More than two months of darkness. It is said soon, but this is how they are spent in Utqiaġvik, the town in Alaska that has the honor of being the northernmost settlement in continental America. A town that, from these dates and until the middle of January, will not see the light of day again, not even remotely.
This prolonged penumbra is known as the phenomenon of the polar night and is common in the corners located within the polar circles. What is not so common is that the absence of light reaches as in this case, 65 days, due to its extreme location in the north.
Nothing that surprises the inhabitants of Utqiaġvik, who is also known by the more pronounced name of Barrow. This corner, which is home to an extensive population of indigenous Iñupiac and also houses the scientists who work in the various climate research stations, he is so used to saying goodbye to the sun that the last sunset he attends becomes a party.
Then comes the long and harsh winter that lasts from October to April, and in which the sub-arctic climate It offers temperatures that range between -5 ° C and -22 ° C. So much so that the Arctic water that bathes the coastline is completely frozen, which prevents the entry of boats.
Tilt of the earth
That is why the little more than 4,000 residents must stock up in advance in the summer months, which is when the ocean thaws. Months in which the warmth It ranges from 0 ° C at night to 11 ° C in the afternoon. Quite an embarrassment for them. Of course, with respect to light, in the summer they have the opposite advantage: you can enjoy 80 days in a row without the sun ever setting.
According to experts, from mid-November to late January, the sun does not rise north of the Arctic Circle due to the tilt of the Earth away from the most direct radiation from the sun. But if the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon, create a little illumination to see things from outside, allowing you to have at least a hint of light.
This is not the case in Utqiaġvik, located 330 miles above the Arctic Circle and where the darkness is practically absolute. But, to the consolation of its inhabitants, it is not the only town in Alaska that is deprived of solar lighting for long periods of time.
The northern third of this American state is located on the ring of latitude that surrounds the frozen Arctic polar region, so that other small settlements also suffer from this phenomenon: among them, Kaktovik, Point Hope and Anaktuvuk Pass. A solidarity that Utqiaġvik also finds with its peers from the extreme south: Argentina’s Ushuaia and Chile’s Puerto Williams, with whom it is twinned.