During the summer solstice in June 2010, I spent eight days and no nights in Fairbanks, Alaska. Here is a portion of the journey.
The extended summer sunlight in Fairbanks accentuates the extremes that life is in this city. Work runs late, activity carries through until the wee hours of the morning. Here on 23rd St. no one seems to mind, it is almost a relief. Children are out riding bicycles and playing until well after midnight. Similarly, townspeople congregate on their porches during the solstice. It is certainly payback for spending the rest of the year in near darkness as the sun barely breaks the horizon in the dead of winter.
As told by those native to Fairbanks, the struggle the winter brings provides the excuse to take advantage of the bounty of summer, almost to an excess. Celebrating the sun is ritual in Fairbanks. Normal sun cycles at lower latitudes provide natural symbols to the passage of time making it easy to know when the party is over. Absent in Fairbanks are the normal natural light/dark cycle keeps the body’s clock in check. Two o’clock in the morning looks like a dusky 9 PM so the party continues. A conscientious effort to stop working or partying and get sleep is required. Often times dark blinds, blankets or other dark material are often used to block the constant sun from streaming into windows during times that would normally be dark.
The extreme of the cycle leads to higher suicide rates in the spring, high instances of depression and alcohol and drug abuse. The suicide rate increase is attributed to the arrival of spring and the assumption that life will get better, but seemingly doesn’t. A despondent person may see no improvement or new beginning happening for them and simply give up.