Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Midnight Sun

My family in California cautions me to be prepared for the short hours of daylight during the Nordic winter after I move to Stockholm. On the shortest day of the year in December, Stockholm is graced with six hours of daylight, with the sun rising around 8:45am and setting around 2:45pm. My California relatives are forgetting that I'm nocturnal and function well during the darkness.

I am from San Francisco after all. July is typically our coldest month of the year when the thick fog envelopes the city. The sun can be missing for days during July. Sure, it's not "Nordic winter" dark. But it's a foggy darkness, when the tourists waiting in line for the cable cars, expecting California sunshine, are found freezing in their shorts and have their arms wrapped around themselves, the wind whipping their hair like a vacuum cleaner.

What amazes me about the far north is the never-ending daylight above the Arctic Circle during the summer. The Midnight Sun. It sounds exotic. Some people might have trouble sleeping when the sun is out, but I don't. I look forward to seeing the Midnight Sun firsthand. It can't be seen in Stockholm (which is too far south), although darkness only descends on Stockholm for a few hours during the summer, with the mid June sun setting around 10:15pm and rising around 3:30am. If you want to see the true Midnight Sun, travel north of the Arctic Circle. Between late May and mid July, the sun never sets in the far north of Sweden.

I caught my first ever glimpse of the Midnight Sun yesterday, through a live webcam in Karesuando, the northernmost village in Sweden. You can view it here. Karesuando shares the same latitude as central Greenland and northern Canada. A bridge connects the village with Finland. Karesuando is located 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. After I move to Stockholm, I will make a summertime pilgrimage to the Arctic Circle to hike through the Swedish mountain wilderness of Lappland in the middle of the night! A summer night of endless light sounds wonderful to me.


Tomas Carlsson said...

Hi Lisa,
the light in Sweden is special, I dont think that there is any way you could prepare for the dark winters, you just need to get as much sunlight as possible in the summer. If you go hiking in the summer, dont forget plenty of mosquito repellent.

How cold is San Francisco in July ?


Lisa said...

Hej Tomas,
Going off my memory, it can dip down to 11 degrees Celsius, 54 degrees Fahrenheit in July. While that pales in comparison to how cold it can get during a Stockholm winter, the wind factor must be taken into account. The windy conditions, mixed with the fog in July can make it very chilly (for a California summer day).

I have not made it up to Northern Sweden yet, but I do recall wishing that I had lots of mosquito repellant while cycling on Gotland and Fårö last summer!