Saturday, December 21, 2013

Extreme Solstice

I'm heading into week three of a six week contract in the high arctic.  Grise Fiord is Canada's most northerly civilian community, and up here it is dark 24 hours a day at this time of the year.  The sun set on November 1, and won't rise again until around noon on February 11.

Even though I have been working in the arctic for over 20 years, this is my first time being so far north at this time of the year.  I call myself a "fair weather nurse", since I most often work during the light season (dig that 24 hour sunshine!), but the nurse I often replace wanted Christmas off this year, and I don't mind working the holidays if I don't do it every year.

I wasn't sure how I would do with it being dark 24 hours a day.  When I have worked in other communities with greatly shortened days, it has affected my sleep; I think my body got confused and thought it was several hours later than it was when the sun would set, and that threw off my internal clock.

Up here though, no problem at all.  In fact, it really isn't even hard to get up in the dark, since it is dark all the time.  In the south I always feel a sense of injustice when I have to get out of bed before the sun is up, but here, since it's not coming up anyway ... no big deal.  I don't miss daylight, either, and I had thought I would.  Maybe I can start applying for jobs as a submarine nurse.

There's just a hint of light in the sky around noon, it's kind of surreal, and sometimes the moon is shining somewhere behind the mountains so it kind of feels extra-terrestrial, with just a slight glow coming from all directions.

The only thing cramping my style is Chewy, Nippy and Chompy, the local polar bears who are spotted now and then.  I went for only one walk the first week I was here.  While out, the dog team that is tied up in town, by the bridge, started barking and howling a lot, but they just sounded hungry, so I carried on past them.  On my way back, they were still at it, and were targeting this one large, white, curiously bear-shaped dog.  They weren't going nuts though, so I just figured one of the dogs that are perpetually loose in town was an uninvited lunchtime guest.  Later on that day though, my neighbour posted a photo of the bear at the bridge ... oops.  I passed really close to it, too, but hey ... it is dark out!  I haven't risked any walks since then though, it's too dark to see them properly.

So no fatigue, no seasonal affective disorder, no sleep disruption, and as far as I know, no insanity ... although you may have to confirm that with my co-workers!  I head back south in mid-January, to the great white, bright south.

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