Time in the Midnight Sun feels endless and unmoored. Night undifferentiated from day, the light is music without metronome. Karen and I inhaled the sunlight’s energy and enjoyed setting camp at 10 pm whenever we decided to travel long past supper — just the two of us on wireless roads and wilderness highways. And when we were on the Yukon River, the long light lent us respite from pitch black fear.
Time clocked longer, slower –and it was palpable. We talked about being on leave from our regular lives, being under midnight sun, just being in a qualitative different way of being. Indeed all such factors contoured our journey map. Turns out, time is measurably different depending on where, on Earth, you stand.
Time is variable. For one thing, we humans measure time in a 24-hour cycle. However, a solar day –the time from one sunrise to the next sunrise–is never exactly 24 hours long. Its length varies throughout the year. Further, our earth moves in an elliptical path around the sun. And because of the earth’s tilt, if we were to visually chart the sun at the same time every day for a year, we would see a figure 8 or infinity symbol. This is called the solar analemma. And even then, the ∞ would sport one loop wider than the other with precision imbalance.
The Equator is 2.3 times longer than the Arctic Circle–where the distance around the earth is 17,662 km. Earth rotates every 24 hours. At the Arctic Circle, you travel 736 km/hr and at the Equator, 1669 km/hr. With Earth’s curve, sunlight strikes the Arctic at a different angle than the equator. I felt this lovely light like Ontario’s autumn. And the Arctic darkness is also different. How does this influence the experience of time and the universe?
In the Arctic and sub-Arctic, the Noon-Moon is winter’s phenomenon — the celestial sister to summer’s Midnight Sun. Karen and I visited Whitehorse YK early December 2014 to see the Northern Lights (photo below) and we experienced 10 am sunrises and 3:30 pm sunsets. But I’d love to travel further into the shimmering darkness that follows the winter solstice.
The masthead for this site has another photo of the Northern Lights taken from that trip.
This country we call Canada is unfathomably vast and diverse–geologically, culturally, and celestially.
The North gifts and challenges us with the extremes of change. Being North lets us open shutters to the dance and stillness of sky that in other parts of the world, simply go unseen.