From the September 2, 1932 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

“Millions viewed the eclipse.” So said the mainland newspapers, and the Vineyard added its thousands to the common mass. Plans for obtaining the best view of this unusual display in the heavens were formulated days previous in many cases, several of the larger pleasure craft of the Island ports setting sail early Wednesday morning with groups of guests on board, bound easterly where the eclipse was more nearly total.

But there were many thousands left on the Island who drove to the hilltops armed with all sorts of paraphernalia with which to gaze at the dwindling face of the sun. The equipment ranged from exposed Kodak film with three-foot window panes well-darkened with candle smoke. It was easy to tell who had been gazing skyward by the smoke marks on their noses.

In Edgartown some of the old time widow’s walks and cupolas were used as observatories by householders and their guests.

Most of the watchers were at their observation stations more than an hour before anything occurred, and for some the eclipse appeared to be a trifle tardy. Many persons were at Gay Head Lighthouse and the Coast Guard station where a few seem to be laboring under the impression that the eclipse was regulated by the U.S. government, and that someone was to blame at the tardiness. However, the obliging officers in charge saw that none went away dissatisfied.

The bank of clouds that had hung in the west since the early forenoon melted and blew away like a curtain shortly before the eclipse took place, as if forces of nature were lending their aid to insure the finest possible view.

Slowly the curved shadow intruded itself over the sun’s face, cutting a thin ring from the edge of the brilliant orb. Steadily it crept onward, the ridges remaining clean-cut, without a sign of vapor or cloud to obscure the effect. The shadows grew long and longer. Twilight came. All traffic ceased on the highways and as the twilight deepened the far-off crowing of a rooster could be heard through the still air. No voice was raised. Nature and humanity observed their minute of silence and for that minute the shadow of the moon appeared to stand still, leaving but a thin crescent of the sun’s orb showing below the shielding edge. A thin “nail paring” as it has been called, slightly higher at the northern point.

This point lengthened, broadened, and the earth quickly grew lighter. A far-off fowl began to crackle, the rooster crowed once more. Voices began to break the silence, and the whirr of a car starter was the signal for the start of the homeward parade.

But even after the sun began to shine once more there were still sungazers on the hilltops adding more candle smoke to their already camouflaged noses or peering through colored glass. But the eclipse was over.

A feature of the eclipse which greatly impressed watchers here who were fortunate enough to observe it, was the crescents of the sun on the ground when the sun shone between the leaves of the trees. Miss Martha A. Hurlbut of Hurlbut-by-the-Sea, Oak Bluffs, describes the phenomenon as follows:

“Although we did not see the total eclipse, we did have the privilege of watching a most interesting and beautiful display of the crescents.

“Under the catalpa trees at one of the homes on the Highlands the family spread a sheet on the ground. At 3:25 p.m. the light spots on the sheet were quite circular, that is, the ordinary shadows being seen. Before 4 p.m., as the sun shone between the leaves, a semblance of crescents appeared by 4 definite crescents were scattered all over the sheet, until designs of more than common interest were manifested.

“The neighbors all around gathered to watch this unusual sight. As the shadow of the moon began to leave the sun, the crescents changed completely their position and were just the reverse of the first ones. As the shadows lengthened, these crescents were thrown on the nearby road and extended for a distance of about thirty feet very clearly and distinctly.”

The eclipse was all it could have been, given only about ninety-nine per cent totality. There could be no shadow bands, no corona, no sudden blackening of the face of the earth. But here was a strange twilight, yellowish and cool, with long shadows stretched out queerly in the evening that was not evening. When the sun was almost covered there were only a few clouds anywhere near, and these were tinged with the colors of the rainbow, made pearly, and brought out in relief. With smoked glass and other protection to the eye, the Island looked up and saw the burning sun reduced to a sliver.

Again the scientists were right. The celestial bodies passed and curtsied as astronomers said they would. The time of the heavenly event was foretold to a fraction of a second. If scientists are this well informed about matters of the sky, doubtless other amazing things they talk about and write about are also true. Astronomy is strange business.

Compiled by Hilary Wall