CHARLESTON, S.C. — They used to say that during a solar eclipse the gods were eating or stealing the sun. And that can’t be good.
It didn’t help that after an eclipse in A.D. 1133 King Henry I of England died. So the tales grew that those things were omens of death and destruction. And for centuries since eclipses have frightened people around the globe.
So I couldn’t help but ponder death and destruction as I traveled here for The Great American Eclipse last Monday at the new home of a cousin of mine near here.
On this page in March I described viewing the 1970 eclipse from my hometown backyard when I was a high school student. That partial eclipse disappointed, as the moon just didn’t hide enough of the sun. Sunglasses would’ve given a similar effect.
So for this eclipse I wanted something spectacular. And I drove south and into the path of eclipse totality, a full blocking of the sun. I wanted to see things get dark during the light of day.
But, alas, a big, dark, blue/gray storm cloud came up from over the ocean about 45 minutes before eclipse totality and covered the sky and sun. Local TV said the cloud parked right over my location. Another disappointment. Sigh.
The dark storm added to my sense of foreboding. Eclipse. Storm clouds. Death and destruction. Can’t be good.
It didn’t help that Emergency Management here had tweeted a warning about the Charleston Lizard Man, the locals’ version of Bigfoot and Sasquatch.
“SCEMD does not know if Lizardmen become more active during a solar eclipse,” said the tweet, tongue-in-cheek — hopefully. “But we advise that residents of Lee and Sumter counties should remain ever vigilant.”
That can’t be good, either.
I did get to see a break in the clouds with a sliver of the moon still in front of a sliver of the sun as I made it to Colonial Lake, a favorite spot of mine here. Since the 1880s Colonial Lake has been a beautiful, peaceful tidal pond that in recent times became encircled by a wide, Palmetto-shaded walking track and plenty of inviting park benches. A picturesque, surrounding neighborhood is home to a lot of lucky residents.
Colonial Lake is eight blocks from the famous Charleston Battery, the tip of old Charleston’s peninsula with dramatic views of the harbor and Fort Sumter of Civil War fame.
In May 2014 the leftest political group Union of Concerned Scientists released a report citing Charleston as one of 30 seaside cities that will be seriously inundated by rising seas due to global warming.
The Union was best known during the Cold War years for its doomsday clock set at a couple of seconds before midnight, a way of predicting imminent nuclear war that would destroy mankind. We’re still waiting on that one.
Under the group’s new scenario, the ocean will rise up to Colonial Park, and much of what we know of and love about historic Charleston will be no more.
“Charleston will have to be as aggressive in protecting itself from present and future climate change as it has been in preserving the city’s cultural past,” said the 84-page report, titled National Landmarks at Risk.
Rising seas also will take out Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks, the Statue of Liberty in New York City harbor, Johnson Space Center in Houston and other coastal landmarks, the report predicted.
And in case you don’t have enough to worry about, how about this:
There’s a little-known earthquake fault line here. It’s called the South Georgia rift zone, it’s a big one, and it runs right under Charleston harbor.
You think of earthquakes and California, normally. They’ve been predicting impending disaster for Los Angeles and surroundings for decades now. California will drop into the sea, they repeatedly predict. If you need convincing, look up the two-night, 1990 NBC TV movie, “The Great Los Angeles Earthquake.”
You do not think of earthquakes and Charleston. But the fault line caused a powerful quake here in 1886, one of the most powerful ones ever in the eastern U.S.
Estimated at up to 7.3 magnitude, the Charleston quake killed between 60 and 110, damaged 2,000 buildings, and cost between $5 million and $8 million, equaling more than $141 million today, according to Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia.
As it happened once, it can happen again. These things tend to happen when you least expect them. And you know that if it happens, it will happen while I’m here.
So while sitting on a bench at Colonial Lake following The Great American Eclipse I waited to see if the sky would fall, the earth rumble, and the tide roll in and lap at my toes.
No reports of death, destruction, disaster or Lizardmen were to be seen or heard, and all became right with the world once again.
We dodged the bullet this time. Whew.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.