Endless Summer and Coping with the Midnight Sun
A case study from the Eskimo and the birds in Alaska (1973)
Summer, with it’s beautiful long days, is just around the corner. I’ve written a lot about darkness and how it is necessary part of every day… but what about the endless summer days of the extreme latitudes, when the sun never sets?
Here’s an excerpt from author Jean Craighead George’s experience with experiencing these long Arctic days as an outsider. The interesting thing to me was she brings up 3 specific health practices:
Drinking glacier water
Burning fats through a ketogenic diet
Adopting a biphasic sleep schedule (half of sleep at midnight, the other half at noon)
Here’s the story in her own words:
Almost immediately, [the author’s son] Luke discovered that there was no running water in this hotel and that the ice in the drinker had been chipped off an iceberg. (The salt settles out of these oceanic glaciers and leaves them as fresh as a frozen spring.)
That night when we dined at an Eskimo restaurant, I ordered whale, and Luke ordered reindeer soup. Both were so rich and greasy that we could barely swallow them. Three days later, however, we were to discover that the body has its own intelligence. The cold had so changed our physiological needs, the whale, reindeer soup even blubber, tasted like filet mignon. We were burning fats as I burn wood in my fireplace in winter. Morning, noon, and night.
The element of the Arctic to which we never quite adjusted was the midnight sun. To Luke and me, the light seemed to say it was constantly four o’clock in the afternoon, no matter what the clocks said. After a few sleepless nights and after conquering the feeling that it was always time to quit work we observed that the Eskimos and birds handled this situation by disappearing around noon and midnight for two sleeps instead of one.
Unfortunately, we never got an opportunity to join the birds and the Eskimos in their rhythmic naps during the endless day, for the gussaks had clocks and kept hours. Gussaks, by the way, is an Eskimo corruption of Cossacks, the first white men in Alaska. Eventually, we learned to solve our sleeping problem by pretending we were taking an afternoon nap. Exhaustion took care of the next 8 hours.
New berry Medal Acceptance Speech, by JEAN CRAIGHEAD GEORGE (1973)
Super fascinating, as I have never experienced this kind of sun. What do you think? Will you be napping this summer?