midnightsun Ulving
Midnight sun (E.Ulving)

midnightsun Lilienskiold
From Speculum boreale

midnightsun Nansen
Drawing by F. Nansen
The midnight sun

Northern Norwegian nature, with its mountains, fjords and midnight sun have not always been regarded as beautiful. Until the middle of the 19th-century, nature in this part of the country was looked upon as something barren and forbidding. We can use District Governor Blom as an example of one who has written about his travels in the northern regions of Norway and Sweden, in 1827:

"A circumstance that will annoy travelers, who are not used to it, in the northern territories are the light summer nights. What is striking about being under the sun all night long will soon lose interest for the traveler, but he will end up struggling for some time with a distaste for this phenomenon before learning how to sleep in sunlight."

As mentioned earlier, it was first around mid-century that this notion began to change. The American Charles Brace was one of the first foreigners who spoke enthusiastically of the midnight sun while traveling in the north. He was in northern Norway during the summer of 1856, and his enthusiasm knows no limits:

"THE MIDNIGHT SUN! It was a splendid spectacle - the rays sparkling over the beautiful Fiord, lighting up distant snowy mountains, shining back from peak to peak far away, and the whole sphere majestically rising and clearing away what a moment before had been the clouds of evening, but were now the mist of morning. The light too was a different one, at least to our imagination - purer, cleaner, and fresher."

This marked the introduction to an era in which the northern regions became known as "the land of the midnight sun", and streams of tourists began arriving thus to observe this strange and exceptional world.


   © University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.