We awoke before the alarm's shrill beeps - which were set to go off at 5am. The iPad was on before you could say 'cloud cover', and the somewhat stressful task of analysing the satellite imagery (models went out the window now) began. This wasn't just a case of getting me to the eclipse: we all needed to get there! We've been waiting for 18 years, since the cloudy eclipse in S Devon in Aug 1999, to see this. There was no way some shields of cirrus from the SW'ern USA was going to stop this - not on my watch!
The plan was that we would decide before 6am what to do - the plan was hatched, and communicated, by 0550: be ready to get going by 0615, heading west. Whilst a sortie as far west as Stapleton, Nebraska, was deemed possible, the initial plan was to head for Grand Island, and re-asses once there.
Lightning flickered away to the east as we walked out the hotel - a stunning early morning sight! We hit the road, and were at Grand Island in little over an hour and a half. We paused for strong coffee, a bite to eat, and more satellite analysis - by now we were getting much more confident that a large slice of mainly clear skies was going to be in place not far to the north-west. We set course for Ansley, and drove. Once there, we waited by a gas station for a while, before we dropped south on highway 183, and found a quiet spot on a dusty back road.
We set up at this quiet location, and I got the various of my cameras in position. Right on cue (of course!) we noticed the first tiny 'nibble' into the top right hand side of the Sun's disk - the Moon had turned up for the show!
This was cause for much excitement, with pictures being snapped, and the video recorded. We then settled in to around 45 minutes of quieter excitement, which gradually built. With about 10-15 mins to go, the sky started to take on a somewhat more 'steely' appearance - odd to describe.
With 5 minutes to go, it was still surprisingly bright, but the light began to fade quite noticeably.
One minute to go - and things escalated quickly - the north-western horizon darkened rapidly, and it felt like the sky was closing in on us. As the last vestiges of the Sun's blinding light were blocked out by the mountains on the Moon, the classic Diamond Ring effect (part 1) appeared.
This moment, as the Sun was replaced by a stark, black, 'hole', was greeted by a number of exclamations from us - what a sight to behold!
The Sun's Corona - the ethereal outer atmosphere of our nearest star, was beyond beautiful: its delicate, flowing ribbons of pale blue-grey light extended in three quite obvious strands, like stellar candyfloss around an impossibly-dark centre.
The 2 minutes and just over 30 seconds didn't fly by as quick as I thought they might - but they were still all too short. We spotted Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter during this time.
All around, a 360 degree sunrise (or sunrise colours) was present. Very soon, the north-western sky was quickly growing much lighter, and, all at once, a piercing bright spot of light appeared at the top right of the Sun - the second Diamond Ring - the corona was still visible, making this sight one of the most beautiful things my eyes have beholden. Simply stunning.
The sky grew light - but it was cool - or at least, it felt cool compared to the searing sunshine we had been enduring a bit earlier. The crickets chirped loudly in the ethereal light - but the light continued to grow brighter - and within 10 minutes, the strong heating of the Sun was back.
The minutes after totality were charged with emotion - hugs all round, and more than one tear in the eye.
We watched the Sun continue to appear over the next 30 mins or so, packing away as we did so. We then drove south - but paused to catch final contact - as the Moon departed the scene, having cast its magnificent spectacle.
We headed south to the Interstate (I-80) and got some lunch - before heading back to Lincoln.
We headed to Applebee's for dinner, and then back to the hotel. Lightning played along the northern horizon. This gave a somewhat circular fashion to the day as it ended how it started - and very fitting, as the day was dominated by circular forms and motions.
First contact - Moon nibbles top right of Sun.
About half-way through the first partial phase.
The Sun gets blocked - apart from a small part shining through a valley - the first Diamond Ring.
The eclipse, and stunning corona.
Go-Pro image, with Helen pointing.
Go Pro image, near the end of totality.
Vid cam captures - showing red prominences.
The video camera captures the second Diamond Ring.