Mass enlightenment: Sun listens to warm crowd instead of drab experts in shinning return to Longyearbyen


Elliot Vale has been wearing sunglasses every day since he arrived in Longyearbyen two months ago, but on the one day they actually would have served their purpose he inadvertently left them in his dorm.

“It was a bit dumb,” the University Centre in Svalbard student admitted.

Not completely, since the “experts” were predicting heavy cloudy cover and possible snow flurries at 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, the so-called “unofficial” moment of the sun’s official returns – or maybe it’s the other way around.


Members of Polargospel sing during the return of the sun ceremony at midday Wednesday as part of Longyearbyen’s annual Solfestuka festival. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

In any event, the sun chose to respond instead to the masses who chanted and sang for the return of sunlight to the world’s northernmost city after the nearly four-month-long polar winter, peeking above the mountains to the cheers of hundreds of residents and visitors.

But the sun teased the crowd a bit after the annual chant of “Sun! Sun! Come again! The sun is our best friend!” (Annual reminder – it rhymes and is far more poetic in Norwegian.) Was the solar orb fully revealed…or still hiding behind a very thin veil of clouds? The lenses of those who were wearing sunglasses certainly reflected well on the sun’s emerging in proper form, yet were their faces actually illuminated by visible sunlight?

“It think it’s out,” said Andreas Eriksson, moments after the chant ended.


Joanna Matea Rut Eriksson, 9, receives a framed copy of the Solfestuka logo she designed. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

He had good reason for a sunny disposition as the moment was followed by his daughter, Joanna Matea Rut Eriksson, 9, receiving a framed copy of the sub picture she drew that was the winner of this year’s official Solfestuka logo contest. She was shy when asked how she felt about the sun’s return (“very glad”) and what she likes best about the sun, but made clear the occasional is more than about the light.

“It is warm,” she said.


The sun’s rays finally and indisputably light up the faces of locals and visitors during the year’s ceremony. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

The weather – clouds or no clouds – was indeed favorable with temperatures of about minus 10 degrees Celsius and virtually no wind. So when many in the crowd began dancing as well as singing along with a duet performance of “Here Comes The Sun” to end the gathering it was in the spirit of celebration rather than circulation.

And the sun rewarded their warmth, breaking above the band of clouds with a barrage rays even the blinded naked eye could not deny.


Revelers eat solboller (sun buns) as they bask in the sun’s rays following the ceremony. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

“The sun is clearly back,” said Marlin Nilssen, co-emceed of ceremony, moments before it ended with the traditional handing out of solboller (sun buns) while the crowd lingered just a bit longer in the few minutes of light that will become endless within a matter of weeks.

The first official sunrise in Longyearbyen this year was Feb. 15, but the surrounding mountains keep the main portion of the town in the shade for a few weeks. The town will have 24 hours of effective daylight as of April 5 and the 24-hour polar summer begins April 19. The next sunset will be Aug. 25 and the polar night officially begins Oct. 27.