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Tourism officials in Kenya and Uganda have
started a fight over the rare eclipse expected
in Turkana on Sunday. The November 3
hybrid eclipse will be seen across the world
but the totality, which thousands of eclipse-
lovers are chasing, will only be viewed in
Congo-Brazzavile, the DR Congo, Uganda and
northern Kenya.
Both Kenya and Uganda are aggressively
using the event to break new grounds in
tourism. But barely a week after Kenyan
officials said experts had identified Turkana
as the best place in the world to view the
total eclipse, Uganda has rubbished those
views.
Tourism minister Maria Mutagamba said that
“experts” have actually said Uganda has the
best location in the world to view the eclipse.
Maria told the state-owned New Vision
newspaper the government would spend
USh500 million (about Sh17 million) for the
preparations.
The announcement came days after the
Kenya Wildlife Service said it would spend
Sh10 million “in preparations to host
thousands of astronomy enthusiasts” on the
eastern shores of Lake Turkana.
Kenya Tourism Board and the KWS have
fought back insisting Turkana will be the
epicentre of the once-in-a-life-time
occurrence. “We can confirm that there are
over 1,000 bookings for the event but we
expect more astronomy lovers and adventure
enthusiasts to join the caravan,” said KTB
managing director Muriithi Ndegwa.
Uganda says it expects at least 3,000 tourists, mostly
scientists and academicians. Sunday’s hybrid eclipse
is extremely rare and important in astronomy
because it is a combination of three eclipses.
Kenyans who miss it will wait until 2041 for the last
total solar eclipse viewable in the country this
century, according to the US space agency, Nasa.
KWS says it is using the eclipse promote adventure
tourism and exploitation of astro and archaeological
Tourism in Northern Kenya.
Local astronomers said Kenya is indeed the best
place to catch the action because of a high chance of
clear skies and a unique background of Lake Turkana.
“The area surrounding Lake Turkana in Northern
Kenya is the best land-based eclipse viewing site
along the track,” says Susan Murabana, who heads
communication and marketing for the Nairobi-based
African Astronomical Society. “There’s a 75 per cent
chance of clear skies. The location is also beautiful
and we’ll also have a chance to see Saturn and
Mercury,” she told the Star.
The total eclipse makes landfall in Gabon, where
there will be 68 seconds of totality. It will then move
through Congo (53 seconds of totality), Democratic
Republic of Congo (44 seconds), Uganda (19
seconds), and northern Kenya (13 seconds). It ends
in southern Ethiopia and parts of Somalia, who get
barely one second of totality, before the sun
completely sets.
The totality is what star-gazers and eclipse-
enthusiasts will be chasing. It is the part where the
sun’s searing disk is totally blocked by the moon,
which now appears like a black hole encircled by a
glowing white halo from the sun.
This will last only 13 seconds in northern Kenya,
beginning 5.25pm. Murabana says the rest of Kenya
will actually witness the eclipse but will miss the
totality. They will see the sun as a crescent, that’s all.
“So everyone in Kenya should not look at the sun,
unless wearing protective goggles,” she says.
Murabana says the entire eclipse will last two hours,
beginning 4.13pm and ending at 6.27pm. “The 13-
second totality in northern Kenya begins at 5.25pm,”
she says.
Various tour operators say bookings are almost
closing. Rotary Club has signed up almost 100
people who will go to Turkana on plane and on
overland truck. “The proceeds from the trip will go to
maternal and child health programmes in the area,”
says Murabana, also a Rotary Club member.
University of Nairobi anthropology Dr Simiyu
Wandiba will lead the Rotary group and give
seminars on astronomy and anthropology. Turkana is
seen as the best location because of its reputation as
the cradle of mankind. Kenya to date has the highest
number of fossils of human remains – approximately
1,000 individuals – mostly excavated in Turkana.
The county also hosts one of the world’s oldest
astronomical sites at Kalokol village. The 19 large
basalt pillars found in the remote village date
approximately 2,000 years. Scientists believe the
stones align with the movement of the seven
constellations and stars corresponding to the 354-
day lunar calendar of the cushites.
It is also one of the poorest counties in Kenya but
recently large amounts of water and oil have been
found beneath its soils. Marsabit Governor Ukur
Yatani is, however, not amused that neighbouring
Turkana has hogged all the limelight. The upper part
of Marsabit County, which actually includes most of
Lake Turkana, falls on the path of the total eclipse.
Says Yatani: “With the solar eclipse coming up, and
the best place worldwide to view it being in Marsabit
County, we are fortunate. This is a major tourist
attraction and it will attract huge crowds. It lastly, in
1973, attracted over 15,000 people from all over the
world. Our target this year is higher than that
number. I urge all Kenyans out there to come and
share this historic moment with the rest of Marsabit.”
On the other hand, in Uganda, the total eclipse will
pass through some remote villages including the
rebel-infested Gulu area. Apart from Rotary Club,
several other local and international groups will bring
in eclipse enthusiasts.
KWS says it will host about 1,000 tourists at Sibiloi
National Park in Marsabit County, on the eastern side
of Lake Turkana. US Sky & Telescope magazine will
also host an eclipse expedition on the eastern shore
of Lake Turkana. The guests include leading
meteorologist Jay Anderson, famously known as the
high priest of eclipse-weather forecasting.

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Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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