The polar night is a phenomena caused by the tilt of the Earth, just as it gets darker in winter and lighter in summer, the polar areas experience this somewhat more extremely than most of us. Due to the tilt in Winter it’s dark most of the time beyond the polar circle. The level of darkness varies depending on distance from the pole, here in Longyearbyen at about 78N we get a teensy weensy little bitty bit of light at noon, which gives the mountains a slight silhouette. Whilst this is happening of course the Southern Hemisphere is in Sun and those buggers are getting midnight sun, or 24 hour daylight, which is arguably quite a bit more fun. The polar night is what you can see in the photo below, where the darkness begins and we said goodbye to the blue skies and sun. Psychological impacts of this to be discussed later.
As usual I’m here as a student, on a course with the University Centre Svalbard (UNIS) to research the nature of biological activity, in particular bioluminescence, in the polar night. I’m once again caught between sciences as a biological geographer playing with technology, but that’s where the fun happens, at the intersection between disciplines.
We have about 20 students from around the world, around the world being somewhat Northern Hemisphere centric, but it’s an awesomely diverse group of Northern Hemispherians. And we’re working as part of a much bigger project known as Mare Incognitum, which is bringing together scientists from almost everywhere to investigate the poorly known black box of the polar night. Once again we’re learning about how little we know of the world, there’s so much still to find, and that’s what we get to do on this trip.
So in coming posts you can look forward to some science, some anecdotes and hopefully some awesome photos, if I can work out how to photograph the night.