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The Midnight Sun is the phenomenon that occurs in and around the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle where the sun is still visible at midnight because of the tilt of the earth. This phenomenon can be experienced in Canada, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, Sweden and the USA (Alaska). The closer to the poles, the more sunlight there is - this means a quarter of Finland has 60 days of sun without setting, while Svalbard in Norway has no sunset from the 19th of April to 23rd of August.
Although the Midnight Sun only shines above and around the Arctic Circle, in truth the nights are 'white' throughout much of Scandinavia. During the summer solstice, the sun is visible for a full 24 hours but it is the days leading up to and following on from this mid June date, the white nights, where the sky is most fascinating, with sunset colours dominating as the sun briefly dips below the horizon then comes back up again. The line between night and day blurs and Scandinavians sleep less, spending their long days outside exploring.
It is at this time of year that much of the native flora and fauna of the Arctic begins to flourish. Having been dormant for the many winter months, wildflowers begin to bloom in the Arctic tundra and wildlife such as polar bears, elk, arctic foxes and migratory birds can be readily seen.
The Midnight Sun is culturally significant in old Norse legends, although how exactly it was understood is unclear. The Icelandic Snorri Sturluson attempted to compile Norse legends about the 12th century and although his compilation has been shown to be far from reliable, the legends about the sun and moon seem to be reasonably accurate of what the Norse people believed, coupled with many early artworks and artifacts.
The story goes that Sol (old Norse for Sun) and Mani (old Norse for Moon) were two beautiful siblings, a sister and a brother. The gods were so outraged that their parents had called them such powerful names that they condemned them to drive one chariot each across the skies, one pulling the moon and one pulling the sun, one after the other. These chariots were pursued by wolves and every once in a while the wolves would catch up with the brother or sister and devour them - thus there would be no sun (polar night) or no moon (midnight sun) until Sol or Mani were reborn.
Another classic Norse legend is that young women looking for love should collect seven flowers on Midsummer's Eve and place them under their pillow that night. Then, in her dreams of the next few months, her future fiance will appear.
In more contemporary history, the famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch depicted the golden lit Midnight Sun in his famous (and influential) work, 'The Sun' (1909). This wall mural occupied the University of Oslo's Assembly Hall and was a symbol of the creativity and productivity of the Norwegian people under their golden Midnight Sun.
Known as the land of the midnight sun, there are some wonderful ways to experience the extended daylight hours of the summer in Norway. Consider a coastal cruise or some outdoor adventures to make the most of your long days.
Visit Kiruna, in the Swedish Lapland to experience the Midnight Sun at it's best along with famous Swedish hospitality. The Midnight Sun phenomenon lasts in Sweden from late May to mid July but the further North you go, the longer the season.
A quarter of Finland is within the Arctic Circle and so the Finnish Lapland experiences about 70 consecutive days of constant sunlight.
Although outside the Arctic Circle, Iceland experiences the 'Bright Nights' due to refraction of the sunlight.
Experience the Midnight Sun in Greenland's Northernmost towns - Qaanaaq, Upernavik and Uummannaq.