There are strange things done in the midnight sun. Robert Service could not have nailed that first line better in his classic Yukon prose, The Cremation of Sam McGee.
A fellow river guide used to recite it on the first night of river trips and the poem became a favorite of mine. The first paragraph sets the perfect scene for a place nicknamed, “The Land of the Midnight Sun.”
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee. Full text…
Second Most Common Question
There actually are strange things done in the midnight sun, but…I didn’t fully understand that first line until I moved to Alaska and experienced it for myself. Besides “How many bears have you seen?”, the second most common question I am asked by people is “What is the light like in summer?” My short answer is, “You can’t escape it!”
June 21 is the summer solstice…the longest day of the year. We are attending a solstice party, which is a common event in AK, to mark the fact that none of us are really getting any sleep! This is actually where they film all those zombie movies that are so popular right now! The stars of the shows are Alaskans with serious sleep deprivation.
There is no doubt that this much light plays plenty of tricks on your brain. I am a very regulated sleeper, preferring to go to bed around 9:30 p.m. and get up around 5:30 a.m. Now I commonly find myself looking at the clock and saying, “It’s really 11:30?!?” And, at 4 a.m., the light tells me, it’s time to wake up. My circadian rhythm is completely shot! My eyes are bleary and my brain is mushy…just wandering around in a haze.
Get some Blackout Curtains!
The problem is that nothing really blocks out the light, even blackout curtains! My kids have resorted to pinning extra towels and spare blankets up around the windows as well. It’s quite the designer look, but it doesn’t completely filter out the midnight sun! The sunlight ebbs and flows around corners, under doors, and around curtains. There is no escaping it!
I have resorted to wrapping a blanket around my head and taking a couple of long naps a week!
If you can’t beat it…you might as well embrace it!
In Alaska, you take advantage of what nature gives you. And with this much light, there’s all sorts of stuff you can do to fill your day. You can mow the lawn at 9 p.m., golf at 10 p.m., fish at 11 p.m., hike at midnight, bbq at 1 a.m., wash your car at 2 a.m.: the list is endless! So we are taking full advantage of it in our delirium to cram as much in as we can.
After all, we will experience the opposite light effect in the winter when the sun will rise at 9 a.m. and set at 4 p.m. By that time, my guess is we will be ready to crawl in our dens, just like the bears, and hibernate.
For now, I’ve given up counting sheep and moved on to counting mosquitoes…a nice, sane hobby for a long night in the land of the Midnight Sun…