August 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm #176084
With this Monday (August 21st, 2017) being the so-called “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” (since the path of totality will move across the “Lower 48” from the Pacific to the Atlantic), I decided to look back at TV coverage of past total solar eclipses.
What may have been the first (or at worst, one of the first) attempts to broadcast a solar eclipse on TV was on Saturday, July 20th, 1963. As far as I know, only one network carried coverage, which wasn’t even live. CBS sent a plane with a camera, a tape machine, and correspondent Douglas Edwards to record the eclipse over Canada, and once the plane landed, the tape was fed to New York and the network, where it aired from 6:30 to 7 P.M. EDT. I think this was the only network coverage of the 1963 eclipse.
Here in Boston, there were two local telecasts of that eclipse. One was done by WBZ-4, which had a camera atop their studio building in the Brighton section of Boston, doing three updates of five minutes each at 4:55, 5:45, and 6:30 P.M. (the first two interrupted regular programs; the third update delayed the start of the station’s local news).
WNAC-7 did something a bit more elaborate. They aired a full hour from 5:30-6:30 P.M., featuring not only shots from a camera located atop their studios in Boston’s Kenmore Square, but also from Bangor, Maine (which was in the path of “totality”). I suspect that either a Bangor TV station and/or WNAC’s then sister station WOR-9 New York assisted ‘NAC with the coverage.
On March 7th, 1970, a total eclipse moved up the U.S. East Coast. That day, all three networks of the era carried it live, with NBC on the air from 12 Noon to 1:30 P.M. EST; ABC and CBS each being on from 1 to 2 P.M. EST.
The CBS telecast can be found on You Tube, below are links to the six parts:
1-1:10 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW_Y29zfH0I .
1:10-1:20 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRI1AdSSy1k .
1:20-1:30 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDLR2-EeK-o .
1:30-1:40 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTKQFurxWD4 .
1:40-1:50 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ohm6wkX5o8 .
1:50-1:59 P.M. EST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZP9Rd5rdfg .
Interestingly enough, Walter Cronkite was not in the anchor chair that day for CBS; Charles Kuralt had been taken “off the road” long enough to host it.
On February 26th, 1979, the most recent (until this coming week) total solar eclipse took place with totality over the Pacific Northwest and Central Canada. ABC scheduled a half-hour special from 11 to 11:30 A.M. EST, while NBC scheduled twenty minutes of live coverage from 11:10 to 11:30 A.M. Eastern time. I don’t think CBS had scheduled any special coverage but wound yup (if my memory serves me correct) with about fifteen minutes of coverage.
Portions of ABC’s coverage of the 1979 eclipse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAacZoIJUN0&t=48s .
Frank Reynolds, one of three tri-anchors of the network’s evening newscast at the time, was anchorman of the ABC special.
Canada’s CBC aired a special (presumably from 11 to 11:37 A.m. EST; co-anchored by Bill Guest and Robert Vallentyne from Winnipeg): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ5gr7aTtg4 .
Source for historical TV listings of past eclipse coverage on the U.S. networks and local Boston television: Vintage issues of the Boston Globe.August 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm #176111
Well wow Frank Reynolds managed to get this prediction right though via what Nasa said at the time on the ABC News coverage of the 1979 eclipse.
But this Monday some of you may get local coverage of the Eclipse due to the fact that Oregon to South Carolina are places that happen to get 100% total eclipse.
But for areas outside of the path we will get network coverage of the eclipse and various Youtube shows specifically on astronomy will get wall-to-wall coverage of the eclipse.
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