Living in the dark
This week is winter solstice, an event that every fashionista and fashionister looks forward to like many others on this planet. Fashion bloggers in the northern regions look forward to more daylight as it provides better light conditions for outfit photos. While indoor outfit photos work well with flash light every fashion blogger prefers natural light. 🙂
What does winter solstice mean living in Alaska? Well, it depends on where you live in Alaska. If you would project Alaska 1:1 onto the Lower 48, it would reach from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the Great Lakes down to Florida.
The shortest day in Fairbanks
Let’s start with Fairbanks. The Sun rises at 10:50 am and sets at 2:46 pm on December 21, i.e. 3h and 56 min of daylight (see graphic). Since the Sun is so low above the horizon (see first photo of this post) twilight starts at 9:28 am and ends at 4:08 pm. In my opinion, the darkness is not that bad at all. I love the pink light during the short daylight time (photo below).
During the day, the light is pink up North. Nights seem not as dark as in snowfree mid-latitudes at the same time of the year. The snow reflects all light there is. Just think of a full moon rising over the snow. Or the aurora shown in the featured photo of this post. It shows Dog Musher’s Hall in the foreground as the aurora lights up the sky over Fairbanks, Alaska.
A 64 days long night
In Barrow, which is the largest community north of the Arctic Circle, the Sun sets on November 18 at 1:42 pm and will not rise before January 21 at 1:16 pm just to set again 42 minutes later.
On the panhandle, day length is similar to mid-latitudes
Juneau is more comparable to what you know when you live in Central Europe or the northern states of the US. Civil twilight starts at 7:50 am, the Sun rises at 8:43 am, sets at 3:07 pm, and twilight ends at 4:00 pm.
Impacts of short daylight
Of course, many people suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affected depression). The natural vitamin D levels reach their minimum in March. However, many Alaskans north of the Alaska Range take vitamin D supplements. In November, happy lamps, which provide the same light spectrum as the sun rays reaching the Earth’s surface, sell like hot cakes. Tanning booths have their best business in December to March. Suicide rates are highest in January despite of gaining up to 7 minutes of daylight per day (see graph). In January, it’s when the cabin fever sets on. A few people combat the darkness with alcohol. Whoever can afford it packs for a cruise thru the Caribean Sea or and heads to Mexico or Hawaii for a beach vacation .
I love this time of the year. People decorate their yards with twinkle lights (see next two photos). There are lights in the windows, along the gutters, driveways, and in the trees all over campus. The Geophysical Institute has a big blue five pointy star on the roof. The borough’s administrative building is decorated with lights to look like a gift box. Snow crystal shaped lights illuminate the streets of downtown Fairbanks.
People are really creative with their holiday decoration. The newspaper even publishes the locations of the must-see Christmas lights. Yes, people drive around town to see them.
Darkness has its romantic moments
It is very cozy (and kitschy-romantic) having a meal in a restaurant with dimmed-down light and hearing the noise of the open fire in the fire place. The window twinkle lights reflect on the glass and the snow and the aurora is dancing in chartreuse green in the sky, and you look into the eyes of your sweetheart enjoying the warmth when it is cold outside.
Do you like this time of the year? Do you like darkness? Are you happy when the days get longer again? Let me know, I am curious.
If you liked this post let your friends know what it means to live in the dark nights of Alaska.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
Diagram: N. Mölders
“Aurora en Fairbanks, Alaska” by Mexicaans fotomagazijn is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
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