J. Rebecca Gould Calabro
August 2, 2005
As a Boston Public School special needs teacher who strives to make science alive for my psychiatric and emotionally challenged students, I hardly expected myself to have the opportunity to view the midnight sun and learn about Arctic geology and biology from professors at Lulea University in northern Sweden. Nevertheless, I found myself on the 18-hour train ride from Stockholm, Sweden to Abisko, Sweden heading up to the Abisko Scientific Research Station having very little idea of what to expect.
The train ride did not begin until 5:58PM so I was able to take in one of the most famous attractions in Stockholm: the Vasa Ship. This was a Swedish ship built in 1628. It is currently the worlds' only surviving 17th century ship. That's before United States was an independent nation! The Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus commissioned this ship to be built as a war ship to help fight the battle between Sweden and Poland. The ship took three years to be built and when it was ready it sail out of the Stockholm port. Unfortunately after 10 minutes the ship capsized! The ship was unable to right itself and the civilians on the docks watched the great Vasa ship sink to the bottom of the Baltic mud never to be seen until it was recovered in 1961. As I was walking around the Vasa ship, I was amazed at how well preserved the ship was. The Baltic mud had acted as a strong preservative and the wood was in such good shape that scientists and art experts are able to analyze the wood fibers to determine the color of the figurines that had been created on the bow of the ship.
The ship, I found out, had sunk and after an in depth inquiry by the king the reason was that there was not enough basalt rock in the ship. The ship was very tall but also very narrow. In the seventeenth century, ships were able to stay upright by putting in basalt rocks (looks like large pebbles) in the bottom of the ship. This ship did not have enough basalt rock due to the narrowness of the ship.
I felt like I could spend all day here but I had a train to catch.
Monitoring the Sunset
6:00PM. The train was rumbling away from Stockholm. It was very industrial still. I could see the sun. There was no sign of any setting and it is very bright outside. I was surprised to see people moving into the dining car for dinner because it felt like 3:00 PM. As I looked outside the window, I saw two rainbows. I hoped that it was not raining in Abisko
8:30PM. The sky was still very clear. The train passed a body of water that was calm and clear. There was no sign of a sunset. I thought briefly of my home in Boston and realized that the sun would be nearly down at this time. No one made any motion towards getting ready for bed.
9:14PM. The train stopped at a town called Bollnas. Many passengers (including myself) got out for a breath of fresh air. The sun is still out with no sign of it setting. I did notice that the temperature dropped several degrees. I needed my jacket to stay warm outside. We had definitely made progress northwards but were still well below the Arctic Circle.
9:24PM. I looked out the window and I could see a very light pink hue off in the distance. I still cannot see a sunset but I imagine that the sun must be starting to descend in the horizon. People are still awake and active going to and from the dining car.
10:00PM. The same pinkish color was suspended in the atmosphere. I can finally see a sunset although it is very faint. Streetlights have been turned on at the train stations. It is still very easy to see land features outside. I noticed that some people are finally beginning to pull their curtains closed and start to settle down.
10:30PM. When I look out the left side into the forested taiga, it looks dark although I can still identify it as a forest through the outline. The other side, however, shows a cornflower blue color sky. I wondered how the sun looked beyond the railroad track.
11:33PM. I was still able to see an outline of the trees and the branches. It was definitely getting tougher to see clearly but the horizon still looks fairly deep blue. I wished that I were in a field or outside so I could see the sunlight beyond the tracks. Though I was able to keep my curtain opened so I could watch the rising sun. We were nearing the Arctic Circle at this point.
12:00AM. I awoke and note that it looks like nighttime. I struggled to stay awake wanting to see how long this nighttime would last. Finally, the train was quiet as people curled up and made themselves comfortable.
1:00AM. The sky was gray and it looked like nighttime. I could make out branches on passing trees. Occasionally, we passed an open area where the sky actually looked blue. I was able to see why the sunrays above the Arctic Circle have been nicknamed "the midnight sun."
1:28AM. We pulled into a station. The sky was completely midnight blue. The streetlights were still on illuminating the outside clearly. It looked as though sunset had never been completed and the Earth just suspended itself.
2:36AM. The sunrise was developing off the east side of the train. The orangey ball of light glowed. I watched as the glow changed to a yellow color as the sun climbed in the sky.
3:00AM. It was now as bright and clear as it was when I boarded the train at 6:00PM. Even here in early August, there seemed to still be over 14 hours of daylight. Wow. Back home in Boston, we would only receive about 10 hours of daylight.