with the Earth, blotting out the sunshine that just moments earlier had swathed the island's silent, ancient stone guardians.

Applause erupted from thousands of stargazers who began gathering days ago on this remote Chilean outpost for the rare four-minute, 41-second eclipse.

"It was like being in the stadium at night with artificial light. It was like being in a dark room with a 10-watt bulb," awe-struck local official Francisco Haoa told AFP.

"It started with a shadow. The skies were perfectly blue, with lots of wind that chased away the clouds. Everyone applauded.

"We saw a luminous object near here and people started saying they were sure it was a UFO."

In Tahiti, where the solar eclipse began its trek, the effect was so stunning that crowds of football-mad Polynesians turned away from the World Cup final on their television screens to look to the skies instead.

"It was like the Sun was smiling," said eight-year-old Hinanui. "The Sun seemed like a horizontal crescent, then the Moon covered up the bottom of the Sun, which reappeared again as a crescent."

Opticians and pharmacies sold more than 120,000 pairs of protective eyewear in Tahiti, which has 260,000 inhabitants, and warned of the dangers of vision loss if people looked directly at the eclipse. …