• Home
  • Blog
  • Light in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Light in the Land of the Midnight Sun

by Dee Lawlor Blog

The midnight sun, also known as the polar day, is a natural phenomenon seen within the Arctic and Antarctic circles. During the polar summer, the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours a day – meaning no sunrise or sunset, just constant daylight. This unique phenomenon is caused by the seasonal tilt of the Earth toward the sun during the Arctic or Antarctic summer.
Antarctic Peninsula

Regions: Antarctica, Arctic

Light in the Land of the Midnight Sun

The midnight sun, also known as the polar day, is a natural phenomenon seen within the Arctic and Antarctic circles. During the polar summer, the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours a day – meaning no sunrise or sunset, just constant daylight. This unique phenomenon is caused by the seasonal tilt of the Earth toward the sun during the Arctic or Antarctic summer.

Seasons in Antarctica and the Arctic

Seasonal changes are brought about by the movement of the planet and its changing distance to the sun. For many of us, our year is divided into four distinct seasons. But this is not true of everywhere in the world: In the equatorial regions and at the poles, the year is often divided into two seasons. At the equator, the dry and the rainy season (also known as the monsoon season) divide the year. And at the poles, winter and summer are the chief seasons. Though spring and autumn do occur in Leiden, they are not as clearly defined as they are in temperate regions. 

Planetary Tilt = Polar Night or Midnight Sun

In the polar regions, the midnight sun occurs due to the angle of the planet in polar summer. During the polar summer, one particular pole of the planet is pointed towards the sun at an acute angle. This angle prevents the region from falling into shadow as the Earth turns, hence no night time. The other pole of the planet, however, witnesses an inverse effect: It stays in shadow longer than the rest of the planet, leading to the effect of polar night.

Arctic and Antarctic Albedo 

Albedo is the measure of how much light is reflected off a surface. The white snow and ice of the polar regions have a high albedo, so when sunlight lands on these areas (which happens without relent during the summer season), that light is largely reflected back into the atmosphere. This is one of the reasons the polar regions remain cold all year round.

Experiencing the Midnight Sun

Depending on where you are at the poles, you will observe the midnight sun differently. If you are in the lower latitudes, you will see the sun rise and fall throughout the day, but it will always stay above the horizon. The closer you get to the peak of the pole, the higher the sun stays in the sky and the less it will oscillate. The only disadvantage of visiting the polar regions during the midnight sun season is that you are unlikely to see the aurora borealis (of the northern hemisphere) or aurora australis (of the southern hemisphere), as it will be too bright.

Arctic Light, Antarctic Darkness

At the poles, the sun only rises and falls once a year. This one sunrise and sunset are known as the summer and winter equinox. During the polar spring, the sun rises and continues to do so until it reaches its peak in summer. The polar autumn is a time of twilight, when the sun stays just below the horizon and creates an ambient glow. Once winter arrives, there is permanent darkness.

How the Midnight Sun Affects Wildlife

The season of the midnight sun is an active time for wildlife. Regions in the lower latitudes, where there are plants, experience a great rush in growth. Animals work hard to fatten up during this time, and breeding seasons will start. Interestingly, animals of the polar regions don’t go into hibernation during the polar night, as food levels remain unchanged. Only pregnant female polar bears overwinter in a den. Their cubs are born from November to January, and only when the sun has returned (around late March or April) do they emerge.

Norway, Iceland, Alaska, and Other Midnight Sun Locations

The midnight sun can be experienced in either the Arctic or Antarctica, depending on what time of year it is. In the northern hemisphere, the midnight sun lasts from the middle of April to the middle of August, and can be seen in Greenland, Svalbard, Russia, Canada, Alaska, and the Scandinavian countries. In Svalbard, a key destination for cruises to the Arctic, the sun does not set for sixty days. During the southern hemisphere summer, you can see the midnight sun by embarking on any number of adventurous Antarctica voyages.

See the Midnight Sun Outside the Arctic Circle

Eagle Summit in Alaska is one of the few places outside the Arctic circle where you can experience the midnight sun. This is due to its altitude as opposed to its latitude. The summit would not be too comfortable a place to witness the midnight sun, however, due to its fierce winds and rain.

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Chevron
Scoresby Sund, Aurora Borealis
Up to 900 USD discount

Scoresby Sund, Aurora Borealis

Witness the Northern Lights at Scoresby Sund

HDS15-19. The East Greenland – Scoresby Sund cruise crosses the Arctic Circle into the home waters of multiple species of whale. The expedition will spot huge icebergs as it journeys into the largest and deepest fjord system in the world. Along the way the Northern Lights is guiding our way.

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

17 Sep - 25 Sep, 2019

Price:

4500 USD 3600 USD 900 USD discount

Cool Deal
Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica
Up to 2550 USD discount

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

Meet at least six penguin species!

HDS21-19. A cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia & the Antarctic Peninsula. Visit some of the most beautiful arrays of wildlife on Earth. This journey will introduce you to at least 6 species of penguin and a whole lot of Antarctic fur seals!

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

3 Nov - 23 Nov, 2019

Price:

12500 USD 9950 USD 2550 USD discount

Weddell Sea - Antarctic Discoverer
Up to 1550 USD discount

Weddell Sea - Antarctic Discoverer

PLA30-19. The Weddell Sea Discoverer cruise sails through the iceberg-blessed Antarctic Sound on their way to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. You’ll get to spot out a variety of seals, the fantastically beautiful landscapes, and the noisy rookeries of thousands of nesting penguins.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

11 Mar - 22 Mar, 2019

Price:

7950 USD 6400 USD 1550 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula – Polar Circle, Deep South Discovery and whale watching voyage
Up to 1900 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula – Polar Circle, Deep South Discovery and whale watching voyage

Whale watching voyage

OTL33-19. This Polar Circle and Antarctic Peninsula cruise will take you further south of Antarctica, crossing the Polar Circe. This expedition cruise passes through waters travelled by Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Anchoring in various spots around the region, the expedition offers the chance to hike, and...

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Cruise date:

18 Mar - 31 Mar, 2019

Price:

10200 USD 8300 USD 1900 USD discount

North (82 Degree) & Around Spitsbergen – Kvitøya
Up to 1800 USD discount

North (82 Degree) & Around Spitsbergen – Kvitøya

Full Spitsbergen Circumnavigation with a visit to Kvitøya

HDS11-19. This cruise around Spitsbergen gives you a great chance to see whales, foxes, reindeer, seals, and polar bears. The expedition will make a landing on the island of Kvitøya, a site of historical significance, and home of a large walrus population.

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

10 Aug - 21 Aug, 2019

Price:

9350 USD 7550 USD 1800 USD discount