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'It was not like night or day': Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo draws crowds, scientists

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Riverbanks eclipse watchers

Attendees at Riverbanks Zoo take a peek at the sun as the eclipse begins in Columbia. Maya T. Prabhu/Staff

COLUMBIA — Most fascinating to scientist Adam Hartstone-Rose were the siamang apes at the Riverbanks Zoo.

They made their unease known with loud calls in the moments leading up to the eclipse. But once the sun was gone, they went quiet.

Hartstone-Rose said he didn't believe it was a behavior that had ever been documented before.

"In pretty much every cage that we watched, something amazing happened," Hartstone-Rose said Monday. "It was one of the most bizarre scientific experiences of my life."

A crowd of more than 8,800 people, many wearing solar eclipse-themed T-shirts, cheered at 2:41 p.m., as the last sliver of sun disappeared behind the moon, leaving only a ring of light hanging in the Columbia sky.

Many said they felt privileged to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Others found the event to be emotional, with one woman telling a friend, "I feel like I want to cry."

"It was nothing I could have prepared for," said Jonathan Edwards, who traveled with his family from the Charlotte area. "It was not like night or day. You can't capture it with a picture — that's what's so special about it."

Edwards, too, was interested to see how animals reacted to the sun's mid-day momentary disappearance. He wasn't alone. Scientists spread across the zoo to document animal behaviors.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933. Follow her on Twitter @MayaTPrabhu.

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