The days flew by and all of a sudden it was July 11th. This was the day that astronomers and eclipse chasers around the world had been waiting for…the moon would pass directly over the sun and cast a shadow across the Earth to be seen for those anywhere along a tiny belt of the southern hemisphere between latitude 17 and 18 degrees South to witness. Lucky me, I just happened to be in the spot!
My friend Kepi picked me up at dawn. I climbed in the back of her truck and sped off with the rest of the crew to the north side of the island to catch the spectacle where we had the best chances for clear skies. The weather had been terrible of late, so we were happy to see the sun breaking through the gaps in the flow of overhead clouds.
The event began shortly after 7:30am. From behind the dark lenses of our 2-dollar ‘eclipse glasses’, the moon began to take a bite out of the sun. Slowly, the bright sun disappeared behind the black orb. First looked like popped basketball, then a wide, beaming smile, then a fingernail, and then only a teeny, itsy sliver of sun remained. The ambient light was reduced to an eerie, dusky golden-grey. The wind seemed chillier and for the darkest minutes, and everything seemed to slooooooooooooooooow dooooooooooown. The glowing ball then slowly reappeared on of the other side of the moon, the day warmed up, and everyone cheered and celebrated.
From navigation to fishing, farming and religion, celestial events were important in ancient Polynesian society. During an eclipse, it was believed that the god Raa-mau-riri had been so angered that he swallowed the sun. Lucky for humans, he must have realized that he’d just eaten a gigantic nuclear furnace and, shortly after, spit it out.