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Chasing a Lunar Eclipse Around the N. Oregon Coast Brings a Soggy Travelogue

Published 10/31/22 at 6:36 PM
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Chasing a Lunar Eclipse Around the N. Oregon Coast Brings a Soggy Travelogue

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – Once upon a time, there was an adventure of sorts on the Oregon coast, one that took place well after dark and involved chasing the moon. Like the big lunar eclipse coming up, there was one years ago that was cause for zipping around between towns, trying to capture the money shot. (Photo copyright Andre' GW Hagestedt: moon and traffic above Manzanita at the Neahkahnie Overlooks)

Considering next week's big stellar wonder, it seemed appropriate to revisit a similar experience, mixing the beach with astronomy.

Running Oregon Coast Beach Connection never ceases in its surprises. You're always learning something new, or encountering something different, even if you're bouncing around the same beaches you've been to a dozen times before.

It all begins one late fall night, where – big surprise – the clouds weren't cooperating for a lunar eclipse on the north Oregon coast. Things were definitely up and down. The skies changed constantly throughout the evening, but they also opened up frequently and poured rain with reckless abandon. This meant you sometimes had nice views of the eclipse, but most of the time you didn't. And some of the time, you simply got drenched all of a sudden and without warning. There were even moments when you could see the moon, but some dark, nasty structure up there was letting loose showers onto you anyway.

Around 9:30 p.m., as the first phase of the eclipse was settling in, the moon was still lighting up the nocturnal beach in interesting ways. Like this shot at top, at the Neahkahnie Overlooks, where the long exposures needed to photograph under such conditions yielded some stunning, surreal landscapes.

About this time the moon was still poking out fairly frequently and brightly. I pointed my zoom camera upwards and got this esoteric shot seen above. This was a few minutes after 9:30 p.m., and it was interesting you couldn’t see any trace of the eclipse just yet, but that could be the hazy cloud cover.

Doing this on the Oregon coast meant dealing with a series of rain storms, and in this case I kept getting hit with one rain squall after another wherever I stopped. I was attempting to run through the other side of the storm, and indeed this seemed to work – at first. Leaving a squall in Seaside I headed south to mid town in Cannon Beach, where it eventually stopped raining. But as soon as I got out with the camera equipment, another squall started. And this pattern of moving south and getting hit again continued for a bit, until I gave up and headed for home in Manzanita.

About 10:45 or so, the sky cleared again, but only briefly. It was long enough to grab this shot of a distinctly encroaching darker edge to the moon. You can still see one or two craters and other lunar features, however. Awesome.

I’m meandering around downtown Manzanita, and manage to catch a sad little shot of the moon hovering above one of the retail spots, all aglow with Christmas lights. It wasn't that great. This shot of the town's holiday lighting is better, however.

The one thing the weather forecasters forget to tell you is how quickly things can change here, much more dramatically than inland in say, Portland. When they forecast rain, this often means periods of clouds and heavy rain, followed by periods of calm to even chunks of sun here and there.

In this case, it meant a general storm, but the sky cleared enough to see the moon now and then. However, it never dissipated enough to show stars.

Things were extremely cold this night, by the way, definitely in the 30’s. Not much warmer than frigid Portland, really, which the coast usually is during winter.

Then, just before the disk disappeared, about 11:20 or so, I find this greatly diminished moon. A ways after that, after waiting for squall after squall and constant cloud cover, 11:45 arrives and you can see the moon is covered completely. It’s too dim to be photographed by my equipment, sadly. But it is spectacular.

It’s also got an orange glow to it as well, as promised. Here's what that would've looked like (I caught the sight in subsequent years later on).

I can easily imagine what the superstitious world of the 1600’s thought when these happened, and the resulting creepy tales they told would probably fuel dozens of Hollywood horror flicks for decades to come. I wasn’t there, obviously. I was here – sort of. Well, my view wasn’t so hot, that’s all. But at least I had the chance to witness it.

And now, it's officially the winter solstice - the wee hours of December 21, yet another astronomical landmark. It will be the shortest day of the year the following morning, but luckily I'm on the coast, where sundown happens about ten minutes later than inland.

Now that's cool, and it kind of makes up for not seeing the full effects of the eclipse. See about this eclipse Total Lunar Eclipse on Nov. 8 for Washington Coast, Oregon Coast 

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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