You are currently viewing How Dark Days, White Nights Confuse You Big Time
Winter solstice on the Fairbanks campus. From: Alaska Centers (2012)

When you ever wondered about how life is affected by white nights and dark days in Polar Regions, you will find your answer here. Also when you plan a vacation way up North, read this to be prepared and not get confused of date and time.

  1. Day and Night, Is It the Same Old, Same Old?
  2. When You Move into the Arctic: International Moves Require Some Cost Analysis
  3. The Sun Seems to Hobble around You
  4. Why You Can’t Track the Time with Your Cell Phone
  5. Why You Need a Watch with Date Display When Traveling in Alaska for Vacation
  6. How White Nights and Dark Days Impact Alaskans When out of State

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Day and Night, Is It the Same Old, Same Old?

When moving to Alaska, I didn’t think much about the white nights, and the dark days that we would be facing.
It won’t be much different than in mid-latitudes in winter. In Germany, you go to work in the dark and you come back home in the dark in winter. Well, in deed, it is actually the same in Alaska. Of course, there were scary and happy feeling about moving to Alaska. But isn’t that normal about any move that is not within the immediate vicinity of the place where you lived before?


International Moves Require Some Cost Analysis

Prior to moving to Alaska, I was too busy sorting out what to keep and what to toss, as the air freight costs are a complicated formula of volume and mass. When doing an intercontinental move, keeping everything makes only sense when you own enough to move by using a container. It also means about six weeks or so without your stuff as the container will go by ship. For us it was cheaper to reduce our belongings even further even when buying new ones later and go by air than paying for a move by container.

Thus, the only things we took with us were a table, four chairs, a bed and book self, dishes, clothes and books plus our cat. They came a week later than we had arrived and we were under pressure of house hunting and tackle the challenge of buying a new car without having credit reports. Thus, in the first weeks, we were to busy to think about the long dark days of winter.


dark nights after school
Darkness around 3 pm December 12 showing parents picking up elementary students after school. Temperatures were below -20s (less than -28.9C)


The Sun Seems to Hobble around You

We arrived in the mid of summer, i.e. during the period of white days. When having lived in mid-latitudes at about the same latitude all your life, you learned to orientate yourself by the Sun’s elevation above the horizon for directions and time. This sense was totally screwed up when going North to the Future. In the first summer, the Sun seemed to hobble around the entire horizon, just shortly playing hide-and-seek behind the foothills of the White Mountains. Even then there was still light outside.


over 50 years old Alaskan fashion blogger in a sheath dress
GNW Luxe sweater, GNW tight, Enrico Coveri silk scarf, Jord wooden watch, Antonio Melani booties, Hermes collier de chien bangle (all own), and sheath dress c/o Shein


Why You Can’t Track the Time with Your Cell Phone

Getting used to daylight 24/7 was easy. We never bothered installing shades and additional curtains to darken the bedroom. The 24/7 daylight is very energizing and you may be up at 2 am without even noticing. However, you will notice when it is about 7 pm. Around that time, the mosquitoes become more aggressive. Read what to do about mosquitoes when in Faibanks.

sunrise and sunset in Interior Alaska
Annual course of sun rise and sun set in Fairbanks, Alaska. Twillight is about two hours. In mid August, enough daylight is lost that there are dark nights again and the aurora can again be seen in clear sky nights


Why You Need a Watch with Date Display When Traveling in Alaska for Vacation

When you take a staycation, no matter whether in summer or winter, you just stand up when you wake up and go to bed when you are fatigue. It doesn’t matter much. There is light 24/7 in summer, and it is dark most of the day in winter anyhow. There are stores in town open 24/7 except Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. More on grocery shopping in Alaska.

Fun fact: In summer in Alaska, you wear sunglasses even at night.

All you need to do is keeping track of the date to come back to work on time. Thus, when you travel in Alaska for vacation have a watch that counts the days. You can check your cell phone for time and date only when you are within about 30 miles (about 48.2 km) of a town or village. Beyond this radius, there is no cell-coverage.

Tip: When traveling in Alaska have a watch with date function. There is no cell phone network when you are about 30 miles away from town.


Alaskan woman in winter outfit with booties
Darkness in mid December at 5 pm. Alida nubuk booties c/o coolway styled with own wool knit socks, Snow Touch floral down coat, GNW tight, and structured bag


How White Nights and Dark Days Impact Alaskans When out of State

Interestingly, when you then go somewhere in the mid- or low latitudes in summer where there is day and night, you feel very irritated. Living in high latitudes makes you to associate dark with cold and light with warm.

One gets used to the lack of light in winter, and the surplus of light in summer when living in high latitudes, but being used to it confuses you when traveling to lower latitudes.


The 24 hour daylight also mean that Fairbanks has no fireworks on July 4. When you are a parent you certainly can imagine what a Independence Day without fireworks can be a drama for parents who just recently moved to Fairbanks.

Photos: G. Kramm

Graphic: N. Mölders

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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