In the Shadow of History

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 is one for the history books. It’s been 38 years since the last total eclipse of the sun passed through the Continental United States. The last total solar eclipse to pass from one coast of the U.S. to the other occurred nearly a century ago in 1918. On August 21, the eclipse finishes its sweeping transcontinental tour through South Carolina before heading out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Locals and eclipse-chasers alike will gather in the Upstate and parts of the Lowcountry to experience this spectacle as the moon passes in front of the sun. Some areas of South Carolina will experience as much as 2 minutes and 38 seconds of totality. In Greenville, darkness will last 2 minutes and 8 seconds; Columbia will experience 2 minutes and 30 seconds of darkness; and, in Charleston, the moon will completely block the sun for 1 minute, 40 seconds. The temperature will suddenly drop, the wind will stop, and birds will stop singing.

From coast to coast—Oregon to South Carolina—the eclipse will cross the U.S. in just 94 minutes. Moving at an average speed of 1,472 mph, the moon’s shadow will enter South Carolina at 2:36 p.m. EDT and leave the Atlantic coast at 2:49 p.m. EDT. The path of totality is only 60-70 miles wide, but those outside the path can still see a partial eclipse with proper viewing glasses.

If you don’t see the eclipse this year, don’t worry; you won’t have to wait another century until the next one. A total solar eclipse will visit North America again on April 8, 2024.

Eclipse Viewings and Events

Those in Beaufort County, including Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort, will experience a partial eclipse with the moon covering more than 90 percent of the sun.

As spectacular as this view will be, it’s only about a two-and-a-half-hour drive up to Charleston, where you can see the total solar eclipse. Leading up to this historical happening, Charleston will hold several events, including dramatic readings of Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse,” a baseball game, yoga and more. Also in Charleston, the eclipse can be viewed from Pier 101 on Folly Beach, the Citadel Mall, Isle of Palms, and aboard the USS Yorktown. View the Holy City’s eclipse event calendar at charlestoncvb.com.

Library branches throughout Beaufort County will be giving away special eclipse viewing glasses to people who attend eclipse programming either on the day of or prior to August 21. Local branches will screen NASA’s live coverage of the eclipse starting at 11:45 a.m. and other scheduled events include building pinhole projectors for eclipse viewing and building model solar systems. beaufortcountylibrary.org.

The path of totality will cross over mostly rural counties west and south of Asheville, North Carolina—including parts of Clay, Graham, Swain, Macon, Jackson and Transylvania—entering at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and exiting at Transylvania County, then passing directly over Greenville, South Carolina.

August 18-21, the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia will host a weekend-long celebration with activities, exhibitions and shows all leading up to solar eclipse totality which occurs at 2:41 p.m. on Monday, including a special appearance by South Carolina native and Apollo 16 astronaut, Gen. Charles Duke. Other special events scheduled in the “Famously Hot” city include an Eclipse Geocaching Cointrail, the South Carolina Philharomic’s Star Wars Musiclipse concert and an Eclipse Drive-In Movie at the Historic Columbia Speedway in nearby Cayce. Visit totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com for details on these and other happenings.

South Carolina cities experiencing a total eclipse include Anderson, Cayce, Charleston, Clemson, Columbia, Easley, Georgetown, Goose Creek, Greenville, Greenwood, Greer, Hanahan, Irmo, Kingstree, Laurens, Lexington, Manning, Mauldin, McClellanville, Mount Pleasant, Newberry, North Charleston, Orangeburg, Santee, St. George, Seneca, Simpsonville, Summerville, Sumter and West Columbia.

A partial solar eclipse will be seen in Aiken, Bluffton, Beaufort, Florence, Gaffney, Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach, North Augusta, Rock Hill, Spartanburg. However, special viewing glasses must be worn to see it.

Know Before You Go

  • Heavy traffic may be a concern, so plan accordingly.
  • Designate a safe and legal place to park during the eclipse; do not stop on the roads and interstates to watch.
  • If you’re driving during the eclipse, be extra aware of other drivers. Some people may be surprised and may become distracted or disoriented by the sudden darkness.
  • In the event of an emergency, be prepared for cell phone systems and emergency services to be overwhelmed.
  • Never look at the sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device even while using eclipse glasses. Ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. Limited quantities of eclipse glasses will be available at multiple viewing sites, so get yours early!
  • A solar filter must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, or camera lens. To view totality, the filter must be quickly removed when the total phase begins.