by Dan Clarke
The occurrence of the ‘midnight sun’ comes from the tilting of the earths’ axis. This phenomenon occurs during the summer months in places south of the Antarctic circle and north of the Arctic circle. Svalbard is one of these places.
Around the 19th April – 23rd August every year there is no sunset. Of course the exact opposite occurs where there is no direct sunlight for about three months, we generally don’t run our expeditions at this time of year, although the sight of the sun just kissing the horizon is a fantastic common feature of previous expeditions.
It is strange and can be incredibly beautiful creating oranges and gold colours like you’ve never seen before.
Midnight sun also can have an adverse effect on your natural rhythms of the body and mind. Mainly your sleep patterns go slightly awry which can lead to being irritable, a bit moody and also fatigue.
We have a light receptor that sends messages along nerves to our internal clock, not even via your vision centre, it is this which causes humans/animals some trouble initially until we can adapt to the situation.
Your internal clock sets biological rhythms for the day; getting up/eating/sleeping. We confuse these rhythms already to some extent by surrounding ourselves with all types of artificial light to prolong the waking hours and we need darkness to re-set our clocks. In particular blue light stimulates the brain more so than other colours, so ease off television or laptops before going to sleep.
Practical things to do on expedition in these circumstances are relaxation exercises before sleep time, wearing eye patches/mask when going to sleep or line the inside of the tent with dark fabric.
Having a good balanced diet and cutting down on sugary items, getting plenty of exercise for the brain and the body, maintaining a fairly strict daily routine and talking about any problems that may be occurring, for sure it won’t be just you being affected.
Being on an expedition creates its own daily routines which are essential to living, cooking, eating personal hygiene and keeping an eye out for bears. Added to these in time come making improvements to your basic living area and completing projects of all people involved on expedition.