(PHOTOS, VIDEO) HOW’S YOUR ECLIPSE? Coastal Humboldt is Socked In, But People Are Flocking Inland to Get Views

Hank Sims / Today @ 10:07 a.m. / Nature

NASA live stream of the eclipse.

We’re just about ready to reach peak eclipse. Here in Eureka, everything looks the same as it always does — thick, dense layer of fog blocking out all view of the sun — except for the fact that it looks like it’s about 6:30 in the morning rather than 10 a.m.

Inland, though — the fog has lifted, and crowds are swarming up for a glimpse! Check out the scene up at Kneeland School, where the Outpost’s Ryan Burns is stationed:

Kneeland School. Photo: Ryan Burns.

Kneeland School. Photo: Ryan Burns.

Now look at Berry Summit as of a few minutes ago, courtesy of the Outpost’s Andrew Goff!


They look like they’re having a good time!

We’ll update here in case anyone gets a good Humboldt picture of the sun. In the meanwhile — if you’re fog-bound, maybe follow the livestream above?

Happy eclipse day!

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UPDATE:

Totality was acheived. Screenshot from the livestream above.


MORE →


HARDIN: An Honest Value in Humboldt County

John Hardin / Today @ 7:03 a.m. / Op-Ed

When I drank beer, the Eel River Brewing Company made my favorite. Their Organic IPA had everything I was looking for in a beer. It’s strong, satisfyingly hoppy and all organic. I love the fact that they make it right here in Humboldt County, but a big part of what I love about Eel River Organic IPA, is the price. I used to get Eel River Organic IPA at Eureka Natural Foods, or the Liquor Store in Redway for $28.88 a case. Just last week I saw that they still have it at ENF at that same price. That works out to about $1.20 per 12 oz bottle, which seems like a bargain to me.

I bought a lot Eel River Organic IPA over the years, amounting to thousands of individual beers, and I never got a bad one. Every single bottle tasted consistently crisp and refreshing. People take this for granted with beer, but unless you’ve paid good money for a badly skunked and undrinkable beer you probably don’t fully appreciate it. I thank the Whale Gulch Brewery for making me really appreciate the quality control at Eel River Brewery.

Of course, I could have drunk Budweiser for about half as much money, and found it available in even more convenient locations, or I could have chosen Hamms for even less, but I chose Eel River IPA because I don’t mind paying a bit more for real quality. I don’t have extravagant tastes. I never bought their Imperial IPA at something approaching $10 a bottle. After all, I’m not made of money, and beer isn’t everything, but I like a good one, and I appreciate it when someone can make a good one at a good price, so I don’t mind giving them this entirely unsolicited publicity.

Look at what goes into an Eel River Organic IPA. First you need organic barley. The field has to be certified organic. The farmer has to plant it, water it, fertilize it, protect it from pests, harvest it, hull it and cure it, and make money at it. From there, the barley has to be sprouted, and roasted at a very specific temperature for a very specific amount of time. In addition to barley, you need hops, an aromatic flower not unlike cannabis. The hops have to be grown in a certified organic field, watered, fertilized, protected from pests and picked at peak florescence. Hops also have to be cured and dried properly.

Besides the ag products, you need an abundant supply of clean water, and you need to deal with a lot of organic waste material properly. You need a specific strain of yeast. You need someplace to boil it all together, and you need the fuel to make the heat. You need a sterilized fermenter with an air-lock, big enough to hold it all, and you need to keep it within a narrow temperature range for a matter of weeks. Then you need to bottle it, with just a dash of sugar in each bottle for sparkle, cap it, and let it age for a few more weeks before you sell it to the distributor.

The distributor buys it, tacks on all of the taxes, then takes it to the store, and sells it to the store owner, at a profit. The store buys it, and marks it up again, before they sell it to me, at $28.88 a case. I’m happy, and everybody gets paid. Nobody makes too much, but everyone makes enough to keep doing it. That’s what makes Eel River Organic IPA a success. It’s quality, but it isn’t just quality. It’s quality, done efficiently. It’s honest value that makes Eel River Organic IPA such a great beer.

Now let’s compare this great local beer to our even more famous local product, marijuana. To make marijuana, you need to plant it, water it, fertilize it, harvest it, dry it and cure it. In the past, you also had to hide it. Time was, we had the best place in the country to hide marijuana, and there was so much of a premium on cannabis because of prohibition, that it was worth the expense of dragging everything else you needed to grow marijuana, including the topsoil, fertilizer and even the sunlight, in the form of generators and lights, out to the middle of the forest in Humboldt County to do it.

No one would dream of hauling soil up the side of a mountain to a hole in the forest to plant barley. If they did, that would be some expensive barley, and unless they could think of some kind of hype to convince people that the barley they grew was better than barley grown by competent farmers, working fertile soil, on flat land, in full sun, out in the open, they would soon go out of business. Unless they could lobby the legislature to create all kinds of strict licensing of barley. They could argue that since barley is used to produce beer, which is responsible for millions of deaths every year, of course we need to strictly limit where, and how much of it can be grown They could use their influence in government to create an artificial shortage of barley that would drive the price of beer through the roof, and allow them to sell their expensive barley at a profit.

Right now, the marijuana industry is conspiring with politicians to keep marijuana expensive and to stifle competition and prevent innovation. The cannabis industry has given more money to gubernatorial candidates than all other farmers in the state combined, and most of that money went to Gavin Newsom who has promised to keep the price of marijuana high, to protect drug dealer’s profits, while he screws cannabis consumers who are sick of high prices and communities all over the state who will have to deal with black market crime for the foreseeable future.

That’s not a bargain; that’s a ripoff. There’s no honest value anywhere in the marijuana industry. Instead, it’s full of hype, greed, and government coercion. If you happen to get good pot out of it, that is more or less beside the point. You didn’t really have much of a choice. You paid through the nose to people who feel entitled to your money, and you settled for whatever you got. We deserve a better deal.

A better deal means open competition that rewards innovation. A better deal means licensing large-scale cannabis grows on agricultural land to stop people from hauling soil up the side of a mountain to a hole in the forest by putting them out of business. A better deal means we have a choice of fine cannabis products, in every price range, that are safe, consistent and reliable. Until we have a better deal, we don’t even know what an honest bargain looks like in the marijuana industry.

Someday, if we ever get a better deal, some Humboldt cannabis entrepreneur may develop a profitable cannabis product that matches the honest value of Eel River Brewery’s Organic IPA, but I sure haven’t seen it yet.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.



WILDFIRE UPDATE; Plus, Brush Fire on Eureka Waterfront Adds More Smoke Above Our Heads

Ryan Burns / Yesterday @ 6:32 p.m. / Fire

A brush fire burns on waterfront property at the north end of Eureka Sunday evening. | Photos by Ryan Burns.

As wildfires continue to incinerate thousands of acres in the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests, on Sunday evening Humboldt Bay Fire responded to a small brush fire on the Eureka waterfront.

Around 5:30 p.m. the incident commander on scene told the Outpost that the blaze, located at the foot of V Street, was about half-an-acre in size, moving at a moderate pace and did not threaten any structures. He predicted it would grow to about an acre before firefighters got it under control. 

Area business owners say the property is a regular camping spot for homeless.

We’ll update this post if more information comes in tonight.

Meanwhile, the Orleans complex, which expanded to include 19 separate fires over the weekend, had grown by Sunday afternoon to 7,663 acres. That size despite the fact that 13 of the 19 fires have been completely contained. The remaining six are being fought using a combination of containment and confinement strategies, according to a press release from Six Rivers National Forest.

A total of 729 fire personnel in 19 fire crews were battling the blazes on Sunday, utilizing eight helicopters, 19 dozers and eight water tenders.

The nearby Ruth Complex fires had grown to 4,666 acres by late Sunday, though it was 80 percent contained.

An air quality advisory remains in effect.

Another angle on the fire in Eureka.



Inmate Tased After Assaulting Correctional Officers, Two Nurses in Unexplained Attack

Hank Sims / Yesterday @ 1:49 p.m. / Crime

From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

On August 19, 2017 at about 8:35 p.m., 42 year old Taume DeMarco, an inmate in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility, assaulted a female Correctional Deputy and two female medical nurses during a routine medication pass. DeMarco was arrested and booked into the facility on August 9, 2017 by the Fortuna Police Department forcharges of PC245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon. At the time of the assault he was housed in a maximum security celled unit.

DeMarco was receiving medication in his housing unit when, for unknown reasons, he became aggressive and struck one of the nurses attending to him. The Correctional Deputy quickly came to the aid of the nurse and was able to separate her from DeMarco. When the Deputy attempted to use her radio to call for back-up, DeMarco assaulted her by striking her in the face, then wrapped his arms around her pinning her arms to her body so that she was unable to finish her call. The Deputy was able to break free from DeMarco’s hold and push him to the ground. The second nurse called for emergency back-up using her radio. DeMarco refused to follow orders to stay on the ground and instead got up and began to attack the second nurse by attempting to strike her in the face. The Deputy grabbed her department issued conducted electrical weapon (Taser) and deployed it striking DeMarco, while the nurses moved to safety. Additional Deputies arrived and placed DeMarco in handcuffs. He was escorted to a holding cell in the Processing area. DeMarco, the Deputy and both nurses received medical attention for injuries sustained during the assault.

Without the quick response from the Correctional Deputy, this situation may have resulted in a serious assault to facility medical staff.
DeMarco was arrested and charged with PC241.1 (felony assault on a custodial officer), PC243.1 (felony battery on a custodial officer), PC243(c) (1) (felony battery with injury on custodial officer), PC243(b) (misdemeanor battery on an EMT, Firefighter) and two counts of PC241(c) (misdemeanor assault on emergency personnel). His bail has been set at $25,000.

The case has been submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney for prosecution.



Outpost Investigation Finds Illegal Sales Through Public Administrator’s Office Date Back to at Least 2013

Ryan Burns / Yesterday @ 7 a.m. / Local Government

Close-up of one of more than a thousand receipts written by the Humboldt County Public Administrator’s Bureau since 2012 for items sold in estate sales handled by the bureau. The writing can be hard to make out. | Photos: Ryan Burns

As the California Department of Justice continues its investigation into Humboldt County’s Public Administrator Bureau (a division of the Sheriff’s Office), the Outpost has examined more than a thousand hand-written receipts for items sold in estate sales handled by that bureau. Those records show that the practice of selling items from the recently deceased to deputies of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (and the independent County Coroner/Public Administrator’s Office before they consolidated) dates as least as far back as early 2013.

As we reported last month, all such sales are deemed a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine, up to a year in the county jail or both. The Public Administrator is entrusted with serving as the executor of estates for people who die without any heirs or without relatives who are willing and able to handle the estates themselves.

Since the Outpost first reported on this controversy, a number of people have come forward with stories about how the Public Administrator Bureau handled — or mishandled — the estates of their own friends and family. Some said deputies promised to notify them before selling certain belongings but then failed to do so. One woman said she was accused by county employees of stealing a car for which she had a valid bill of sale, handwritten by the man she’d cared for during his final months of life.

The Outpost also learned that the Public Administrator Bureau likely hasn’t been following another law, California Probate Code section 7605, which requires all public administrators in the state to meet continuing education requirements established by a nonprofit oversight organization called the California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators (PA/PG/PC).

Sheriff William Honsal told the Outpost that until the current fiscal year, “no one at the Sheriff’s Office (or the previous Coroner’s office) was ever certified through the PAPGPC group.”

Receipt book from the Public Administrator Bureau.

First, let’s look at the receipts. It’s hard to say whether the Department of Justice will see in them an honest attempt to be above-board or a failure to follow the law. 

On one hand, they record hundreds and hundreds of individual transactions. Handwritten in bound books of three-part receipts, the records shown to the Outpost include just the bottom, pink-colored copy of the original receipts, which are supposed to include every financial transaction from estates being handled by the Public Administrator Bureau.

Poring over them you’ll find records of even the smallest of transactions. For example, there’s a receipt for the one-dollar sale of a single photograph. There are also receipts for cash found on the bodies of the deceased and in their homes, in amounts both large and small. And while we found dozens of sales to deputies (or their wives) the vast majority of items appear to have been sold to people not employed by the Public Administrators Bureau or the Sheriff’s Office. 

On the other hand, most of the receipts are written in a cursive that’s difficult, sometimes impossible to decipher. And many receipts have incomplete information. For example, some include the name of the purchaser and the dollar amount received but don’t list the items purchased. Some receipts for vehicle sales list the make but not the model. “2001 Honda,” one reads. Another just says “automobile.”

Without a more detailed record it would be impossible to know whether good were sold at or near market value.

There are also receipts that don’t list the name of the estate the items belonged to, and others that don’t include the full name of the purchaser. On a receipt for the sale of a saw, lawnmower and weed whacker, for example, the “received from” field just has the initials “T.E.” Another records the sale of a VCR and remote for $10 to, simply, “Leonard.” Someone named Mark bought a painting for $20, and a man named Joe paid two dollars for a chair. Neither receipt includes a last name.

The Sheriff’s Office has brought in its own investigator, Deputy Fred Flores, to examine the Public Administrator Bureau’s policies and procedures. The Outpost reached out to him for help solving some of these clerical mysteries and he sounded equally flummoxed. 

“You can see the challenges, and I don’t have answers for you,” he said via email. Flores added that he’s searching for “indicators which tie the information together.”

And then, of course, there are the sales to deputies, which were scattered throughout the receipts all the way back to early 2013 (the farthest we’ve looked so far). Such sales may have been occurring long before then.

Back in July, a local woman named Susan Nolan wrote to us about the estate of her friend Roseann Carcello, who died in 2011. 

“She owned a number of fine musical instruments, collectible books and records, lots of expensive clothes,” Nolan said in an email. “Her car was a 1995 Toyota 4WD pickup, straight body, very clean, very low miles.”

The Coroner/Public Administrator’s Office, which was an independent office until early 2015, handled the estate. 

“The deputy coroner, Roy Horton, said he would notify us when her things were offered at auction … but we never heard from him,” Nolan wrote. “It turns out the books were sold at the office for $1 each, a tiny fraction of their value, to the delight of local booksellers and scouts.”

Nolan suspects the Toyota pickup was also sold in a “sweetheart deal,” possibly to a deputy.

Sheriff William Honsal told the Outpost he couldn’t respond to questions about specific estates until after the investigations are complete.

The Outpost hasn’t reviewed records as far back as 2011. But in the ones we have seen, Horton, the deputy coroner who Nolan says handled this particular estate, made at least one purchase in violation of the law. A receipt from April 24, 2014, records the sale of something recorded as “witness fur” to Horton for $275.

His wife, meanwhile, has been the county’s most prolific shopper of estates handled by the Public Administrator Bureau. Since early 2013, Renee Babros-Horton has purchased dozens of items from these estates, including the 2001 Honda mentioned above, a moped, a computer, a rifle, various household decorations, silverware, coins and at least four TVs. Each of the receipts lists her only as “Renee Babros.”

A man named Richard Bush also contacted the Outpost to tell us about how the county handled the estate of his cousin, Dewey Vrzina, who died last September. Vrzina collected guns, one of which was an old .22-caliber rifle that once belonged to Bush’s grandfather. Bush said that after Vrzina’s death he spoke with Deputy Coroner/Public Administrator Charles van Buskirk.

“I told him I was interested in those guns, that one was my grandfather’s,” Bush said. “He said he could probably set them aside. I never heard from him again.”

Bush later learned that the guns were sold to Anglin Second Hand, like many other items liquidated by the Public Administrator Bureau. The whole collection was sold for $845, and Bush said he once saw a gun store owner offer $1,000 for just one of Vrzina’s firearms.

Bush and his wife have tried to follow up with Dennis Reinholtsen, the local attorney who represents the Public Administrator’s Bureau in estate matters. But they’ve been unable to reach him. Bush’s wife, Karen, said her husband “has been calling and calling” Reinholtsen’s office. 

“I can’t get him to answer,” Bush said. “The attorney will not call me back.”

The Outpost also tried to reach Reinholtsen. Messages left with his office staff were not returned.

Incidentally, two of the four TVs purchased by Renee Babros-Horton came from the Vrzina estate. 

Van Buskirk’s wife, Heidi, also purchased items from estates while her husband was employed by the coroner/public administrator’s office. According to receipts we found, in April 2014 she paid $220 for a telescoping table from the estate of a man named Paul Ideker, and three months later she paid $50 for a weed whacker and something else (it was illegible on the receipt) from the estate of a man named Alan Malfatti.

Some other sales:

  • In July 2014, David “DJ” Parris, son of former elected County Coroner David Parris, bought three motorcycles (two Hondas and a Kawasaki KDX) from the estate of Robert Fehrs for $2,800.
  • In September 2014, a senior legal office assistant working in the coroner’s office, Judy Price, bought a 1991 Ford Ranger from the estate of Marc McCallister for $500. As previously reported, Price later bought a Ford F150 from the estate of Thomas Balchik for $4,500.
  • In August 2015 (after the consolidation of the Coroner/Public Administrator’s Office with the Sheriff’s Office), Sheriff’s Deputy Jamie Barney bought some sort of Toyota (the receipt doesn’t specify) from the estate of Robert Hinks for $2,334.
  • A few days later, Sheriff’s Deputy Roy Reynolds bought a trailer from the Hinks estate for $300.

Another case involved the estate of a man named Charles Titlow, who died on Aug. 6, 2015, at the age of 95. His caretaker had been a local woman named Ryanne Wheeler, who told the Outpost that about a year before Titlow died he tried to give her his 2007 Ford Taurus. She insisted on paying for the car, and in October 2014 she purchased a $1,000 money order from the Post Office for that purpose. 

But she failed to register it, even after Titlow’s death. She told the Outpost that she was “incredibly busy” during that time and never got around to going to the DMV. The Public Administrator Bureau wound up serving as the executor of Titlow’s estate, with former county coroner/current Eureka Mayor Frank Jager in charge.

Here’s what happened next, according to a 2015 incident report from the California Highway Patrol. Unable to locate the 2007 Ford Taurus, which was still registered in Titlow’s name, Jager reported it stolen. His brother, Adam Jager, was a captain with the CHP at the time and asked a subordinate officer, Matt Harvey, to take the stolen vehicle report, which he did on Sept. 9, 2015.

Aware that Wheeler had been Titlow’s caretaker, Harvey drove to her house on Sept. 16 and found the Taurus parked in the driveway. Wheeler presented officers with the car’s certificate of title, which had “Titlow’s apparent signature releasing interest in the vehicle” and Wheeler’s information written in the “Application for Transfer by New Owner” section, according to Harvey’s incident report. However, there was no date on the document.

She also gave officers a handwritten bill of sale signed (“apparently”) by herself and Titlow, and a receipt for the $1,000 money order with “Charles Titlow” written in the “Pay to” section and a note reading, “Paid in full for a purchase of Ford Focus.”

But Frank Jager was skeptical. According to Harvey’s report, Jager “questioned whether Titlow’s signature was original or forged.”

Wheeler and her boyfriend, Ben Wright, were both arrested — Wheeler for vehicle theft and Wright, who had allegedly tried to back out of the driveway before spotting the CHP vehicle, for possession of a stolen vehicle. The Taurus was released to Jager on the scene.

Charges were never filed against Wheeler or Wright, and Wheeler said she never got the car back. 

“The whole thing was so creepy and weird,” she said. “They came to my home and took me. It was terrifying.”

She said CHP officials offered her the opportunity to buy the car back or take a refund for the amount she paid, but she chose to do neither. She’s been suspicious about the Public Administrator’s handling of Titlow’s estate ever since. 

“I’d be curious to know if they actually took the estate completely or if they found heirs,” she said. “I know he had heirs.”

Among the receipts we inspected there were several from Titlow’s estate, but we didn’t find one for his Ford Taurus.

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One of the most important questions in the state’s investigation of our county’s Public Administrator Bureau may well be whether employees knew about the state law prohibiting sales to their own deputies. That particular government code has been on the books for at least 50 years, and likely a lot longer, but Sheriff Honsal, who is also the coroner and public administrator, said it wasn’t “discovered” by anyone in his office until the Outpost began making inquiries.

Scarlet Hughes, the executive director of the PA/PG/PC, said that’s exactly the kind of information public administrators learn about through the training, certification and oversight her organization provides.

The PA/PG/PC also offers “best practices” training for a variety of obligations that fall to public administrators, including auctioning valuables and finding the market value for used automobiles. The best practice for that latter task is to utilize multiple online websites that value cars, such as Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com.

When the Outpost interviewed Chief Deputy Coroner/Public Administrator Ernie Stewart back in June, here’s how he described his method for selling vehicles:

Sometimes Craigslist. Sometimes, when you’ve been doing this job for a while, you get to know certain people are car buffs or a car club, so you pick up a phone and call: ‘Hey, I’ve got a car you guys might want to come and look at.’ Sometimes it’s word-of-mouth.

He also said that while his office generates some income for the county’s general fund — getting a one-to-four-percent handling fee from estate proceeds — the vast majority of the money winds up going to the state, which he finds frustrating.

“It drives me crazy to send money to the state that I know they’re just gonna waste anyway,” he said.

Hughes said that since 2010, state law has required the public administrator in each of the state’s 58 counties to be certified through the PA/PG/PC. “We recommend that any staff who perform the duties of the public administrator also be certified,” she said.

Sheriff Honsal said that until a couple months ago no one in his office was certified. This past spring, Stewart was contacted by the organization. “The Sheriff’s Office put plans in place to become members at the start of the fiscal year,” Honsal told the Outpost in an email.

Honsal said he, Stewart and all deputy coroners are now members of the organization, and all deputies with public administrator responsibilities will be required to follow suit. “In the next two years all personnel listed have to attend the PA/PG/PC state certified training,” Honsal said. Three more deputies will be sent for training this fall.

PREVIOUSLY



GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: Sorry, Humboldt — Your Eclipse Experience is Going to be Nothing Like the Transcendent Experience of Totality

Barry Evans / Yesterday @ 6:45 a.m. / Growing Old Ungracefully

Eclipse of July 11, 1991 from Baja California. (All photos by author).

I’ve been reading, here and in the Journal, how Humboldt will be getting a “pretty good” partial eclipse assuming clear skies tomorrow, August 21. The implication is that when 87% of the sun’s disk is covered by the moon (as will be the case in Humboldt), folks will be getting 87% of the full experience.

Sorry, you won’t. The view from Humboldt will be at best a watered-down, insipid, ho-hum version of the real deal. Sparing you a more graphic analogy, think of watching Love Story on your own versus a night spent next to someone you think you might want to spend the rest of your life with. A partial solar eclipse is nice, mildly interesting. A total one can be life-changing.

Path of totality, Oregon.

If I were on the West Coast right now, I’d now be heading for Grant County, eastern Oregon. (I’m not—I’m on the other side of the Atlantic.) But if there’s any way you can get yourself in the path of totality, do! There might be one or two other people there, so go early…

Here’s what I wrote soon after the 1991 total eclipse, while it was still fresh in my mind and heart:

In the Moon’s Shadow

I thought I knew about total eclipses of the sun.

After all, I’d been reading about them for decades, I’d looked at hundreds of photographs of eclipses and discussed them at length in my popular astronomy classes. I had once written, after attending a slide show by veteran eclipse-chaser Jacques Guertin, who’d witnessed the March 1988 total solar eclipse from Borneo.

“We watched a series of slides as the moon moved across the face of the sun, until only the so-called ‘diamond rings’ were left. These are the final glimpses of the sun’s disk seen through valleys on the moon’s limb, before the sun disappears completely. At the moment of disappearance, the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere, becomes visible in its glory, a soft aura of light around the moon. Then too, for those few seconds of totality, prominences of hydrogen gas can be seen if they’re present. And for the eclipse of March 1988, they were indeed present, arching above the sun’s surface to a height corresponding to ten Earth diameters! The photographers captured these unusually fine displays.”

Doesn’t that sound as if I’d know what to expect when viewing my first “live” one, from Baja California on July 11, 1991? The fact is, I didn’t have a clue. Those six-minutes-fifty-two-seconds of totality caught me utterly unprepared. My life is now divided into BE and AE (Before Eclipse and After Eclipse). It was all shockingly beautiful, in particular the ruby-red prominences and the vast size of the corona.

How we got there.

Getting there, they say, is half the fun. It certainly was an experience. Four of us—my wife Louisa, our pilot (who had answered my ad posted at the local flying club) and his friend, newly arrived from Germany—squeezed into a Cessna 172 in Palo Alto, California five days before the eclipse. Three days and many adventures later, we landed at Los Friales, Baja. Why Los Friales, not universally known as a center of world culture? Because it had the closest airstrip to the eclipse centerline on Baja’s eastern coast.

Our observatory with 4-inch refractor telescope.

By the morning of July 11, we were well organized. My four-inch refractor telescope was ready in the “observatory” (a patch of sand protected from the wind by a tarpaulin) and right on time I saw first contact, the moment when the moon’s disk began its traverse across the face of the sun. An hour later, with two-thirds of the sun’s disk covered, the temperature had dropped noticeably and the light was slightly dimmer. Cacti took on a pastel color.

Minutes later, other subtle changes occurred. We saw and heard birds, usually quiet at noon in that arid climate, as they began to wake up in this pseudo-sunset. Shadows became sharp, so that I saw individual hairs on my head silhouetted on the sand at my feet. Hundreds of little crescents could be seen beneath a straw hat, whose holes focused the sun, the way a pin-hole camera works. Then, right on time, the mountains to the west suddenly darkened as the moon’s shadow, racing at 1,300 mph across our planet, cut off sunlight from the peaks. Seconds later, as if someone had turned a switch, it happened: we were in totality.

It was far from pitch-darkness (admonitions to have flashlights handy proved unnecessary), but the abruptness of the transition from the sun being just visible to totality was a shock to us all, no matter how well prepared we were. Overhead, the white wreath of the corona, much larger than we’d expected, extended two or three sun diameters from what appeared to be a round black hole in the sky. With the naked eye, we could just make out prominences of hot gas. Through the telescope, they were awesome: two bright ruby-red arches opposite each other, one reaching up to a height of at least ten Earth-diameters from the solar “surface.”

The minutes whizzed by, and then, far too soon, came the moment of the sun’s return. I was looking through my telescope when first a single bead of sunlight, then an avalanche of photons, an incandescent blast, hit my retina: it was overtime to replace the Mylar solar screen. We’d read previously that people generally cheered when the sun returned. Not our little party. We looked at each other with the expressions of those who had seen a miracle, and weren’t ready for it to be over. Then, inevitably, came the first words following totality:

“When’s the next one?”



OBITUARY: Jesse Lawrence Roberts, 1989-2017

LoCO Staff / Yesterday @ 6:01 a.m. / Obits

Jesse Lawrence Roberts passed away in his home on August 14, 2017 at the age of 27, He was born in Riverside on December 25, 1989. Heaven has another angel.

He is survived by his son Jesse James Roberts, mother Donna Roberts, stepfather Michael Adams, brother Danny (Violet) Corrales, sister Nicole Adams, Niece Ariel Corrales, grandparents Al and Loreen Roberts, uncles Michael (Susanne) and Allan Roberts, cousins Cory Roberts, Anthony, Great Grandmother Memere Lucille Beckhaus, and a long list of other family members and friends. 

Jesse was a kind, gentle, loving person and had a heart of gold. Jesse was very protective of his family. He loved to skateboard. He had a passion for drawing and writing rap songs. He loved listening to music and rapping. He spent many hours in the kitchen cooking and experimenting with spices. He was famous for his “spicy popcorn.” The last few months of his life he found an interest in collecting rocks. Gardening, astronomy, unexplained phenomena and science were also interests of Jesse’s. He was very intelligent and also had a great imagination.

Jesse grew up in Eureka he went to Pine Hill School then to Winship Jr. High, followed by Eureka High and finishing up at Zoe Barnum. Thoughout the years he had made many close friendships. He enjoyed his time with his friends. Jesse love to make plates of food to those in need and sneak people in who didn’t have a place to sleep.

For the past year in a half Jesse had been dealing with health issues. He would have his good days and bad days. But he always tried to make the best out of each day. He’s at peace now and he will be in our hearts forever. He was truly loved by all.  

Memorial Service will be held Friday, Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. at Sanders Chapel, 1835 E Street, Eureka.

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The obituary above was submitted by Jesse Robert’s familyThe Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.