12 Jul 2010

Eclipse a tourist boon for parts of the south Pacific

4:01 pm on 12 July 2010

A total solar eclipse drew an 11,000-kilometre arc over the Pacific earlier today, plunging remote islands into darkness in a display climaxing on remote Easter Island.

The skies over Easter Island grew black in the middle of the day as the moon slipped in front of the sun and aligned with Earth, blotting out the sunshine.

Applause then erupted from thousands of stargazers who'd begun gathering days ago for the rare four-minute, 41-second eclipse.

A local official told AFP it was like being in the stadium at night with artificial light.

An estimated 4000 tourists, scientists, photographers, filmmakers and journalists had flocked to Easter Island, doubling the island's population.

In Tahiti, where the solar eclipse began its trek, the effect was so stunning crowds turned away from the World Cup final on their television screens to look to the skies instead.

American film director James Cameron was among the stargazers who brought the archipelago a ten million US dollars tourism bonanza.

A tourism operator in Rarotonga says the eclipse significantly boosted tourism revenue on Mangaia in the Cook Islands.

Rohan Ellis of Cook Islands Natura Holidays, says it chartered a plane so enthusiasts could view the eclipse while airborne.

He says their clients were happy and so were the locals who've hosted many eclipse visitors through the weekend.

"There's a huge economic buzz going on in the island, everybody is involved and people from villagers from all over Mangaia are contributing to make sure that all 400 visitors to Mangaia are well catered for."

Rohan Ellis.

Air Rarotonga put on extra flights to the outer island to accommodate demand