The Sunrise Project Early days and some maths to start with…

Hardly unaccustomed to snow and cold but even to me this seemed a little audacious

So what’s next? Currently I’m on route to New Foundland up the east side of the north American continent. There was an about turn at Panama to effect some much needed repairs to the bike. And currently only a flight out of St John’s at the back end of the year.

Chatting to Patrick, a Photographer and fellow bike traveller friend, whilst journeying down through North America from Alaska, the subject of changing day length in relation to our continuing progress south came up. Travelling south from the Canadian border in late autumn and into the winter months the ever-shortening days (and worsening weather) were never far from consideration. Interestingly Patrick had calculated that, although the shortest day of the year is the obviously the Winter Solstice, due to our continuing progress south our shortest day was actually in late November near the Canadian border.

Summer sun in the Arctic, Alaska 2016

Roll on 8 months and with midsummer’s day having drifted into an insignificance as I approached the end of the North American continent, nearing the Equator I started to plan the next section of the journey. A plan unto which sunlight once again became a consideration. The last time I was in the Arctic it was midsummer 2016. I wanted to go back. Part of me wanted to get back for midsummer 2017 but timing had become problematic and flights somewhat prohibitive. The likely arrival date anywhere in the Arctic was pushing ever later than the Solstice where 24-hour daylight was the appeal. The more likely timing seemed to be late autumn which was a whole lot less appealing…

The more I thought about it though the more the idea of heading to North Cape in the middle of winter started to spark ideas. Was it possible? One of my favourite quotes sprang to mind – “Some of the world’s greatest achievements were made by those not smart enough to know that they were impossible”. Slowly the idea started to seem more appealing.

One thing is for sure, there would be no Midnight Sun!

And so the Sunrise Project was born.

Norway isn’t quite as cold as Alaska in the winter. It still has the tail end of the Gulf Stream to help. With average quoted daytime temperatures at -2C, that doesn’t seem so bad. Though wait, at Nordkapp in mid-winter there is no day…

This needed some research, Nordkapp lies at 71 degrees, 10 minutes North of the Equator. Being north of the Arctic Circle the Sun, without a doubt, does not rise above the horizon in late December. At the latitude of Nordkapp the sun doesnt rise until the morning of the 22nd January where there is a glorious 25 minutes of, if the weather is fine, sunshine! So that’d be a month of darkness, or perhaps not…

Not complete darkness. There are various levels of sunrise to consider. Th nights would be long there’s no doubt about that, but even at the most northerly mainland point in Europe there would still be about 3 hours of light as the sun approached the horizon in the morning. And there wouldn’t be much intention of hanging around at the far north which adds a further complexity to the maths.

There’s always beauty in the darkness if you can see it

Moving south to Tromso, about 300mi of cycling puts you down at about 69.5 degrees north and you end up with nearly four and a half hours of light for the benefit of both moving South and for the later date on which I’d be passing through. Here the first sunrise moves forward to the morning of January the 15th. So likely a week of riding would still be in the dark but it wasn’t seeming so bad.

Roll on another week and to, for example, Fauske at a little over 67 degrees north is already south of the Arctic Circle, so there is at least a sunrise every day. Albeit only for some 50 minutes in mid-December. Take into account a couple of weeks riding to arrive here would ramp this up to 2h15 of daytime and a glorious 6 hours of daylight with the twilight hours padding things out.

So the arctic in winter started to feel a little less intimidating. Or at least a less bad idea. Just the weather, the ice, the snow, the relentless cold and a few big sheep to contend with. Watch this space…

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