With the 2017 solar eclipse fast approaching, it’s a good time to take a look at the last eclipse to include the Pacific Northwest in its path of totality: February 26, 1979.
“The 1979 eclipse wasn’t total in Seattle,” University of Washington astronomy professor Bruce Balik told us, although it got closer: “it was in Portland, Mt. Rainier, Goldendale, and Yakima.”
The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) has released a series of photographs from the Seattle PI collection of eclipse revelers at one of those locations, Goldendale—in the path of totality in 1979 and conveniently featuring both a Stonehenge replica and a hilltop observatory.
As with the 2017 eclipse, which is sending an estimated 1 million tourists into the Oregon borders, people flocked to the Pacific Northwest to catch a glimpse, although some say 1979 wasn’t quite the same event as the eclipse coming up next week.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm in 1979, but it wasn’t nearly as widespread as today,” Bryan Brewer, author of Eclipse: History. Science. Awe. told the Seattle Times earlier this summer. “The level of interest is just increasing exponentially as you get closer to the day.”
Still, the subjects of the 1979 photographs seem more than excited. Decked out in outdoor gear and peering through paper eclipse glasses, these photos seem like almost a preview of what many in the Pacific Northwest will look like come August 21.
At the time, the Times reported, Goldendale was host to what was called the largest neo-pagan gathering in North American history.
In one last photograph, a man peddles “canned dark”—“from the total solar eclipse” and “gathered from Goldendale, Washington”—for “only $1.00.” (That’s around $3.50 today, big spenders.)
For next week’s eclipse, Goldendale won’t get quite as much of a show—about 98 percent, according to Vox’s tracker—but will still get closer to totality than Seattle’s 92 percent or so.
- Traffic jams, druids and clouds: How Seattle and the NW celebrated the last total solar eclipse (in 1979) [Seattle Times]
- ‘A big dose of awe’: Last solar eclipse here, in 1979, changed Seattle author’s life [Seattle Times]
- Solar eclipse 2017: What we’ll see in Seattle [CS]
- A solar eclipse is coming to America. Here’s what you’ll see where you live. [Vox]