Winter Solstice

Dec 22, 2012 | 1 comment

It’s incredible how much more the “winter solstice” means when you only have 3 hours and 56 minutes of daylight. I don’t really mind the darkness too much, but yesterday I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of hope and relief, knowing that this was as short as the days would get, and hereafter I would have only longer days to look forward to (even if it will only be 4 hours and 10 minutes of sunlight by New Years!). 

As a fun way to celebrate the shortest day of the year, members of the Alaska region National Parks all agreed to go outside at noon in their respective National Park units and snap a picture of the sun, and post them online. 
Pre-sunrise pastel colors

So just before 12pm, I crossed the street from the office and stood out on the sea wall to watch the first sunrise of winter, camera at hand. It was about 14 degrees out (balmy compared to earlier this week!) but a hard 20mph wind made it feel about -4. Besides the howling of the wind, it was all but silent with the sea frozen solid.

The sun at “high” noon

The sun didn’t officially rise until about 12:04, but right at noon I snapped a picture of its position just peeking over the horizon. From here, it would climb a few degrees up into the sky before dipping back down again a little further west at 3:57pm.

Above is the picture I posted on our park Facebook page, and as other Alaska national parks began sharing each others’ photos, it ended up going surprisingly viral — like, almost 290% viral! To put that into perspective, most of our posts only go about 10% viral, or up to 50% if we’re lucky. Basically this is a measure of how many times people “share” and “like” the picture on Facebook. It was pretty satisfying and exciting to be able to share this moment with so many people, and great to see all the Alaska national parks cross-promoting so well, despite the vast distances and differences between our parks in the state.

Sunrise and the coastline

Snow blowing across the beach in little wisps

The classic “Welcome to Nome” sign

As of today, I can say I’ve been in Alaska exactly 6 months and 2 days; I’ve nearly seen all 4 seasons here (I arrived on the last day of spring!) and I’ve seen the longest and the shortest days of the year to the extreme. What a life so far!

Attempt at holiday decorating

It’s finally starting to feel like Christmas. My housemate and I bought some lights and garland, and set up our little house cactuses as a “Christmas tree” under which to put our presents from home. It won’t be the same, being away from home for the holiday, but I guess there’s a first time for everything, right?

And really, just like living in the dark for 20 hours a day, or standing outside in -25 degrees, or being isolated in a dysfunctional bush town for 9 months, it’s doable if you keep it in perspective (or have good friends and family to put things back into perspective when you lose it). 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Great photos, and I love the way that you have decorated your living space; I think it looks better than mine. WITH LOTS OF LOVE, from Grandpa Ed

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