Monday, 27 April 2015

Obscured by clouds on the Sound of Arisaig

Our day paddling from Loch Shiel to Glenuig had been a truly exceptional day's kayaking, very hard to beat.  The following day did, however promise to "eclipse" even that.  20th March 2015 was the date of a solar eclipse which would be visible over much of the UK (weather permitting of course!).

We were delighted that Steve and Chris were able to postpone their duties at the Glenuig Inn for a few hours to join us on the water - even though the morning's very overcast weather was less than promising.

Our plan was really quite simple; we left Glenuig Bay and paddled north-west out into the Sound of Arisag to get an unobstructed view of the sky to the south-east where the eclipse was scheduled to reach maximum coverage of 90% at 0934.

To the west the sky was clearing and we hoped against hope that the clearance would reach us before the eclipse started.

The islands of Rum and Eigg were in clearer sky with sunlight across the hills.  The wind was increasing as the edge of the cloud approached but it was by now obvious that we'd not get a clear view.  Then, a remarkable sight as the sunlight on Eigg was obscured in a very progressive darkening - the eclipse had begun.

We began to experience a noticeable lowering of the light level as the moon moved across the face of the sun.  At 0925 there was a definite dusk quality.....

...and at 0934 when the coverage was maximum, the light was very low.  The choppy conditions dissuaded me from trying to use my DSLR and the compact camera struggled to cope with the combination of low light and boat movement.

There was an unusual and quite eerie atmosphere, and we felt really privileged to be out in our kayaks on the Sound of Arisaig during this rare natural phenomenon.  The choppy water meant that we couldn't simply stare upwards to try and see progress through the cloud cover - we were disinclined to make the eclipse yet more memorable by capsizing!

Slowly the light began to return, just as the cloud began to break above us. 

The extreme contrast in light conditions made it very difficult even to look near to the sun and I didn't manage any photographs at all.......

Image by:   Douglas Wilcox

....but fortunately Douglas, just a few hundred metres to the west of Mike and I, got a brief unobstructed view and risked the unthinkable by taking out a very expensive DSLR and lens in the choppy conditions to capture this image at 0956 with the coverage at about 30%.  Despite the fleeting glimpse, on this occasion our navigator's logbooks would have to record the eclipse as "obscured by clouds".

Almost as soon as the eclipse had finished the sky overhead became mostly clear and the sun shone down brightly!  Ah well, the weather might not have been cooperative (some will say typically Scottish in fact!) but it was still a memorable experience.

As Chris and Steve headed back in towards Glenuig, Douglas, Mike and I turned our bows east and headed towards the rocky coast at the entrance to Loch Ailort on the next leg of our journey from Glenfinnan.


  1. Must have been memorable on a choppy sea. Must be a rare sight indeed from a kayak.

  2. Hi Bob & Alex, it really was a rather unique experience - we're already planning where to watch the next one from!

    Kind Regards