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Midnight sun - Polar day

Midnight sun at lake Paatari - Finland

Here in Estonia, it just barely gets dark as the sun dips below the horizon in the middle of the nights during the summer (end of June, beginning of July). We have short nights, but we wanted to see the real midnight sun. So in June 2006 our family (now there are five of us, two adults, and three children) packed up our car and drove about 1200km to Sotkaniemi (near Inari) in Lapland where, thanks to its higher latitude, you can see the real thing. Getting ahead of things, it can be said that both expectations were fully met.

The midnight sun is a phenomenon occurring in latitudes north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle where the sun is continuously visible for at least 24 hours once per year. A quarter of Finland's territory lies above the Arctic Circle, and as a consequence the midnight sun can be experienced - for more and more days, the further north one goes. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 days during summer. Near Inari, the Arctic Day lasts 60 days - from May, 21st to July 22nd. The length of the time when the sun is above the horizon varies from 20 hours at the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle to 186 days at the poles. At the poles themselves, the sun only rises once and sets once, each year.

We started our trip with the Silja Line ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki. From Helsinki we continued with the car train – Autojuna – to Rovaniemi. We had a passenger car and two cabins for 317EUR. The train is much more comfortable, although more expensive. From Rovaniemi to Inari it is about 350km, it is about 4-5 hours drive. As we had also a 7-months old baby, we made several stops and arrived to the Sotkaniemi mökki at 5PM.

As the weather was perfect - temperature +19 and sunny with some clouds, we took the bags inside and after that started to prepare ourselves for fishing. At the first evening (or may be this was already night, as sun was on all the time) we caught some whitefish. We salted some of that and just cooked some with butter on a pan. It was so delicious. We learned that when cooking with butter, salt should not be added during the cooking, but only after. In this case the fish will be juicier.

At 10PM our baby already slept, but sun was still up. At 11PM the situation was the same, and even later. First night was really sunny. It is strange, that during the daytime the sun does not go very high, it stays at the same level for almost 24 hours. I would say it just went around the house. In our bedroom it shined in from the window at 3AM, this was unusual the first night. Also our preparation was not best at first night, later we hanged up thicker curtains. This is needed, because the sun is exactly as bright as during a daytime.

Next days were not so full of sunshine, but still the weather was quite good. The strange thing was that the weather could change in an hour 3 times. During our week stay we saw sun and rain, windy and calm weather, exactly as characteristic to North and Lapland.

At the first day we caught some fish from Lake Paatari. Then the luck left us for some days. At one day, then we have not had a fish for two days and it was fully rainy, we even took an additional trip to Nordkapp. But at last fishing day the luck was again with us - we caught three pikes and several basses. So we were able to fulfill our fish appetite.

As a conclusion, I would say that during the Polar Day in Lapland it is easy to lose the sense of time. As sun was always up (it only got darker when cloudy) it is difficult to realize whether it is day or night. At the end of the week we were already used to the fact that during the night, sun is just on the other side of the house.