Part of what inspired me to visit Svalbard in the winter to see the polar night was the midnight sun.
I had stayed in Longyearbyen for two nights prior to departing on a G Adventures trip circumnavigation (or attempting to) Svalbard in 2011. I was in Longyearbyen on 21 June, which was the date of the summer solstice that year. I will not delve into the trip itself, that may be a blog post for another day.
This is about the midnight sun.
I stayed in Spitsbergen Hotel, landing in Longyearbyen quite late in the evening I went to grab something to eat from the hotel restaurant upon arriving. Heading back to my room after midnight and opening the thick curtains to see the sun still high in the air is an experience I will not forget.
Photo: Taken from Spitsbergen Hotel shortly after midnight, Longyearbyen (2011)
The boat I traveled on had a bar which was open throughout the evening into the early hours of the morning until the last people finally left for bed.
This usually included me. Leaving after midnight most evenings, the midnight sun shining high whenever the weather allowed.
The below photo was taken at approximately 2am after I had left the bar. It was and still is one of the most serene moments of my life. I was standing outside on the deck completely alone, the air was calm, the sea still, covered with a thin sheet of ice. The only sound was the background hum of the boat engine.
Photo: Taken from the MS Expedition at 2am, Svalbard (2011).
The furthest north the sea ice would allow us to travel was the 81st parallel north (if my memory serves me well). However this was during the ‘daytime’ and we had returned further south by the time midnight came around again.
It is hard to describe why the midnight sun in Svalbard (or anywhere in the high Arctic) is special to anybody that hasn’t experienced it. It is of course the same sun that can be seen every day from (nearly) anywhere in the world. It looks the same, the only difference being the time on your watch. But trust me.
I have also written a blog post about the Polar Night in Svalbard. This was a very different experience, but having experienced both I would personally recommend the darkness over light.