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Four weeks without sun

Posted: 2013-02-12 03:26:36, Categories: Travel, Norway, 546 words (permalink)

An early afternoon view over Karlsøy with the moon in the sky. Sandra and I spent the Christmas and New Year on the small 8 km² island of Karlsøya, Norway, 400 km north from the polar circle. That's north enough that in the winter sun remains under the horizon for two months, and in the summer it shines all around the clock for an equally long period, at least when clouds are not blocking it. For us it was the first time being so far north during winter time.

Compared to our expectations there was actually a lot of light. We thought it'd be mostly dark, with just a little bit of red in the horizon. But for about four hours each day it was bright enough to call it daylight. First it was an hour long sunrise with all shades of red and yellow, then about two hours of blue sky and after that a one hour sunset. Even at noon we didn't see the sun of course, so it felt a bit strange to see blue sky, sometimes with the moon in the middle of it. Taking photos with automatic white balance settings produced constantly more reddish results than the eye would see. Either the camera software was confused or perhaps our brain partly filtered out the red, hard to say. We tweaked the settings to make the colours as close as possible to what we saw.

On cloudy days it was clearly more dark, and the time one could easily walk outside without a lamp reduced from four or five to about three hours. Clouds also blocked the moonlight, which was quite strong on clear days. Northern lights appeared a few times, but unfortunately only relatively modest green stripes; no multi-coloured show filling the sky.

Another surprise was the temperature. We had not really checked any long term weather forecasts and were prepared for temperatures down to -30°C or so. That was indeed the case 100 km inland, but the coast is so strongly warmed up by the Gulf Stream that extreme temperatures are rare. On Karlsøya it was between 0 and -10°C, on some days even above zero. There was less snow than we had in Southern Germany in December when we left.

We slept inside a building which had earlier been a school and is nowadays mostly used only during a yearly summer festival. With more than 50 people the space was tight, but at least it was warm enough. The program of the gathering consisted of eating, preparing food, discussion circles, workshops, live music, singing, dancing and lazying around. Most of that happened inside, so it was good to also get out and go on walks around the island. That required a bit of attention — it was too easy to stay up until late night, get up late in the morning, have a slow breakfast and miss the daylight completely. Towards the end of our stay it happened to us more and more often.

One of our nicest walks was climbing on top of the nearby hill on December 21, the shortest day of the year. The peak rose to about 200 meter altitude from the sea level. There was a view over whole Karlsøya and towards higher snow-covered mountains on nearby islands in several directions. The midday moon and sunset over the scenery was a beautiful sight.

1 comment

Comment from: Eudes Arduini [Visitor]
Ça c’est complètement impensable au Brésil. Surtout dans ma région où le lever et le coucher du soleil varient en une heure (maximum) entre l’été et l’hiver.
2013-02-12 @ 21:53

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