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Vancouverites gather for solar eclipse of a lifetime

Hundreds attended viewing parties across the city to watch the highly anticipated eclipse

People share eclipse viewers in Vancouver during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. 2017.

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Wanyee Li / Metro

People share eclipse viewers in Vancouver during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. 2017.

Hundreds gathered at solar eclipse viewing parties across Vancouver Monday morning to witness the spectacular celestial event.

Many brought homemade pinhole cameras, others brought a piece of paper with a hole poked through it, and yet others used whatever they could find, including leaves.

Co-workers Grace Potma and Andrew Brown stepped out of a meeting in their downtown office to see the eclipse.

“We helped other people, they borrowed our pen and poked holes through their paper. It’s been fun,” said Potma.

The pair poked holes in a file folder in a smiley face pattern in preparation for the eclipse.

“We started with a few simple pin holes and we thought they look like smiley faces right now so we made it into a full happy face,” she said.

Their pattern choice reflected the friendly atmosphere at the crowded Robson Square plaza, as strangers standing shoulder to shoulder shared eclipse glasses and traded tips on how to make pinhole projectors.

Most people at Robson Square didn’t have eclipse viewers – the lineup to buy them snaked around the Vancouver Art Gallery but they sold out before the eclipse even started.

Vancouver resident David Heinrich decided to line up for 30 minutes at Robson Square instead to look at the eclipse through a telescope provided by the UBC Astronomy Club.

“It’s not something you’ll get to see in Vancouver for another 300 years so I don’t want to wait for that.”

“The sun is more than half-way covered,” he told Metro after he had his turn at the telescope.

Charlene Lo was on her way to work when she found a fallen leaf and poked a hole through it to project the eclipse onto the sidewalk.

“We have a naturalist on staff and he told us the best place to see an eclipse was in a forest because all the trees will act as apertures and will project the eclipse onto the ground,” she said.

“I’m just making do with what we have in the city.”

Just then, a chorus of cheers erupted in the square. It was 10:21 a.m. – the peak of the eclipse when the moon covered 86 per cent of the sun in Vancouver. People simultaneously peered into their pinhole cameras, made from cereal boxes, shoeboxes, and amazon delivery boxes.

Anyone can make one, explained Isis Piccillo, a visitor from California.

“I actually got here last night and I didn’t even have Canadian money yet so my friend gave me all the materials.”

Computer science graduate Ghislaine Chan said she made do with office supplies.

“I’ve got some shoeboxes in the office and we have tinfoil in the kitchen, used some scissors and some tape. This is science at work – I love science."

But some dedicated locals travelled to Oregon, where the moon would completely cover the sun.

North Vancouver resident Ian Louzado, 30, traveled to Kouvalis, Oregon.

"I figured, 'Why not, we're close,'" he told Metro in an interview.

"It was worth the trip."

He met up with three friends to watch the eclipse: two New Zealanders who traveled from the U.K. and Australia respectively, and Kouvalis local Thanh Nguyen, 24. 

"Apparently we had an influx of more than one million people coming here,"

Nguyen said. "I'm pretty excited about seeing what an eclipse looks like in person."

With files from David P. Ball

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