The Argentina Total Solar Eclipse: Coronavirus and Bureaucracy Have Won!

Well, it seems that the coronavirus and its bureaucracy have won. My trip to Argentina to photograph the upcoming total solar eclipse on December 14th was interrupted and ultimately cancelled.

After over a year of:

  • Planning with the airlines— Aerolineas Argentinas (both local and international), Avianca, Latam, and Delta
  • Dealing with multiple flight schedule changes
  • Hours on hold with customer service desks
  • Many emails and forms communicating with third-party travel agencies
  • Continual hotel changes
  • Emails and permission forms to the Argentinian Consulate, regional Argentinian government offices, and the Department of Health
  • A dozen Argentinian forms and affidavits in Spanish
  • Research of a dozen Argentinian government websites for approval to travel during this pandemic
  • Tracking exception conditions
  • Multiple Covid-19 tests, including one 72 hours before the trip
  • Approval papers containing a QR code from the Rio Negro province in Argentina (thank you so much)
  • And multiple mishaps and mistakes by Miami Aerolineas Argentinas check-in and gate agents…

    Photo by Alexander Krivenyshev. A coronavirus molecule blocking out the Sun!

I was so very close to my destination for a quick trip to photograph the approaching total solar eclipse.

At JFK Airport in New York, my papers were in order, including a request for special permission to enter Argentina during Covid-19 as a foreign person staying less than fourteen days.

My luggage was even checked through to Buenos Aires, but the next leg of my trip was cut short by Aerolineas Argentinas check-in agents at Miami. I had all my papers in order but one. No kidding— according to the check-in agents I needed a signed letter from the president of Argentina.

My luggage was removed from the connecting international flight. I then had to return to New York without ever getting to my destination.

This whole ordeal now feels like a horrible nightmare. To plan an expedition for so long, to do all the work preparing tons of supporting papers, and then to get so close— it’s the ultimate frustration.

I am deeply saddened that I’ve been denied the opportunity to witness and photograph this solar event and to meet with other scientists and friends in the small eclipse-chasing community.

It seems that coronavirus and bureaucracy have won this round!


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