by Anniel 6/14/14
In keeping with my need to be of good cheer, I want to tell you of Alaska and of summer solstice, the time of year people of the north look forward to. Solstice will be here in just one week. The uphill battle for light after winter solstice begins sluggishly, only seconds a day at first. Then minutes – think how minutes add up. Five minutes a day for seven days makes for a hair over seventeen minutes more light each morning, and the same at night.
This all has to do with the tilt of the earth in its orbit around the sun. During summer the further north one goes, the more daylight hours there are. The declension of the sun as it winds its way to the night of June 21st to 22nd determines the sunlight on the surface of the globe. The practical effect of this process is very different at different latitudes. Did you know that the Arctic Circle is the latitude where there is one day a year when the sun never rises over the horizon (winter solstice), and one day a year when it never sets (summer solstice).
In the far north of Barrow the sun never sets for 84 days during summer, from May 12 until November 13, and never rises for 84 days in winter. Either way, telling your children to come home before dark isn’t very practical. Sometimes it’s so light in Anchorage kids try to stay out all night, too.
Yes, we do think of being able to see Russia from our homes, even if Sarah Palin never actually said that. When people from Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait can reach Big Diomede to visit family you know how close we are. And on a clear day the folks at Gambell on St. Lawrence Island have a pretty good view, too.
Standardized testing can be a pitfall for students in places like Nome. One year the test asked in which direction the sun rises and sets. The choices were: “east/west”, “south/north”, “west/south” and “none of the above”. All of the children were baffled by the question and marked “none of the above”. The direction of sunrise and sunset depends entirely on the time of year. The testing company would not back down on the “correct” answer. Surely everyone knows the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, don’t they?
One story that struck my funny bone was about a first year teacher in Nome from “Outside” (that’s how Alaskans refer to any other place in the world). Christmas was coming and the Teacher’s Manual told her how to do a pageant and dress the kids up as reindeer with tree branches for antlers. A few days before the big day she told the kids that since no trees grow on the tundra they would have to do without antlers. She was greeted with puzzled silence until one boy finally asked, “Why don’t we just use reindeer antlers? My dad has lots.”
We do get a chuckle about our home now and then.
Once Bear told an Outsider new at work that we NEVER have lightning or thunder in Anchorage. We were out that same night when a severe lightning and thunder storm rolled in. I couldn’t understand at first why he was banging his head on the steering wheel. He was so embarrassed. Now we’re careful to stipulate that we rarely have electrical storms here. Strangely just a few miles into the Interior they have lightning and thunder all the time. And they get big forest fires as well.
From about the end of April until September in Anchorage we can’t see the stars at all, and the moon is barely visible. When the first “star”, usually Venus, is visible you know winter is coming. When it’s finally dark enough to go out and look at the sky it’s so cold you have a limited viewing time. Aurora watching requires lots of warm clothes and very warm boots.
After June 22nd we start heading in the opposite direction towards winter, and the people who walk upside down begin their climb to the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.
How strange and wonderful it is to live on a tilted globe, orbiting at just the right distance from a medium sized sun, circling near the edge of a spiral galaxy somewhere in the Milky Way, in the midst of God’s creations.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Psalms 19:1. KJV • (1898 views)