The Creepiest Things That Happened During The 2017 Solar Eclipse
The sun may not have been eaten by a god on Aug. 21, but there were still a ton of creepy things that happened during the 2017 solar eclipse — even if you don’t believe in the supernatural. Heck, pretty much all of the creepy things that happened yesterday weren’t supernatural in the slightest; they’re all 100 percent natural. In some ways, though, I’d argue that that fact makes them even creepier — because even though we know what caused them, it’s evidence that our universe is so much bigger than we really know.
These days, of course, we know exactly what’s going on during a total solar eclipse: They occur when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, which blocks the sun and casts one heck of a shadow on our planet’s surface. They occur once every 12 to 18 months — but in order to see it in all its glory, you have to be located in the path of totality. Monday’s eclipse was notable for being the first in almost 100 years to cast a shadow across the entire contiguous United States — the path of totality reached a whopping 14 states. (The rest of us still got a show, too, though; the entire country saw at least a partial eclipse.)
But while we don’t necessarily believe in many of the myths about solar eclipses that humans have come up with throughout history anymore, there’s still a lot of weird and somewhat inexplicable stuff that happens during them anyway — and in all honesty, it’s just a teeny bit creepy. Your mileage may vary, of course — what terrifies one person often makes another shrug — but these 10 things that actually happened yesterday kind of gave me the wiggins. Anyone else?
1The Animals At The Nashville Zoo Freaked The Heck Out
The giraffes, for example, randomly started galloping right after totality — which, to be fair, isn’t unusual for the young giraffes, according to NBC News; however, the fact that the dad giraffe joined in was… unexpected. (Said zoo volunteer Stephan Foust, he “usually doesn’t do anything other than being the dad.”)
The flamingos also exhibited some weird flocking patterns, getting out of the water and huddling together at one end of their habitat while it was dark; then, after the sun came back, they headed back to the water excitedly. The rational explanation is that they thought it was night, so they went to bed, and then thought it was day again, so they woke back up — but part of me wonders whether they were all sitting there, going, "YOU GUYS THE WORLD IS ENDING TELL MY FAMILY I LOVE THEM!!!!!... Oh. Wait. Never mind."
But wait! There's more! From the Washington Post:
The gazelles reportedly “went nuts.” Siamang apes climbed to the tallest branches of their trees and then grasped even higher with their arms. A female clouded leopard stared at the crowd standing transfixed on nearby pathways when it usually would be napping in a tree. A komodo dragon stood up and looked “freaked out.” Giraffes bolted. Macaws and many other bird species reacted noisily and attempted to go inside to nest and feed. Bats briefly filled the sky and insects became noticeably louder.
When the end of the world comes, look to the animals of the Nashville Zoo. They’ll be the harbingers of doom.
2The Temperature Plummeted
Solar eclipses generally affect the weather in two ways: They make the wind do some weird things, and they cause the temperature to drop dramatically. Usually, we expect the temperature to lower by up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit; however, as the National Weather Service reported (via CBS News), in Douglas, Wy., it dropped a mind-boggling 11 degrees. The high of the day up until totality was 77 degrees — but shortly after totality hit, it rapidly sunk to 66 degrees. Hope you brought a sweater, citizens of Douglas.
3Streetlights Came On At Weird Times
Modern streetlights are generally designed to turn on automatically when it starts to get dark out. Because the eclipse resulted either in actual darkness (in the path of totality) or something resembling twilight (in the rest of the country, which saw a partial eclipse), a lot of streetlights started switching on when it was nowhere near nighttime. The limits of technology do, in fact, exist.
4A Multitude Of Tiny Crescent Moon Shadows Appeared
My husband sent me this photo when he and his office buddies took a quick break at work to view the eclipse. It’s pretty much exactly what this piece about things to look at during the eclipse that aren’t the sun from KMOV St. Louis explained we should look out for:
Shadows will appear in bizarre crescent moon shapes during the eclipse. Try looking under the shadow of a tree. As light is cast through the leaves, hundreds of little moon-shaped shadows will appear on the ground.
And, honestly? I was not expecting that. It is so cool — and also, given that I am currently in the middle of a book about what might happen to the Earth if the moon explodes into a whole bunch of smaller pieces, a wee bit terrifying in that "I have an extremely overactive imagination" kind of way.
5There Were Some Casualties
A woman in Hyden, Ky. was killed after a car swerved into a crowd of people watching the eclipse; two other people were also injured and airlifted to hospitals in the area. It’s not clear what caused the collision yet — said state police Capt. Jennifer Sandlin to NBC News, “The cause is still under investigation.”
6The Population Of Madras, Ore. Temporarily Grew To More Than 14 Times Its Usual Size
About 7,000 people live in Madras, Ore., which was right in the path of totality. By the time the eclipse occurred, more than 100,000 additional people had descended upon the small town to view the event, according to the LA Times. They had to call in the National Guard to help manage the crowds. That is bananas, y’all.
7Hopkinsville, Ky. Ran Out Of Toilet Paper
Not because of the tourists that arrived to watch the eclipse, though; Terena Bell, who hails from Hopkinsville, noted at The Verge that the TP shortage happened as the locals prepared for the arrival of all those tourists. Wrote Bell:
The people … were so worried that eclipse tourism would overrun the city that they rushed to Walmart and Kroger. Over a two hour period, every lane at Kroger had a line. "We’re selling everything," said assistant manager Wilbert Vaughn. Shelf after shelf was missing stock: We’re all out of Crisco, we’re low on sour cream, no more sweet tea.
No more toilet paper. No more sweet tea.
The horror. The horror.
8I Learned How The Flat Earth Theory Deals With Eclipses
The Flat Earth Theory posits that the Earth isn’t a globe; it’s flat. This idea flies in the face of science, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the theory also posits that all of the science that disproves the Flat Earth Theory is actually a hoax — a cover-up executed by the government. Basically, the whole thing is one heck of a conspiracy theory.
Curious about how Flat Earthers explain eclipses, BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos went right to the source — and what she found is… interesting. According to the Flat Earth Theory, we (on a flat Earth) live under a giant dome, with the sun and the moon crisscrossing the dome ceiling in order to bring about day and night. The eclipse, therefore, is “caused by something (probably the same size, maybe not the moon) passing in front of the sun” beneath the dome. The Flat Earth Theory also states that eclipses disprove the idea of the world being a globe based on “the shadow issue” — that is, the theory believes that if the Earth really were a globe, the shadow of the moon would be bigger.
As someone who firmly believes the evidence in support of the Earth being a globe, not flat, this is all really weird to me.
9The Legacy Left By This Boston Globe Article
The article was titled, “The Eclipse Will Pass Overwhelmingly Over Trump Country.” It’s not wrong — but it also gave rise to a whoooooole lot of hilarious riffs and parodies. WaPo put together a map of where best to watch the eclipse with goats. Cartographer Joshua Stevens made one of the best spots to see the eclipse and a sasquatch at the same time. John Nelson, who does data visualization, made one of the overlap between the path of totality and UFO sightings. Want to see the eclipse while eating at Waffle House? Jerry Shannon of the University of Georgia’s Geography department has you covered. The possibilities are endless.