The Midnight Sun on Eagle Summit, Alaska

There’s an unavoidable fact in Alaska these days: the days are long… really long! The summer solstice is a celebrated event by Fairbanksians and Alaskans in general. For weeks now the nights have been filled with light and bird song, but the coming of the Solstice means above the Arctic Circle the sun does not set. It spins in circles overhead and drops low on the horizon before ascending for another pass around the pole  That’s what I went to see!

Eagle Summit, Alaska is located 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It’s surprising that the sun stays up all day fully above the horizon, but the elevation of Eagle Summit (3,624′) makes the sun refract higher than its actual position of 1.75 degrees above horizon (information from the BLM billboard at Eagle Summit pulloff)

My goal was to set up a long timelapse to capture the day and the swinging sun. The culmination of 13 hours of patient waiting captured the a low lying sun which seemed to go super-nova. Over the course of the day rain showers hung high in the atmosphere and refracted the sun which went from white to orange as it got closer to the horizon. At 2 AM the sun’s path bottomed out, and it began to swing high back into the sky changing back to white.

There was lots of time to explore the summit. Wildflowers were carpeted across the mountain top. Horned Larks and Northern Wheatears were common on the summit, and large marmots were always in vigilance somewhere. Northern Wheatears spend almost 8 months of their time migrating between India and Alaska. They raise their chicks on the tundra before migrating back, which is incredible!

A male northern wheatear watching over his summit at Eagle Summit.
A male northern wheatear watching over his summit at Eagle Summit.
A horned lark sings for females on Eagle Summit.
A horned lark sings for females on Eagle Summit.
A female wheatear hunts for food.
A female wheatear hunts for food.
These marmots were common on the summit of Eagle Summit. They remind me of grizzled old men :)
These marmots were common on the summit of Eagle Summit. They remind me of grizzled old men 🙂

As low sun was captivating – there was nothing else to do but watch it, and enjoy it. I saluted it made sure we were entertained by jamming out “three little birds” (video below) along with some other classic tunes on the Ukulele.

Singing and enjoying the low sun of the solstice.
Singing and enjoying the low sun of the solstice.
Kass and I enjoying the solstice sun at its low point - about 2 AM
Kass and I enjoying the solstice sun at its low point – about 2 AM

12 thoughts on “The Midnight Sun on Eagle Summit, Alaska”

  1. Hi Ian,
    Thanks once again for an incredible show. We do love the birds & their habitat. Your singing is truly enjoyable & inspirational!
    Peggy the humble soprano

  2. Mind-boggling as always. I can’t imagine what it is like without night. I would have a lot o trouble sleeping. Tske care, love you, Grammy

    1. Sleeping isn’t too hard, it’s knowing when to get up if you don’t have a clock in the room! The constant sun makes every single time of the day seem the same.

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