Is Alaska Always Dark?

by Lynn

Is Alaska always dark? There sure is a lot of talks out there about Alaska being pitch dark for 6 months out of the year. This is simply not true! Alaska is a huge place, and many people do not realize the vast differences there can be, depending on where you are in the state.

The differences are so great in fact that the sunrise across the state can vary from no official daylight hours all the way to six hours and twenty-two minutes depending on where you are!

Utqiaġvik, (pronounced UUT-kee-AH-vik), formally known as Barrow, Alaska for example, does get extended darkness, but not for six months at a time! For our neighbors to the north of where we live, the sun sets on November 18th and rises again on January 23rd.

Even with “67 days of darkness”, Utqiaġvik still gets Polar Twilight hours where the sun sets just below the horizon.

is alaska always dark
“Utqiaġvik sees its last sunset of 2019.” Image credit: KTUU/Jesse Darling

IS ALASKA ALWAYS DARK BELOW THE ARCTIC CIRCLE?

As for the rest of Alaska that sits near or below the Arctic Circle, our days are just short (how short depends on what area you are in). But we are not in “total darkness” as some false claims suggest.

Now, with that being said, when it is late and dark, and there is cloud cover, it is DARK. There have been some moonless nights that we have been out chasing the lights (the Aurora) to no avail that were so dark we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces with the headlamps turned off.

This brings me to a few things you can do in the dark, that we absolutely LOVE!

AURORA

The Aurora has a few names:

Aurora Borealis
Polar Lights
The Northern Lights

Northern Lights

The lights from the back deck.

For us locals, when someone says, “the lights are out”, this is what we are talking about.

If you are chasing the lights to the best location away from cloud cover, or getting up in the middle of the night to pee and see them dancing out your window… The lights are something you wouldn’t see if it was not dark outside. So, there is a positive to the extended darkness, which I absolutely love!

THE STARS

The same thing is true with the stars. The lights sometimes hog the attention of the cosmic show that presents a blanket of pure amazingness over the night sky.

When my grandma moved me to West Texas as a kid, I thought I had hit the motherload when it came to stargazing.

I was soooooooo wrong!

Now, and only now have I hit the motherload when it comes to stargazing.

I have never seen stars twinkle so bright, the Milky Way so bright and in such detail, or the beauty and vibrancy of shooting stars as I have since I came home.

It. Is. AMAZING.

There are times that we can see shooting stars late in the afternoon when the sun is still up in the rest of the lower 48.

STILL OF THE NIGHT

There is nothing better than sitting outside and hearing absolutely nothing until nature herself breaks that silence. The stillness is something so many people are missing from their lives.

When you get used to the quiet, it is incredible what you can hear.

The sound of the snow falling.

The sound of a wind gust before you can feel it.

The screech of a Lynx breaking the silence.

Hearing the wing flaps of an Owl just a few feet over your head with no other noise is pretty cool too!

As for Jack, the stillness is so intense at times, he can hear a Vole from several feet away scurrying through the snow.

He’ll learn one day that they are faster than him, and no, they don’t want to play ha-ha!

YOU SLEEP BETTER

Okay, at least I do!

The lack of road noise and other noises that people make is great for all of us over here on the less populated side of the state. If you live off the highway, the winter traffic noise is minimal during the day and at night it’s almost nonexistent.

When summer rolls around that traffic noise seem constant. (Still better than the city life)

That’s a huge difference!

For me, between the traffic noise, and the extended daylight in the summer, it’s hard to sleep.

Very. Hard. To. Sleep.

So, I will take the extended darker hours and enjoy my semi-hibernation!

Each season has its purpose!

All in all, the extended darkness through the winter months does not bother me. I take my vitamin D, charge the flashlights, and go on about my business. Or I just sit in the dark and enjoy whatever light show mother nature gives me.

Whether it be the pastel colors that stretch across the sky when the sun is up or the twinkling of the stars at night, I enjoy it all.

Is Alaska Always Dark

It takes me to a simpler life that many do not get to enjoy, and for that, I am grateful.

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