The Midnight Sun: An Arctic Jewel

Imagine a land where, for a period ranging from a few days to a few weeks, the sun does not comfortably set into pitch darkness. Not only that, it doesn’t even set at all! This is Arctic Greenland, the land of the golden midnight sun.  

But why is it golden?

That Tilt

As the Earth tilts on its axis seasonally, we get the boreal and austral summers and winters, with respective changes (sometimes extremes) in temperature. These 23.5 degrees of rotation make all of the difference. Along with the seasons, the amount of daylight that we have available to us at different points in the year also changes to varying degrees.

Color temperature 

The secret to the golden midnight sun in Greenland  is two-fold. First, we addressed the issue of the axis and the seasons. Sedon, there is the color temperature, measured in Kelvin: regular broad daylight comes in at 5500k, where as golden hour light is usually around 3500k (this means that it is warmer) and the light just before sunrise is around 2000k.  


The passage of the day is the oscilliation between these changes in color temperature. The transition became more elongated as the latitude increases.

Photo: Mads Pihl

Greenland: Land of the Midnight Sun 

It is a very difficult feeling to describe, the closest I can get is “pleasantly disconcerting”. Imagine a time that you have known for your entire life to be a time of pitch darkness, and then you find yourself in Greenland and you find yourself awake at 3 o’clock in the morning gazing at this magnificent, iridescent glow over all the land. Even if you have experienced this phenomenon 2 or 3 times in a row, it never ceases to amaze. Life barely slows down and there is a seemingly endless hive of activity.

Photographers will be familiar with the concept of the “golden hour”, that time of day  around sunset when the light has a special quality. In the arctic, it’s more like “golden 5 hours”. Its tempting to say “forget the watch” or “leave the watch at the hotel” but actually  you should keep your watch with you, so you can be amazed time and again with just how bright it is at 3am!


See the Midnight Sun!

Ilulissat, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Icefjord, gets approximately 2 weeks of midnight sun. The video below shows how how the sun passes through the sky on a cloudless June evening filled with red orange and yellow hues.

For many, the best way to experience the glow of the midnight sun in Greenland is to take a river cruise on the ice lagoons. The ice lagoons are where glaciers calve (break apart) and the ice floats out in the the open sea. Watch the glow of the midnight sun refract through the ice and sparkle like you have never seen before. You might even get a whale or two.  


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