Saturday, June 21, 2014

Remembering the Summer Solstice

June 21st.  I'm not very good about remembering dates, and frequently don't even think about the significance of one until the actual day it occurs. Anyone who receives birthday cards from me will know this.  I keep a stock of the “Happy Belated” version, because most often my cards get mailed on the day of someone's birthday.  I like to think when the card arrives late, the recipient realizes I was thinking of them on their actual birthday!

But back to June 21st. Like most years, this morning I instantly thought, "Oh, it's the summer solstice," as soon as I realized the date.  Then I scolded myself for not having gotten up with the sun. For some reason if feels wrong to waste any moments of the longest day of the year.

Every year, immediately following the realization of what day it is, comes a memory.  A good one. When I was out of college for about a year, my twin sister and I traveled through part of Europe for nearly two weeks, using Eurail passes. We covered a lot of ground - through Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany. A Eurail pass must be purchased in advance and entitles the holder to unlimited rail travel in many countries of Europe.  We got our money's worth.

        A EURAILPASS brochure from the 1980's                      A map of the route we traveled past the Arctic Circle.

We made it to Bodo, Norway, in time for the Summer Solstice.  Bodo is north of the Arctic circle. There is a cairn marking this latitude, which we photographed from the train. 



A brochure and one of my photos taken from the train window, showing a cairn that marks the Arctic Circle in Norway

To take full advantage of being in the “land of the midnight sun,” at 12:30 AM my sister and I hiked an hour up a softly lit mountain, to watched the midnight sun break through the clouds beyond Landego Island. Unfortunately, cloud cover was heavy, but a glimmer of sunshine definitely occurred on the horizon.  It was amazing to be hiking in the wee hours of the morning, without needing to use a flashlight.


The midnight sun: as it became just visible through the clouds, and moments later.  
We took these photos  without using a flash.


This postcard I sent home shows the midnight sun over Landego Island, viewed from nearly the same angle as my photos.
The website timeanddate.com provides an excellent explanation of the June Solstice.  It is interesting that the date of the solstice can actually vary between June 20 and 22, due to the influence of other planets.  The June Solstice is considered to be the first day of the summer season, north of the equator.  It is the day of the year with the longest hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere - and the least amount in the southern hemisphere. According to what I learned from the timeanddate.com webpages, the actual “solstice” occurs when the sun is “at its zenith” or at its furthest point from the equator and directly overhead in relation to an observer. According to timeanddate.com, where I live, the solstice (adjusted for daylight savings time) occurred today at 4:51 AM.

In Montana, we look forward to these long summer days, especially when the sun is setting before 5:00 PM in December! If I understand this correctly, sunrise is apparently different that the actual solstice.  When I entered the city closest to where I live, dateandtime.com shows that sunrise occurred here today at 5:35 AM. (I wasn't up to see it, so I can't verify that!) and the sunset will be at 9:25 PM.

It all seems a little confusing - but what I do understand is that there are still plenty of daylight hours left to enjoy today!


My twin sister and I at the end of our trip, wearing our sweaters purchased in Norway.
I unfortunately have no photos of us on our 1:00 AM hike, as I hadn't used a flash to show how light it was that night.

10 comments :

  1. What a fun trip! I love the picture of you and your sister. My husband went to Norway for a month after we graduated from college - he has lots of family there. He was there in September so he missed the solstice. Sounds like such a great trip.

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    1. It was fun - and Norway had some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen anywhere in the world. If you get the chance to go sometime, you should!

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  2. What an amazing trip! I have traveled extensively in the U.S? But never out of the country. It's definitely on my Bucket List, and my daughter and I are wanting to plan a trip to Ireland for her college graduation. That was pre-twins but someday. My husband are planning a two week cross country trip later this year. Loved the info on the EuroRail Pass! Didn't know that!

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    1. Your 2 week cross country trip sounds like it will be really fun. It is too bad our country doesn't have the rail systems that Europe has - it is really easy to get from place to place there. Hope you are having a good weekend Rena. Happy Summer Solstice!

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  3. That whole trip is one of my best memories, Susan! So glad we got to do it together! :)

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  4. What an amazing trip! I lived in Spain for school and loved traveling on the weekends. Never to Norway though. Happy Summer!

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    1. Happy summer to you too, Jen! I'd love to hear more about your Spain adventures - I lived there too, during high school and for a year after I was out of college. It is such a wonderful and geographically diverse country.

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  5. What an amazing story! Someday I'll make it to Europe. I hope

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    1. Check into using a Eurail pass when you go - it really is a flexible way to travel! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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