Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dark Times

Alpenglow from the sunset gives snow a pinkish cast

Most are familiar with the phrase “Land of the Midnight Sun” in reference to Alaska. It sounds so much more appealing than “Land of the Midday Sunset.” Unfortunately, for every midnight sun, there is a midday sunset on the flip-side of the calendar.

Here, in South-central Alaska (the banana-belt of Alaska), the midnight sun is actually more of a midnight sunset. Sure, it’s light 24/7, but that’s because the sun barely sneaks below the horizon for a few hours before popping back up.  Ah, those lovely days of mid-May through July!

The summer solstice is usually spent in high spirits until someone announces loudly, “Well, that’s it. We’re losing daylight, now.”
Insensitive morons such as that are usually smeared with rotting salmon and tied to a tree along a well-used bear trail. At the very least, they can expect a public flogging.

The problem is, they’re right. Between the end of July and the end of November, the daylight decreases at a rate of close to six minutes a day. Today, our sunrise was at 10:05 am, and the sun will set at 3:53 pm. The change is perceptible, and so are the effects. The lack of light – particularly on overcast days, when it never does get fully light – does little to improve temperaments. In the dark of winter even minor irritations can result in extreme agitation.

Yesterday's sunset was at 3:53 pm
It isn’t people alone that are affected, animals also get cranky this time of year. Our cat, Winchester, gets exceptionally ill-tempered. This morning I found he had backed our dog into a corner and was about to make good on a threat to whip his ass, until I intervened.  Watson is normally fearless. (Watson claims he is half Yorkshire terrier, half poodle and half wolf. Ignoring his poor math skills, one could believe it by his actions.) Not so much this morning; Watson was cowering in the corner of the dining room as Winchester growled at him ominously.

When it's bright and warm, they are buddies.

 At issue was something trivial, the ownership of the space in front of a heat register. When things are light, bright and warm, the two animals get along just fine. Winchester even lets the dog clean his face. However, in his sunlight deprived and agitated state, Winchester was in no mood to tolerate Watson’s presence, let alone share. Once the offending Watson was taken into protective custody, the cat calmed right down. 

I think Watson is going to give Winchester an artificial sunlight lamp for Christmas.
It could be worse. In Barrow the sun set at 1:20 pm on the 20th of November. It won’t rise until 1:07 pm on the 24th of January. That’s a long stretch of night.

My heater! Watson isn't welcome.



  1. There are plenty of things we miss in Alaska. The midday sunset is NOT one of them!

  2. What do you mean, everyone is cranky? I'm a freaking supernova of happiness. I LOVE getting up when it's dark to drive (in front of and behind idiots) 150 snowy, icy, bumpy miles to get home. I'm thrilled with the carbohydrate cravings and resulting 6 pounds I've gained since September.