JUST THE MIDDLE OF A REALLY LONG DAY? Svalbard’s four-month-long midnight sun puts chill on duration of solstice, but Ny-Ålesund residents celebrate with plenty of fire and ice

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In the world’s northernmost permanently occupied settlement the longest day of the year is…well, exactly as long as the 64 previous days and the 69 days ahead. Which is all the local wild life need to celebrate in proper “midsummer” fashion by breaking out the big costumes and really big ice cubes.

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Beauty and the beast, Svalbard style, mingle during the Midsummer Night Eve party in Ny-Ålesund on Saturday. Photo by Wojtek Moskal.

With a massive chunk of glacier ice serving the role of both coolant and conversational centerpiece, scientists and other residents of Ny-Ålesund gathered for their annual summer bash on Saturday (sandwiched nicely between the summer solstice on June 21 and Norway’s Midsummer Night Eve on June 23) where the hot outfits and attitudes are decidedly the polar opposite of the tiny international research settlement and (relatively) chilly climate compared to whatever parties with similar themes are being thrown elsewhere this weekend in the rest of the northern hemisphere.

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Some might say only misfits of society could celebrate being amidst so much ice in such a remote place in the middle of summer, but surely these gentlemen would disagree. Photo by Wojtek Moskal

Speaking of which, what was the theme of this year’s festival given the typical bizarre assortment of monsters, ghosts and misfits made possible by whatever spare materials could be scavenged?

“I think it was possible that all start with the letter ‘v’,” quipped Wojtek Moskal, a Polish researcher who posted a Facebook album of photos from the party (some of which appear here with his permission) and has been conducting studies in Svalbard since 1979.

He said the party is scheduled on the Saturday closest to the solstice, and starts around 6:15 p.m. “with welcome drink, than food (dinner), costume competition and some other competitions involving jumping, screaming and drinking.”[/caption]

Most of the 110 people in the settlement at the time  showed up, some in costume and some not, Moskal said.

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A bonfire and barbecue were present during Longyearbyen’s beach party, but not quite at the levels of heat generated in some years when the sailing club has hosted parties attended by hundreds of residents and visitors. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

“I was “dressed” as a vinkelsliper (angle grinder), and there were lots of vampires and Vikings,” he said, referring to the seeming “v” theme. “People were making outfits from scraps, cardboard, driftwood, etc., but we have also one building full of old clothes and old costumes from previous parties which can be reused and modified.”

At 79 degrees latitude north, Ny-Ålesund experiences 24-sunlight from April 17 to Aug. 27, and lengthy twilight periods means in practical terms there is round-the-clock “daylight” for roughly a month before and after those periods. The tradeoff is the descent into the 24-hour polar night, with the first sunset on Aug. 28 (lasting about two hours and 21 minutes) and the last sunset of the year less than two months later on Oct. 24. The next sunrise in the settlement will be April 17, 2020.

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Longyearbyen residents take photos of beluga whales in the bay during a Midsummer Night Eve party on Saturday near the Svalbard Sailing Club. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

The same date(s) is also caused for celebration in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost official city at a “mere” 78 degrees latitude north, but a large bonfire barbecue hosted in past years by the local sailing club was called off this year. But while that might have meant a smaller crowd, there’s no disputing the list of guests was immense since it included several beluga whales spouting a short distance from shore. Due to its “southern” location, the town sees the 24-hour midnight sun appear one day later and set one day later than their neighbors to the north.

 

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