Alex writes: During midwinter in the southern hemisphere we try to remember the sunlight and wonder about midsummer. I was sent this text which shows how varied different places on planet Earth can be…
At the Andøya Rocket Range in northern Norway the Sun has been up since mid-May and will not dip below the horizon until July 25.
It is easier to get up in the morning and more difficult to go to bed at night when the Sun hovers over the ocean. It is as if the Sun itself is urging us to stay up.
Just a little bit longer, it pleads… you can sleep in the winter.
The first sounding rocket launched from Andøya Rocket Range was in the summer of 1962. With that launch Norway joined the space age.
2012 is the 50th anniversary of Norway as a space-faring nation. The jubilee will be celebrated when the King of Norway and thousands of other guests gather at the rocket range on August 16.
That is still some months away. At the moment we are busy running a campaign for the German Aerospace Centre. The Sharp Edge Flight Experiment, is testing spacecraft with a new type of heat shield.
Everything is running according to schedule. The payload is assembled and installed on the rocket. Now we are waiting for perfect launch conditions before June 30. We can launch at any time, we are not hindered by darkness up here.
Weather conditions never trouble our midsummer celebrations either. All over Norway people gather on the evening of June 23. We call it St. Hans but the tradition probably dates back to times long before Christianity.
A bonfire is a must on St. Hans. Some say it was a way of scaring off witches and evil spirits. Now the bonfires symbolise the longest day of the year.
Andøya rocket range has a beautiful beach conveniently located some metres away, where we gather for our St. Hans bonfire. Everybody at the rocket range, including children and spouses, is invited to the barbeque at the beach.
When it comes to food, you will find that everything that can be grilled, will find its way to the coals. Chicken, hot dogs, spare-ribs, fish, clams, beef and so on. In Norway we have no specific traditional food to eat for midsummer. In Sweden however herring is always part of the midsummer meal.
It is amazing how much rubbish can be found to build a bonfire. Driftwood, old pallets, refurbishing left-overs, not to mention all the stuff you find at the far end of the garage. It makes an enormous heap, just waiting to be lit up.
Some hours before midnight, the comes to light the fire. When the flames reach for the sky, it is time for singing and dancing.
The bonfire often still burns when the last guests realise that the party is over. Sometime during the early morning.