Scientists And Tourists Gather Together In Fort Laramie For The Eclipse

Aug 22, 2017

Site overlooking Fort Laramie B & B
Credit Cooper McKim

During the eclipse, the Fort Laramie B & B saw a bigger crowd than they have ever seen. The four-bedroom lodge saw more than a hundred camped out. The crowd was comprised of a family reunion, researchers, and tourists all gathered together. A group from the University of Montana was there thanks to a space grant from NASA. 

One student, Loren Spencer, took advantage of the clear sky the night before the eclipse to set up his telescope. With several gathered around, he pointed to a long streak that he identified as the Milky Way. 

The next morning, the University of Montana group began setting up space to blow up their radiosonde balloons. The group had already released several and were planning to release several more at certain intervals throughout the day to learn about the eclipse. A radiosonde is an instrument that captures altitude, temperature, wind, humidity, and pressure, then sends that information back through radio signals. The group planned to release around 20 balloons throughout the trip. 

As the moon began to cover the sun, some families jumped onto a truck for a hay ride. Many tourists walked off to a clearing with lawn chairs to get a good view. Several people said there was an energy in the air. Overlooking the B & B, one group of researchers stood on a tall mound overlooking the B & B with a 360-degree view of the horizon. As day turned momentarily to night, they celebrated. You can hear a clip of their response here:

Afterwards, Becky Bramlage said, “I feel almost tightness in my chest. It’s hard to describe. This light feels almost like opposite, like a mirror of what we just felt." 

Loren Spencer is one of the scientists who was particularly excited to be in the path of totality. Back near the B & B, he was standing alone underneath some shade. Spencer wiped his eyes from the emotion.

He said the awe wasn't just for the eclipse itself, but for the fact that humanity was able to pinpoint the very moment it would happen.

“That we can think, see things, analyze it, figure it out, use scientific methods to keep from fooling ourselves about stuff.” Spencer said, “We know now that’s not giant sky wolves eating the sun.”

Spencer said he hopes to see the next eclipse to pass through North America in 2024.